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Hellenic League Match Report

22 February 2020

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Premier Division

Brackley Town Saints 1 Tuffley Rovers 3 (away view)

Tuffley Rovers recorded a third consecutive win in all competitions, which was also their third Hellenic League Premier Division victory in four outings, as they produced a highly disciplined and industrious performance to see off fourth-placed Brackley Town Saints, at St James Park on Saturday. The three league victories had been spread across 57 days, with the weather a constant interruption for them as well as many other clubs, and this was only the second game Mark Pritchett’s side had played in February, with the last outing a 3-0 cup victory over Shortwood United on 4 February.

That victory against Shortwood had seen a debut for Cheltenham Town Academy scholar Callum Ebanks, with the 17-year-old scoring the first goal and drawing a challenge that earned his side a penalty, in an impressive debut. The visit to Brackley would see him make a first away appearance for Rovers and it was his contribution that would ultimately settle the tie in Rovers’ favour, although this was a genuine team effort that benefited from the young striker’s potency in front of goal. The line-up that had started 18 days previously was only subject to one change, with Joe Shutt recalled and Harri John making way, as Rovers sought to build on their recent form, at a venue where Pritchett had failed to record a win in three previous league visits as manager.

There was a sense that the day might take a similar turn for the visitors, as the hosts started the game very much on the front foot, although they struggled to break down the Rovers backline and when they did their final ball was misplaced and allowed the visiting side to clear. It was Rovers who had the first chance of note, as Shutt’s cross saw Ebanks challenge Brackley keeper, Max Evans, with the ball going back across the goal. Warren Mann looked to capitalise on Ebanks’ efforts, but Lewis Gabbidon got back to hook the ball away, earning his side a free-kick in the process, as he was pushed by Mann. The diminutive veteran Mann then had a shot deflected wide, as Rovers tried to establish themselves in the game. Those missed opportunities were to prove costly, as Saints’ next attack saw them awarded a corner-kick, despite Rovers protests that George Ball had run the ball out of play prior to Ben Prictor’s intervention. Harry Brock’s corner, deep to the back post, found Charlie Kille completely unattended and the midfielder smashed the ball home from close range to give his side the lead.

What followed was a game that lacked quality, with neither side creating a chance of note, as both teams showed contrasting approaches; Saints playing a slow, passing game and Rovers looking to press high up the pitch quickly and frequently. Neither keeper was called into anything beyond regulation action, as the game moved beyond the half hour mark. Shutt had arguably been Rovers’ most obvious outlet in the opening half and was the first player to have an effort of any note, since Kille’s goal, albeit one that was almost certainly unintended, as his cross went across the goal and only a desperate, full-length save from Evans kept the ball out.

The resultant corner, in the 35th minute, saw Shutt’s set-piece headed home by Jake Rhodes, with the midfielder registering his tenth goal of the season, to take him to the top of Rovers’ scoring chart. Just two minutes later Ebanks produced a piece of magic, as he turned Brock by chesting Mann’s pass around the defender, before using his pace and power to create enough space to unleash a shot that was more about accuracy than power, taking it beyond Evans and into the bottom corner of the Saints’ net.

The hosts were clearly shaken by Rovers’ excellent response to falling behind and James Hammond was sin-binned shortly after Ebanks’ goal, as his frustration boiled over. His indiscretion saw him off the field until the interval and by the time he returned to play, the second half was underway. By the time he returned to the field, the game was entering another phase where each side was showing industry, but chances were few and far between, with neither keeper tested to any real extent. Brackley were establishing a foothold in the game and only some excellent defending from the visiting defence of Pritchett, Macaulay Herbert, Isaac Lawrence and Prictor guaranteed that Luke Merchant remained untested.

The prolific Ryan Knight had a shot from outside the box that went high over the bar and then, on 61 minutes, Ball and Jordon Edward combined to try and fashion a chance, but Shutt was on-hand to produce a good block as Knight looked to meet Ball’s ball to the back post. Rovers weathered the storm and ultimately secured the three points on 76 minutes, as Ebanks latched onto a ball played over the Saints defence, showing tremendous pace to outstrip the defence, before demonstrating admirable composure to delay his shot, before smashing it under Evans and into the back of the net.

A sequence of substitutions followed, with John, Lewis Bainbridge and Ash Bird replacing Mann, Beardsell and Shutt, whilst the hosts made changes of their own, and although there was time for Middleton and Ebanks to collect cautions for their part in a scuffle during the closing moments of the game, Rovers made the long journey home with three points secured and their good recent form boding well for the direction of a stuttering season.

Burnham 0  Westfields 2 (away view)

Westfields set off on yet another 250 mile round trip on Saturday. Burnham had kindly agreed to switch the match against us to their ground following the devastating flood at allpay Park that left the ground under 4ft of water & unfortunately getting into the clubhouse causing a great deal of damage. The home game is now scheduled for the 14th April. We arrived impressed with the Burnham F.C, stadium but a strong wind & a wet & bumpy pitch made football difficult for both teams. 

Playing with the wind in their favour Fields had 2 early chances with Ben Hayes hitting the outside of the post & Aiden Thomas firing straight at Joe Williams in the Burnham goal. The first 25 minutes saw both sides playing well but Fields gave away a number of free kicks which Burnham failed to use to their advantage. 

Dan Stoneman had a couple of chances in the 25th & 29th minutes but both his efforts were well above the Burnham crossbar. Due to an injury to Ryan Green at Fairford & Paul Hurrell not available meant Sam Rawlings moved into the centre & Ollie Butler came in at left back. However the changes showed the strength of the Westfields squad with both players having a great input.  In the 32nd minute Sam Rawlings hit a superb shot which again Joe Williams kept out of the net with a full length save but from the resulting corner Ben Hayes on the far post headed Fields into the lead. 

The start of the 2nd half saw a change in the Fields formation with Matt Reeve reverting to right back following what looked like a bad injury to captain Sam Gwynne & Keanu Cooper coming into mid field.  Aiden Thomas missed a golden opportunity to increase Fields’ lead when shooting wide with the open goal at his mercy just after the restart. 

Although dominating most of the 2nd half Fields failed to add to their lead until the 88th minute when Richard Greaves was tripped inside the box with Burnham’s defender Matthew Surman receiving a red card & from the penalty Richard Greaves put Fields 2 up. The final whistle meant that Fields retained their unbeaten league record. It was made all the more sweet when learning that Binfield had been held to a draw at Shrivenham giving Fields a 15 point lead at the top of the table. Report by Christopher Williams

Division One East

Wokingham & Emmbrook 3 Penn & Tylers Green 0 (Report by Arthur Strand)
It was a different start to the home game for Sumas this week. Firstly, the on field line up with a minute applause in memory of Richard Croyden, Wokingham Town and Wokingham & Emmbrook former assistant director and loyal supporter for 60 of his 80 years who passed away recently. The game then began with total surprise Sumas scored 2 goals in two minutes, the first two minutes! Sumas had an easy approach both times with the barn door wide open at the back and nobody to dodge past allowing Callum Eagle to put the pass into the net beating keeper Kamil Zelechowsky. The young keeper had a similar case a minute later when Jake White made the score two nil with the second goal in the second minute. The visitors must have been stung by the first minute goal and really rattled by the second However, they managed to get to grips since there were no more goals in the first half and the third came near the end of the game. Liam Eagle had moved up into attack and his effort went straight to the Penn keeper. After a free kick to Penn, the team rallied and a corner kick followed for Penn. This was cleared by Sumas defence and then James Hancock took the ball down to the corner flag successfully beating off the defenders and eventually reaching the area and Sean Woodward parried two closely followed shots with the ball eventually leading to a free kick to Sumas. Josh Harris sent the ball forward but it went direct to the Penn Keeper. Nathan Green sent a long cross but Liam Eagle headed the ball back to Woodward. Penn gained a free kick for off side and returned the ball up-field and Sean Woodward made a great take before the ball came back from the middle of the park and a strong strike by Nathan Green hit the crossbar. Penn had recovered from the opening shock by now and defended as Liam Eagle headed over the Penn cross bar. Then Mike Duffy sent a though ball to Tom Fifield but the defence dealt with that attack. Jake White broke through but the ball was deflected out for a corner to Sumas. Somehow the Penn keeper got a long way out of his goalmouth but scrambled back in time to deal with the situation in a crowded area. Curtis Stone gave Penn a flash of optimism with a shot that was blocked in a cluttered defence and that produced nothing and soon after Josh Howell was tripped and Sumas had a free kick. He took it himself and the ball was on target but Penn’s keeper took the ball directly. Duffy had the ball a good distance out but directly in front of goal and screwed the ball very wide. Penn finished the half with an effort sailing over the Sumas’ bar.

Sean Woodward made a save which prevented Penn from reducing the arrears early in the second half but Josh Harris took a free kick which went behind for a corner. Dan Carter created a corner kick somehow but Sumas made no gain. Ellis Day replaced Adam Edwards for Sumas and Penn replaced Hancock with Dayo Olufemi. With plenty of defending to concentrate on although the 2 goal cushion was holding up, Sumas defence had been pushed back but Marcus Guest squeezed the ball out of play for a corner to Penn. Jake White made way for Elliott Rushforth as Sumas made a second change. There was some good ball possession play in the vicinity of the corner flag until the ball went away and Josh Harris took a free kick which went into the hands of the Penn keeper. Luke Scope who had worked hard throughout the game as usual made way for Will Good. A rugby tackle by Penn on Rushforth gave Sumas another free kick. Penn followed up with a free kick as well which was wasted and Olufemi missed as the play then went to the other end where Josh Harris hammered home a cracking goal to finish off the game. 3 points with 3 goals for Wokingham & Emmbrook who face table toppers Risborough Rangers at home next Saturday.

Woodley United  2 Thame Rangers  2 

On a sticky pitch with wind once again blowing from touchline to touchline, United twice came from behind for a deserved share of the points with captain Luke Axton-Hall atoning for his own goal in the last home game, scoring his first goal for the club that levelled the scores at two apiece. 

The home team started the better but fell behind in the tenth minute when left back Lewis Thorne beat Craig McCreeth from the edge of the penalty area firing into the keeper’s left hand corner. United wobbled for a period and it needed a block by Jamaal Whight in the goal area to prevent Thame doubling their score six minutes later. 

The nineteen minute saw Woodley have a strong appeal for a penalty turned down when Max Laschok was bundled off the ball but the forward got his reward when his cross from the goal line was met by Lamin Ceesay to level from close range in the twenty first minute. A slip by Axton-Hall on the testing surface allowed Joe Walls to shoot and hit the net station from the kick off but after this the best chances were created by Woodley with Ceesay dangerous when running the defence and linking well with Laschok.  

Calvin Evans fired a shot over the home cross bar from range seven minutes before the break that saw both teams go in level one apiece. 

Despite Woodley starting the second half in positive manner McCreeth was called on to make a good save from Walls for a corner in the fifty fifth minute from which Rangers kept the pressure on the home defence and where rewarded a minute before the hour mark when a good run and pass from midfield found Ben Lloyd to restore their lead. 

United rallied and Laschok rounded visiting keeper Archie Davies only for his goal bound shot to be cleared off the goal line. This was followed in the seventy first minute of Axton-Hall heading substitute Josh Millo’s corner onto the upright with Harry Hawkins firing the redound goal wards that was cleared of the line to Millo whose low cross found Axton-Hall to have his shot cleared off the line. Buoyed by this pressure United forced another corner in the seventy sixth minute which this time saw Axton-Hall’s header hit the back of the next from Millo’s kick. 

With legs tiring on the heavy pitch chances then became fewer as the teams played out the remaining time and the matched ended all square. 

Division One West

Malvern Town 1 Hereford Boys Club 2

Malvern Town slipped to a disappointing 2-1 home reverse at the hands of local rivals, Hereford Lads Club. Harry Clark gave us the lead just past the half-hour mark as he latched onto a Kyonn Evans cross, but our opponents hit back after the break to level matters before Jordan Dibble did well to save a penalty. However, we conceded a late goal to condemn us to defeat in front of a crowd of 380.

“To say that we were disappointed with the outcome of the game would be an understatement,” said co-manager, Dene Whittal-Williams. “Unfortunately, as the saying goes, we got what we deserved. We started the game slowly but managed to overcome the early pressure to grab a goal on the counter-attack. After that I think we edged the possession in the first half and created the better chances whilst not playing the football that we expect from ourselves."

“In the second half Lads Club were resolute and when they got back on level terms, it gave them the lift that they needed. The goal was frustrating to concede because essentially our defending was poor and came from a threat that we had identified in our preparation. As the half progressed, and even with all the bodies they had behind the ball, we still had good attempts on goal, whilst at the other end, Jordan Dibble did well in a one-on-one situation before fantastically saving a penalty to keep the scores level."

“To then concede so late on and in the manner we did was very poor. Our marking simply was not good enough and it is something that will be looked at and addressed. Overall it was a good battle between two good sides but too many of our players did not show the level of performance that we know they are capable of."

“We will reflect, identify what needs to be worked on and be ready to go again at Hereford Pegasus on Saturday. There is still a long way to go and a lot of football to be played and as a group we will continue to give everything towards our end goal.”

Moreton Rangers 3 Clanfield 4 (away view)
Clanfield moved up to ninth with a 4-3 victory at Moreton Rangers whom they leapfrog in the table in an entertaining game and it was a welcome win for a team who had not won since 18th January and since then had gone out of the two remaining cup competitions they were in. 

Moreton Rangers play at the former home of the now defunct Moreton Town and their walls do show pictures of two of the Moreton Town teams that won the Hellenic League Premier Division title and for a spell in the 1970's Moreton Town and Clanfield were the two best sides in the Premier Division.  However  this was a match between two teams currently in mid-table in Division 1 West with even their shirt colours different to the previous era with Clanfield playing in their change strip and Moreton Rangers not playing in the white shirts of their predecessors. 

On a personal note it was nice to see Clanfirld achieve a win at a ground where at first team level they had not any of their last seven league games at, and after the issue of my travel arrangements a couple of weeks ago which resulted in me missing Clanfie;ld;s late equalizer I was able to witness the whole game on this occasion. 

Clanfield took the lead early on when Zac Oliver had a shot blocked, but the ball fell into the path of Callum Miller who scored with a powerfully struck shot.  Luke Haley in the Clanfield goal had a couple of routine saves to make, but Moreton drew level when a free kick ended up being played back to Harley Wilkinson who produced a great strike from distance to level the scores. 

Clanfield were producing some good cross field passing and were using Zac Oliver's pace to good effect, while Moreton also looked dangerous when they attacked and both team scored again before the first half was over.  Jozef Fullerton's cross was converted by Miller who scored his second of the game.  Moreton's second also came from a  free kick which some people thought the decision to award was a harsh one, but no-one could argue that it was a good strike by Jamie Wyatt which went in off the post. 

Moreton almost scored at the start of the second half with the Clanfield defence relieved to clear their lines, but soon afterwards Clanfield regained the lead when a lob from Zac Oliver ended up presenting Fullerton with a simple tap in. 

For a period after the goal; Moreton had the better of things and were putting the Clanfield defence under pressure, but Clanfield started to break well and use the pace of Oliver and Nathan Robinson to good effect.  Robinson was so unlucky when his effort hit the cross bar and from one of his crosses Jaden Mole who like Frankie Cato and Jordi Mulvany who had joined the fray as a substitute came only a fraction of an inch from getting a decisive touch to. 

Clanfield scored a fourth when Rory Linford-Pill provided a  great through ball to set up Oliver to score.  As the time began to ebb away the two lead began to look more comfortable, but when substitute Javan Nurse puled a goal back you sensed it was going to be a tense last few minutes for Clanfield and with a few additional minutes added on the Clanfield contingent paused for breath whenever Moreton attacked, but the visitors defence made some good blocks and helped their team gain a very valuable three points. 

Match Report By Malcolm Clarke 

Two West

Swindon Robins 2 Faringdon Town 5  (away view)

On a blustery afternoon, Town travelled to a Kingsdown School in Swindon to play on the 3G surface, looking to gain revenge for a disappointing 1-0 defeat in the reverse fixture at Tucker Park earlier in the season. 

Pre-match preparations were hampered when Town began to get changed in the wrong changing rooms, following the lack of information from the home club, so a walk around the school facility was required for the squad. 

The game kicked off, with Town having the wind in their faces and started on the front foot in the opening minute, the returning Dave Coleman just failed to connect with Matty Pill’s cross from the right. However, on the next attack in the 3rd minute Town took the lead as Sam Saunders created space for Jack Green, who drilled a great cross into the area, which wasn’t cleared and Coleman reacted quickly to stab the ball home. From kick off, Robins had their first chance, which Town keeper Connor Guinness-Smith did well to smother down to his left. Robins felt they had scored in the 5th minute when the home keeper launched a wind assisted free kick from midway in his own half down the pitch, which skipped off the surface and over Guinness-Smith and into the net, only for the referee to deem the restart was an indirect free kick and the goal was crossed off. The home side were using the wind to their benefit and had two similar 20 yard efforts, which Guinnes-Smith did well on both occasions to send the ball wide of the goal. On 24 minutes it was Town with the next chance, as Coleman broke through the Robins backline, but his goal bound effort was well saved and turned round the post for a corner by the home number one. Town let their guard down on the half hour, as Robins equalised when the home midfielder hit a good strike from 20 yards which Guinness-Smith failed to gather and the onrushing number 6 scored from close range. Town were playing the neater football and created an opening for Pill, with a nice move down the left, but somehow he cleared the fence and the school grounds with his effort at goal. With ten minutes remaining of the half and the home side took the lead, as the skilful number 9, scored a great effort from outside the Town penalty area giving Guinness-Smith no chance. Town continued to play and were unlucky not to equalise when a good move saw Saunders hit a great strike which struck both posts before being cleared and then centre half Andy Goodchild played a neat one two with Coleman, but his effort was straight at the keeper as the half closed. 

The half time chat was to keep the play simple, high press and not to panic and Town did this as they forced numerous errors from Robins, matched with good interplay as Guinness-Smith was a spectator for the half. Adam Sly was the main tormentor as he created chances for himself and his teammates and he was to score the equaliser 10 minutes into the second half, following good interplay and finish. On the hour skipper Josh Forth failed to hit the target with a header from a Saunders corner. On 67 minutes Sly was fouled on the edge of the Robins penalty area, but Saunders free kick was well saved. In the next three minutes, Sly had a great run from the left, but his goal bound effort was again saved, before a similar run moments later saw his shot deflected into the goal to give Town a 3-2 lead. Five minutes later and it was 4-2 as Saunders drilled a free kick into the bottom corner of the goal, to register his third goal in three games. The home side couldn’t cope with the onslaught and the match was killed off on 83 minutes when a superb Saunders cross field pass, found Sly who left his marker in his wake on the touch line, before pulling the ball back to Pill, who finished high into the goal for 5-2. 

Town totally deserved the three points and played some neat football in difficult conditions and with the squad depth being tested today, this was a good performance and 8th game unbeaten. Match Report by Martin Harries 

Faringdon Town:C Guinness-Smith, A Rudman, A Lynham (sub 80 J Tomes), W Bazen, J Forth(c), A Goodchild, M Pill, J Green (sub 75 L Hares), A Sly, D Coleman (sub 80 M Morris), S Saunders.