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9 March 2018

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Bluefin Sport Challenge Cup - Semi Final

Ascot United 1 Wantage Town 0

Kai Walters scored a composed first-half goal to take Ascot United through to the Bluefin Sports Challenge Cup Final on Saturday. The striker, who earnt place in the starting line-up, capped a fine display with a first-half strike to set up a date with Windsor.

The pattern of the game was similar to that in the one-all league draw three weeks earlier as Ascot started brightly, only for Wantage to force their way into the game. Ascot captain and defender Louis Bouwers’ afternoon lasted just six minutes before he hobbled off to be replaced by Callum Carlisle, and it was Carlisle who had the first real chance of the afternoon when he headed over from Chris Ellis’s long throw-in under heavy pressure from the Wantage defence. That chance came after nineteen minutes, and it was only five minutes later when Ascot took the lead. This time, it was George Lock’s through ball that allowed Walters to run onto, and although Walters still had work to do after nodding past the advancing Curtis Meare, the striker coolly rolled the ball in off a post from a tight angle.

But Wantage would pose an increasing threat and Sam Gray did well to push Steve Robertson’s awkward swerving shot away in the 36th minute, before Connor Mattimore’s inviting cross fizzed untouched across Gray’s six-yard box moments later. Gray would then react quickly to save Jack Dunmall’s effort, although Lock’s goal-line clearance in the aftermath was equally top-drawer, before Mark Flanagan saw a 44th minute free kick curl around the wall and agonisingly wide as Wantage failed to find a way through before the break.

Early in the second half, Kaylem Patterson’s overhead kick went close for Wantage, who almost capitalised on a temporary man-advantage moments later when Dan Sadler’s shot was blocked by Haworth whilst Ellis was off the pitch receiving treatment. Ascot survived an almighty scare when Flanagan’s free kick was turned onto a post and cleared by Gray’s legs – 73 minutes played – although the hosts defended resolutely.

And, they forced a couple of chances of their own, albeit Dan Price’s effort lacked any power after 77 minutes and Walters almost punished Meare’s hesitancy soon afterwards by blocking his clearance, only to see the ball race to safety towards the corner flag. Both Ellis and Carlisle would underline the shift that their defence put in to deny Wantage with desperate clearances as time ebbed away, although Kibaki should have wrapped it up in added time when he rounded Meare and inexplicably lifted the ball over the bar in acres of space.

Fortunately for Ascot, that miss was academic, and the Yellamen can look forward to trying to win a cup they last lifted in 2014.

Ascot United: Gray, Lock, Haworth, Denton, Bouwers (Carlisle), Ellis, Kibaki, Laflin, Walters (Campbell), Price, Kassim (Carey). Subs unused: Sankoh, Regragui

Puhlsport football kitremier Division

Binfield 0 Abingdon United 1 (Independent report by Arthur Strand)
With 3 wins behind the first team, Moles took on lowly Abingdon United last Saturday at Stubbs Hill. Safely in mid-table, Binfield needed to make an effort to go 4 wins in a row. Abingdon took a free kick which Dave Lyons palmed away but chased the ball to clear but the ball became Abingdon's until Moles were awarded a free kick, thereby gaining ground, but the visitors returned with a long ball to Lyons, the Moles' Keeper. However, Abingdon managed to force a corner kick which arrived in the Binfield box where an infringement occurred and Moles cleared the lines with a free kick. Patrick Bickford took a long hoof direct to Lyons although a couple of minutes later, Jack Thompson-Wheeler missed out on a tackle deep in defence and Moles regained the ball, moved upfield with Carlo Santoro driving the ball goal ward but Jake Pritchard made a good save. Josh Howell also took a potshot but missed the target. The next approach by Abingdon featured Callum Harvey taking a low shot which was picked up by Lyons. Abingdon took a bit of time at Binfield's end and Gary Smith tangled with a forward who went sprawling into the Binfield area. The outcome was a free kick just outside the penalty area and a red card for Smith after 17 minutes of play. Binfield had more than 70 minutes to play with 10 men and defence had to be crucial. From a long right wing diagonal ball, Carlo Santoro aimed at goal but Pritchard took the ball calmly. Midway between the forward edge of Abingdon's penalty area and the halfway line, Moles gained a free kick which Charlie Tuttle took, although the ball's trajectory curled slightly too high and wide of goal. A corner to Binfield produced nothing and Abingdon worked their way upfield earning a corner, Binfield extricated themselves from the attack and gained a free kick, taken by Lyons. Callum Harvey went on a long run with the ball at his feet but Lyons cleaned up before a strike. Abingdon returned when Jack Wright made his presence felt and Binfield defended, sending the ball up to Carlo Santoro whose effort missed high over the far post. From a free kick, Abingdon put the ball into Binfield's net but the flag was up and the goal was disallowed. As Binfield moved into position again, Pritchard claimed an incoming ball from the wing but James Knight was able to try his luck but soon after he gave Carlo Santoro another attempt but this time the latter missed at the near post. A free kick to Binfield, Tuttle had been poorly tackled, but no joy. Josh Howell was thwarted by Pritchard. Before the break, Tuttle's next free kick went direct to Pritchard. Harvey arrived in the Binfield area but the Binfield defence cleared the ball.

No goals as yet, but Binfield came out with the 10 men and a good shape, disciplined with a four man back line and Ian Davies, Eddie Lee and Josh Howell string passes neatly but no positive finish Harvey sent the ball direct to Lyons so the ensuing clearance kick gave Binfield a chance to move towards goal and Jemel Johnson ran in front sending the ball over Abingdon's cross bar. Davies and Lee combined but Pritchard was there to make the save. Moles made another move but the finish missed, hitting the side net. The next effort was blocked then Binfield took a corner which Abingdon cleared. In the midfield, Idris Kamara was beginning to show strength in defence which was Binfield's main priority. Abingdon made no progress with a free kick but when the ball arrived at the Abingdon end, Eddie Lee tried from an angle but the ball was too high. Moles made another approach and Ian Davies sent the ball to Pritchard who saved again. Jack Park was blocked off at Binfield's end and the visitors gained advantage with a corner kick but the ball was destined for the opposite end and Carlo Santoro found Pritchard guarding his goal once more. A poor kick upfield went sailing back over the crossbar and Binfield could not get off the mark. The were back soon for a corner but the ball was driven out by defenders then Johnson took the ball on a cross field run only to be beaten off the ball. Stoppage time for treatment to the referee from physio, then Pritchard saved another, conceding a corner. Idris Kamara who was kept busy in the second half, headed out a high enough ball. Josh Howell was fouled and the free kick went nowhere. With 10 Minutes left and Binfield were holding on relatively satisfactorily, Jemel Johnson saw a yellow card. Skipper James Knight had another chance and Pritchard was again able to save.. As the end was in sight, Harvey was shown yellow for a foul on Lyons. Liam Baker replaced Davies with 5 minutes to go and Stephen Peacock came on for Santoro but Peacock was booked after only 2 minutes on the field. A last gasp to earn more than just a point came when Knight sent Peacock the ball but Pritchard saved. Then there was disaster for Binfield as a penalty for tripping up an advancing Abingdon forward was awarded to Abingdon in the 94th minute. Jack Park did not miss and, Abingdon took the game 1 - 0 and 3 points with it. Binfield are 10th with some games in hand over at least 4 teams above. Next week Binfield are at home to Tuffley Rovers.
Binfield: Lyons,(GK), Thomson-Wheeler, Tutle, Knight, (c), Kamara, Smith, Santoro, Johnson, Davies, Lee, Howell. Substitutes: Baker, Griggs, Jones, Peacock.

Reading City 1 Brackley Town Saints 0 (away view)
Saints disappointment following this defeat was compounded when it became clear that they had missed the chance to peg back league leaders Brimscombe & Thrupp, who lost at Tuffley.  As a spectacle the game was awful played on a lifeless pitch, the game was constantly interrupted with free kicks, bookings, arguments about free kicks and bookings, delays whilst replacement balls were found. It was in the end a very stop start affair. 

Saints began the game on the front foot and were to dominate possession for the majority of the game, although they were guilty of pushing a little too hard at times when trying to find the final ball. Reading were competitive and resolute. They needed the points as much as Saints to help with their battle to stay in the division. Their game plan seemed to be to suck the life out of Saints, sitting deep and battling hard. A spate of free kicks given against Reading in the first 10 minutes set the tone for the whole game. 

On 35 minutes Saints had their first real chance to take advantage of their superiority when a neat move saw the ball floated into the box where Knight’s excellent first touch deceived the defender. There was a suspicion of handball, but the referee was happy that it was not deliberate.  The decisive moment in the game came on 38 minutes when Saints were caught one on one at the back and Bradley Brown showed good composure holding up the ball and playing in Trevor Muntero. Bizarrely he slipped as he shot and fell and in doing so kicked the ball on to his standing foot which caused the ball to loop up and over a helpless Ali Worby.  In the final 7 minutes of the half tempers got very heated with a number of bookings including a controversial one for Knight for simulation. Right on halftime time Knight mistimed a further challenge and despite loud protests from the home fans the referee showed leniency and gave only a warning. 

Saints lost Olly Goddard at half time to injury with Joe Ward taking his place. Immediately Knight had a shot on goal which reared up off of the pitch but Matt Carr in the Reading goal was able to push the ball around the post.  Saints continued to boss possession. James Hammond had a shot on target but it was easy for Carr to collect. Kille was having some joy down the left wing and a couple of good crosses just failed to find Knight in the middle. Kille also had a good chance with a header at the far post on the end of a Harry Brock corner which fell wide of the post. 

The last 10 minutes saw Saints move up a gear and an excellent team move saw Sam Ball free on the right edge of the box. He chose to shoot when perhaps a cross was the better option. On 88 minutes Knight was set free and he looped the ball over the advancing keeper which hit the post and rebounded to George Ball whose follow up shot was cleared off the line.  In added time another George Ball shot was blocked by a defender on the line and a further optimistic shout for a penalty for handball was declined by the ref. 

Tuffley Rovers 1 Brimscombe & Thrupp 0 Report by Chris Wood on behalf of Tuffley
League-leaders Brimscombe arrived in Gloucester with a short gap from their nearest challengers, but since they had beaten Virginia Water, in their last outing, at The Meadow a week earlier both Wantage Town and Brackley Town Saints had picked up three points from midweek fixtures and both were now within striking distance of the Gloucestershire club, especially as they each had two matches in hand on Sam Prior’s side.

Tuffley Rovers v Brimscombe & Thrupp - 9 March 2019 Image courtesy of Brian Rossiter @BrianRossiter1This would be Brimscombe’s penultimate away match of the season and would have arrived at Glevum Park keen to improve an excellent record on the road which had already seen them take thirty-three points from sixteen games. Rovers narrowly lost at The Meadow as recently as the 19th of February but might have been more concerned to ensure that there was no repetition of the mauling they received on their own ground in a December cup-tie. Tuffley’s recent good form, especially at home, suggested that today’s contest would probably be closer to the previous league match than the earlier quite frenetic cup-tie which the visitors ran away with in extra-time after the scores had been level at ninety minutes. When a team near the bottom beats the team at the top it might initially be regarded as an upset, but not if the winning team has extended an unbeaten home run to five matches and fought like lions to prevent a repetition of what had happened in its previous match seven days earlier, which was taking the lead against an opponent riding high in the division and seeing victory snatched away by a very late equaliser.

A single goal settled this match in the hosts’ favour but the heroism of the defensive performance which protected that narrow lead cannot be over-emphasised. Only rarely did Tuffley look like extending their lead, especially in the second half when the visitors’ upped the urgency in their game as they tried to take something from it. But Rovers’ kept their defensive shape resolutely with the central pairing of Joel White and Macaulay Herbert quite outstanding and the two full-backs pushing up when they needed to and dropping back to deny Brimscombe attackers space and get important tackles in. Behind this quartet Luke Merchant in goal was at the very top of his game. He might not have had to stretch to make a significant save but that was partly because his positional sense was so good and his handling and kicking were of the highest standard throughout the afternoon. Although this victory was very much a team effort, Luke’s calmness under pressure was a significant reason why Rovers collected all three points. Fifty-five goals had been scored in Tuffley’s thirteen home league fixtures before Brimscombe’s visit; and fifty-two in the visitors’ sixteen away games. If anyone looking at those statistics expected a goal-fest, they would be disappointed. The early exchanges were quite even but the first real opening came in the eighth minute when Ollie Pitt’s cross from the right was collected by Jack Smith but the centre-forward saw his shot hit Luke Merchant’s left-hand post before bouncing across the goal and being cleared by Macaulay Herbert. A minute later Ashley Gale had to dive to his right to push away Warren Mann’s 20-yarder, as Rovers mounted a first serious attack.

Kieran Alder looked to be pulled down inside the Brimscombe penalty-area a few moments later, but referee Ed Turner waved away any appeals for a spot-kick. Rovers would not have to wait much longer for the reward of the vital, opening goal. Alder found the recalled Jake Rhodes around the edge of the six-yard box and although the striker couldn’t get his shot away cleanly, he followed up to have another stab at the ball and despite three green-shirted defenders being in close proximity he managed to force the ball into the corner of the net. Rovers enjoyed a good spell of pressure after the goal but couldn’t find a second. When Brimscombe broke, after withstanding Rovers’ pressure, Jake Horrell ran clear on goal but his attempted chip was comfortably caught by Merchant when the forward might have done better. The visitors kept coming and Ben Deakin’s throw-in on the right was headed goalwards by Ashley Cauldwell but the ball was easily caught by Merchant’s safe hands. Warren Mann complained vociferously to the referee when a decision went against him but Rovers’ long-serving player would receive a yellow card before the interval, possibly more for complaining once too often than for any misdemeanour he had committed on the pitch. A minute later and on the cusp of the interval, Dan Hill joined Mann in the book for a cynical trip on Alder, as the sides completed the first period, with Rovers holding the slenderest of leads.

The visitors pushed forward right from the re-start but it was Tuffley who nearly added to their lead when Alder and Rhodes combined well before the latter sent a fierce shot just over Gale’s crossbar. At the other end pressure was slowly building on the home defence and Brimscombe won several free-kicks and corner-kicks without being able to create anything dangerous from them. Sam Blackie came on for Jack Horrell and Rovers responded by sending on Brett James for Mann, as both sides began to change their line-ups. Just into the final ten minutes came another big talking point. James ran towards the corner of the visitors’ box from the left and was felled as he reached it … or was he felled inside it? He certainly ended up inside the box but referee Turner, who had kept right up with play, gave a free-kick just outside the penalty-area. Alder curled the kick over the defensive wall but Gale was well positioned and caught the ball comfortably. Will Dawes was cautioned for a foul shortly before Tuffley brought on Dominik Kent and Henry Birkett for Paul Carter and Rhodes, as Mark Pritchett looked to add some fresh energy to his side. For Rovers, it is just about seeing the game out and avoiding what happened against Bishops Cleeve in the 93rd minute seven days earlier. Another safe catch from Merchant and a big punt upfield later and it was all over. Rovers have held on to defeat the champions-elect whose hopes of winning the title have taken a big but not necessarily terminal blow.

Rovers have moved a little further clear of trouble but know that there is still work to do before their Premier Division safety can be confirmed but this was a compelling match to watch and the hosts can be really happy that they have banished the memory of one narrow and one heavy defeat by the Stroud-based club earlier in the season. Rovers still have four home matches left to play and if they perform with the same enthusiasm and discipline as they have in the last four at Glevum Park (3 wins and a draw) they won’t be talking about the threat of relegation for much longer.

Tuffley Rovers 1 Brimscombe & Thrupp 0 (away view)
It was local derby action on Saturday when Brimscombe & Thrupp done the 11mile journey to Tuffley Rovers.

It was a cagey start to the game with both teams trying to settle in. The first real chance of the game came 8 minutes in when Ollie Pitt played a low cross in to the box from the right hand side finding Jack Smith who rattled the woodwork with his second touch before the ball was cleared by the Tuffley defence. Brimscombe still pushed to take the lead, Jack Horrell tried his luck with a half volley but his effort was just wide of the mark. Tuffley found themselves in a dangerous position and felt like they should have had a penalty but referee Ed Turner waved away all appeals as he dusted himself off after a collision with a player. Jake Rhodes found the net for the home side despite the initial save from Ash Gale. Brimscombe made some moves in the final third but still couldn’t find the net, Jack Horrell tried to make amends for his earlier effort but he shot over and wide. Tuffley took the ball up the other end and caused all sorts of problems again with Rhodes again but some heroic defending for the Lilywhites on the line denied the two-goal cushion. The visitors found themselves in behind the Tuffley back line but Horrell couldn’t make the most of the 1-on-1 and chipped it in to the hands of Luke Merchant. Jack Smith found the ball at his feet in the box but a last ditch tackle from Joel White meant Smith couldn’t get the shot away. Edd Major was the latest Brimscombe player to try his luck his effort on target was smothered by Merchant but the assistants flag was up anyway. With the time edging closer to half time, Rovers had another great effort through Kieran Alder but Ash Gale was on hand to deny him with a fantastic save before the Lilywhites defence cleared the loose ball away.

Tuffley came out of the blocks the quickest in the second half, Jake Rhodes curled his effort over from the edge of the area. Jack Smith saw another shot blocked by the strong Tuffley defence. Edd Major decided to try a volley just after the hour mark but his shot went wide. Sam Blackie replaced Jack Horrell, James Campbell replaced Jack Smith and Josh Swales replaced Edd Major. Brimscombe looked for the equaliser and still pushed harder to get it, Kyle Pitts headed the ball at the ‘keeper. Jake Parrott tried his luck but his shot was high of the target. A fantastic effort from the visitors to level came at the 87th minute when Swales’ cross found the head of Campbell who couldn’t quite get the power behind it and found the hands of Merchant in the Tuffley goal. Swales also had chance to level very late on when the ball found him at the back post but the headed effort went wide. It wasn’t to be for the Lilywhites but Tuffley defence were incredible and dealt well with whatever Brimscombe threw at them.

Virginia Water 1 Ardley United 1
Waters got away with a draw against a strong Ardley team, fighting to remain the Hellenic Premier Division – which I am sure will not be in doubt.

In a frantic start by the visitors, they had two penalty appeals and three one on one chances in the first quarter alone – only to be thwarted by some excellent saves by Matt Jones in the home goal. VW were lethargic and slow out of the blocks, and only had some shots from distance by Jamie Read, Liam Whyte and Adam McNamara to show for their efforts, despite the home side getting into great positions numerous times, but taking wrong options and poor final balls into the box. With a strong wind in their favour, VW failed to capitalise and the half belonged to the visitors, albeit somehow goalless at the break.

The home side began stronger in the second half, and put together some good passing moves of their own, and took the lead from one such move, when Josh Hill’s cross found Eddie Lazarcuk at the back post, to calmly place his header into the far corner on 63 minutes. Rather than kick on, VW committed the cardinal sin and stood off, and conceded a sloppy equaliser within 90 seconds of taking the lead – which Ardley deserved to be fair on the overall balance of play. They then pushed for a winner, and were awarded a penalty on 71 minutes, which Matt saved low to his left. A few more efforts were repelled by the home keeper, whilst at the other end, Jamie shot at their keeper from 8 yards out, when a gaol seemed certain, as well as having another shot well saved, and we also went close with a Finn Evered header, but honours even at the end.

One West

Easington Sport 0 Thornbury Town 0 (away view)
Thornbury Town’s trip to Easington Sports saw a tight game end goalless with the strong wind making life difficult for both sides. However Town started on the front foot, almost taking the lead in the first minute when Tom Webb outpaced his marker before firing a low pass across the face of the goal that was missed by the home defence but as Matt Davis prepared to steer the ball into the net Sports’ Grant cleared the danger. 

The hosts gradually imposed themselves on the game and with the wind behind them looked to get a long ball beyond the Thorns defence but their passes were often overhit. 15 minutes in, Harry Brock’s through ball to Davis saw the striker make space for a shot from a tight angle but the ball hit the side netting.  The latter stages of the half saw the hosts create a number of half chances but Town’s defence held firm with Pete Fowler clearing a shot from Coleman’s whilst 10 minutes before the break Nathan Sage cleared Watkin’s effort from just inside the penalty area. Sports almost took the lead in the last minute of the half when Sabin got his head to a corner but a combination of Fowler and Webb saw the effort cleared off the line. 

The second period saw Sports start brightly and Henry Rose had a header that was comfortably saved by Kurtis Parkin. Although they had the slope with them Thorns found it difficult to get out of their half but a dangerous looking cross from tom Webb was frantically cleared by Sabin whilst minutes later Matt Davis’ cross found Craig Lancastle but Town’s leading scorer couldn’t get his shot away and the danger was cleared.  A frantic few minutes then saw the hosts waste a couple of good chances with Spaull having his shot saved by Parkin whilst moments later Grant’s close range shot was blocked by Sports striker Rose, who recovered quickly to get his own shot in which was superbly blocked by Nathan Sage. 

What could have been the turning point of the game came after 70 minutes when Matt Davis chased down a long ball and his cross was blocked by a defender’s hand in the penalty area, but despite Town’s protestations the referee, after a long consultation with his assistant, simply awarded a corner rather than a penalty. Having survived the incident Sports pressed forward themselves and Parkin had to be alert to tip a Convey effort over the bar and then a couple of minutes later Convey had a shot blocked by skipper Pete Fowler. 

The dying minutes saw Thorns have the best chances with Lancastle’s shot being spilled by keeper White but the loose ball was cleared before any Thorns players could react to the rebound whilst a Toby Bennett free kick caused some problems for the hosts before being cleared for a corner.  At the end of the day Thorns were happy to come away with a point and a clean sheet against one of the best sides in the league, and both sides will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. 

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