24 October 2020
Fairford Town 2 Tuffley Rovers 1 (away view)
Three weeks after a disappointing performance in their defeat at Easington Sports, and with the impact of a positive Covid test behind them, Tuffley Rovers returned to action with a defeat that left them near the foot of the Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Division table but was full of a spirt that promised better days to come. Rovers made three changes to the line-up that had been fielded at Easington 21 days previously, with Jacob Geddes injured, James Sunley unavailable and Rudi McKinnon relegated to the substitutes bench; as Ollie Hunt, Warren Mann and new signing Felix Miles all came into the side.
Fairford Town included two former Tuffley Rovers players in their line-up, as both Jack Beardsell and Ross Langworthy started. It was those players who had the first chances of note for the hosts, who started very much on the front foot, without troubling Luke Merchant in the Rovers goal. Hunt was cautioned early on, for a late challenge that ended a promising run from the pacey Ben Lodge, and Dom Kent followed him into the referee’s notebook shortly after, for delaying a Town free-kick from being taken. Lodge, who was causing problems for the visiting defence, eventually found enough time and space to hang a cross into the centre of the Rovers six-yard box and Dan Bailey arrived on cue to head the ball past Merchant, after 19 minutes. The hosts were largely dominant in the early stages and although Rovers grew in confidence, they were unable to create any clear opportunities, and only some profligate finishing from Fairford, coupled with resolute defending from Rovers kept the arrears to the minimum as the teams headed into the interval.
Rovers started the second period brightly and although they failed to test Ayres in the Fairford Town goal, they were far more competitive than in the opening 45 minutes.
However, Langworthy, who had been prolific in a spell at Rovers 12 months earlier, extended the hosts’ lead on 55 minutes, as he capitalised on a game of pinball, after Beardsell’s low cross into the Rovers area, to poke the ball home from close range.
If Richard Cox, the Rovers manager, had feared a capitulation in the face of a 2-0 deficit, what followed was a far more spirited performance than had been evident in early defeats, and Rovers found themselves back in the game just five minutes later, as Warren Mann found space, before producing an excellent low cross that Luke Soule, a recent signing from Shortwood United, poked into the top corner from 8 yards out.
The game then developed into a competitive tie, with both teams looking to add to their score, but both defences did well to marshal the threat from their respective attacking opposition and chances were few and far between. McKinnon, who has been prolific for the Rovers U18s, then came into the fray and fired narrowly wide after turning two defenders inside out, but that proved to be the visitors’ best chance and the hosts held on to take three points that keep them on course for a promotion push and left Rovers knowing they need to start accumulating points sooner, rather than later if they are to avoid a very difficult season.
Virginia Water 2 Longlevens 0
A big three points and clean sheet for Virginia Water, in a great game played in difficult conditions. The home side had to defend well and relied on a few great saves by Matt in the first half, with a gale force wind into their faces.
This said, marshalled by the excellent Jack Simmons in CDM, we did have our chances, with Paul Burrows hitting the bar, Enow ‘smiles’ Ojong shooting narrowly wide from close range, and some good efforts from long range by Josh Dillon, Louis Sanders and Josh Hill. Having weathered the storm and reached the break at 0-0, it was up to VW to deliver in the second with the elements in our favour – and we duly did.
The big threat of Josh up front got stronger, and he saw a great shot cannon back off the bar, then soon after Louis saw his shot do exactly the same, only for Josh to be brought down in the follow up. Josh had his spot kick well saved, but hit home the rebound, to put us deservedly ahead on 62 minutes. To be fair to Longlevens, they were always a threat, and we had another Matt save to keep our lead, turning away a close range shot low to his left, and a brilliant goal line clearance by Marc Lansdowne.
As alluded to, with the wind at our backs, thankfully the conditions helped to make these the only visiting shots of note in the second half, and as VW grew in confidence, we had more good shots on goal from Smiles, Jack and Josh Hill. Our second came again from Josh Dillon, following some good inter play by debutant Tommy Boyd, Joe McBride and Smiles, who put Josh through on the edge of the box, to lash home an unstoppable shot on 78 minutes. Water's safely saw out the game from then on to record an excellent win and maintain an unbeaten home record.
Division One East
Abingdon Town 0 Risborough Rangers 5 (away view)
Rangers romped to a five goal victory at a rain-swept Abingdon Town on Saturday as Brian Haule showed he is back to his best. The game was played in difficult conditions as a swirling wind and sheeting rain battered the Culham Road ground, but it didn't stop Rangers from recording a five nil victory over a battling Abingdon side. The first 15 minutes were pretty dire as both sides struggled to come to terms with the weather and a bumpy pitch, and I began to wonder if I should have gone for an afternoons angling in the nearby River Thames instead. However, the game came to life when a good move from Rangers saw Brian Haule receive the ball just insides Town's area. His delightful lay-off to the oncoming Adam Morris saw the midfielder take a good touch before rifling the ball low past the Town keeper. The goal sparked Rangers into life and soon after Marcus Wyllie latched on to Davis Haule's header, his shot flashing across the goal-mouth and just evading the boot of the sliding Sam Pekun. A minute later and Rangers made it two when skipper Joel Read headed a free kick back across goal for Brian Haule to add the finishing touch with a good finish. Next, full back Bertie Squire-Adams then sent a good cross into the box and the ball pinged around the area as Pekun, Wyllie and Brian Haule all had chances blocked before the ball was booted to safety. On the half hour mark some good link up play between Pekun and Haule saw the tricky winger shoot straight at the keeper. Three minutes later and Town fired a shot just over from the edge of the visitors area. Five minutes from half time Wyllie was put through with just the keeper to beat, before the referee blew for a free kick to Rangers, ignoring shouts for advantage to be played. Another good move involving Haule and Pekun ended with a free kick to Rangers as Pekun was fouled just on the edge of the area. The subsequent free kick was cleared as half time loomed.
Six minutes into the second half and Jack Brooker in the Rangers goal faced his first real threat, taking a high cross under pressure. A few minutes later and good play from Wyllie and Morris saw Read's cross find Asher Yearwood. He controlled well and volleyed what looked a certain goal, bringing a brilliant save from the town Keeper at point blank range. Two minutes later and the visitors scored a superb third. Yearwood won a good challenge in the middle and fed the ball to Wyllie. His first time cross was met brilliantly by the head of a flying Brian Haule for his second of the match. It was a great finish from last season's top scorer and worthy of his performance. Rangers were soon on the attack again as Read flashed a curling shot just wide. A challenging Town player then appeared to attack Read for no reason, earning himself a red card and inexplicably, Read a yellow. Strangely the ten men of Abingdon had their best chance when, following a driving run their strikers shot was deflected onto the Rangers' upright. Five minutes on and Rangers hit a fourth. Wyllie picked up the ball on the Town's left flank and following a trademark mazy run, hit the post, The rebound fell to Haule who was fouled as he shaped to shoot. A penalty was awarded and the tall striker dusted himself off to complete his hat-trick from the spot. Rangers were making the extra man pay as they enjoyed a good period of possession football. A good move from the visitors saw Pekun through to slide the ball home, only for the referee for the second time in the match, call play back for a free kick to Rangers! The subsequent free kick from Wyllie produced an excellent save from Town's overworked custodian. By now the rain was virtually horizontal as Abingdon continued to battle bravely to keep the score down. The lively Pekun had his effort cleared off the line after a clever run and then Jake Dell had a good finish ruled out for offside against Yearwood. As more rain fell Town implemented an offside trap that frustrated Rangers but in the closing minutes tired legs began to allow Rangers to mount yet more attacks. Pekun robbed the keeper on the edge of his area and tried to lob the gloves-man but his lob was saved as the keeper recovered well. Pekun again forced a good save after a clever pass from Morris. It was Morris himself that grabbed Ranger's fifth and his second when he raced onto a good cross from Justin Gordon to slam home from 12 yards. In the dying seconds Town almost grabbed a consolation when Brooker's fluffed clearance was intercepted and lobbed over the bar.
A comfortable win for Rangers who have now gone unbeaten in their last 31 league games (Including their last three in the Spartan South Midlands League) as they keep up the pressure on the league leaders. They must now concentrate on their important FA Vase game at home to Erith & Belvedere this coming Saturday. The visitors from Kent will be a much tougher opposition.
Rangers' Man of the Match: Brian Haule A hat-trick and an assist. His goals had the hallmark of a good striker. The first a typical poachers goal, the second a fabulous header and the third a coolly taken penalty. His hold up play and linking with others was first class.
Division One West
Cheltenham Saracens 2 Malvern Town 3 (away view)
Malvern Town battled tough conditions and tough opponents to come home with three points from a 2-3 triumph at Cheltenham Saracens in a game which saw us reduced to ten men and play for a time with nine men.
The wind was playing it’s part in the opening exchanges. There was a good opening for Matt Turner on seven minutes as Harry Clark played him through, but the ‘keeper did well to block. The home side took the lead from the penalty spot on 12 minutes when Harry Wickett brought down number 11 and the resulting spot-kick was squeezed home. A deep cross from Clark was headed just wide at the far post by Lewis Platt as we started to play some neat football with some desperate defending from the home side keeping us out on 25 minutes. The home side broke away following a long wind-assisted clearance as number 10 was denied by a good near-post save.
At the other end, a great block thwarted Clark as Joe Bates put the rebound over as the heavens opened and made conditions even more tricky. Despite being on top, the home side were a threat on the counter and number 9 went close on two occasions as the clock ticked down at the end of the opening period. The home side weren’t allowing us to get into any rhythm early in the second half but we were able to make the breakthrough on 55 minutes when Clark seized upon some defensive hesitation to tuck home. A sharp break on the hour-mark ended with Platt seeing a low strike saved before Wickett was sent off for a second booking to leave us with ten men as a free-kick in a promising position out wide for the home side was scrambled clear.
We were further reduced to nine men when Jay Sauntson was sin-binned and with 20 minutes to go, the home side regained the lead as they poked home from close range. After a strike from Jay Sauntson, now back in the action, was deflected into the ‘keepers’ arms, the home side broke and number 9 was denied by a timely block. The scores were level once more when a corner was met with a towering header from Jay Sauntson that looped home. With time running out, a foul on Clark gave us a free-kick which Phil Harris curled in sweetly and Adam Sauntson headed home to put us in front for the first time.
A chance opened up for the home side late on as the initial strike was blocked and then the rebound fired well over and despite lengthy stoppage time, we were able to see the game out and record a good win against previously unbeaten opponents.
Blackburn, Wickett, Platt, A. Sauntson, J. Sauntson, Febery, Loader (Harris 66), Bullock, Turner (Chowns Higgs 78), Bates (Smith 61), Clark. Subs not used: Fusco, Billingham.
BOOKING(S): Febery, J. Sauntson RED CARD: Wickett GOAL(S): Clark, J. Sauntson, A. Sauntson
Division Two South
Woodstock Town 1 Letcombe 8 (away view)
After a forgettable first half, Letcombe produced a brilliant display of attacking football to overwhelm Old Woodstock Town after half time.
A strong cross wind made passing football difficult, and neither side produced any chances of note in a poor first half. The only goal came when home keeper Sam Jeffrey gathered the ball from a corner, but his hurried clearance struck Michael Annetts, who reacted quickest to place the ball into the net.
The second half was a different game, with Letcombe creating chances with almost every attack. They increased their lead when keeper Jeffrey was penalised for a push in the back from a corner, and Luke Polding scored from the resulting penalty. He had put a penalty over the bar two weeks before, but this safely he despatched the ball low into the left hand corner. Letcombe brought on Harry Green and Joe Johnson, and Green had an immediate impact. Josh Fowler scored number three from close range before Green added another from a low cross. Fowler, Green and Johnson all missed clear openings before Fowler scored again, coolly placing a through ball past Jeffrey after he raced clear of a square defence. Green scored number six with a precise finish into the corner of the net before Chad Abrams got on the scoresheet with a flicked header from a Sam Mulvey free kick. Fowler completed his hat trick, rising high to plant a header into the top corner from a right wing cross before Woodstock scored a consolation goal. Referee Cabala awarded them a penalty for a push with three minutes remaining, and Nathan Emmett scored from the spot.
Letcombe were left to reflect on why they had failed to score in their previous two matches, and why they failed to create chances in the first half when they are capable of this sort of attacking performance. Another excellent defensive display, despite the absence of Nathan Haresnape, gave Woodstock few chances, and Letcombe keeper Danny Joyce had few shots to save. Letcombe have no game next Saturday, but return to league action on Tuesday 3rd November at Clanfield development.
Division Two West
Malvern Town Development started their Hellenic League Division Two West season in winning fashion with a 3-0 triumph over Evesham United Development. On a wet and windy afternoon, the game started with neither team able to adapt to the elements and both teams were guilty of giving the ball away cheaply.
We started to get a foothold in the game as the opening period went on and were passing the ball around nicely. Jack Mackintosh was unlucky when he saw his shot fly just over the crossbar beforewe took the lead on 17 minutes when Ben Febery picked the ball up 25 yards out and drove at the home defence, beating two or three players before slotting past the advancing ‘keeper to give us a deserved lead.
We took control of the remainder of the first half and created a number of chances without being able to add to our lead.
Ten minutes after the restart we had a strong shout for a penalty when Morgan Skidmore looked like he was brought down under a heavy challenge. Nothing was given on this occasion, but Skidmore got his reward a few minutes later when the ball wasn't cleared properly and he rolled into the net. We were now playing some neat football but got caught on a counter-attack only for James Loader to come to the rescue with a fantastic save to keep his clean sheet intact. On 70 minutes, after good pressing by Ameer Khan and Bryan Craven, it forced a mistake from the visitors which Craven was able to take full advantage of to guide home our third goal.
“In terrible conditions we started cautiously but soon took control of the game,” said manager, Peter Daffin. “We looked strong all over the pitch and our shape was very good throughout the 90 minutes. It was pleasing to see all 16 players play their part in this performance. We took our chances well and looked after the ball in the right areas as we defended from the front. What was pleasing to see is the impact the experienced players are having with the younger lads. Rich [Bray, assistant manager] and I were well pleased with the performance and attitude of all as we executed our game plan.”