So after the deluge of rain in the local area had received prior to kick off, the Cinder Lane Stadium playing surface was very good and there was never any doubt our latest Hellenic Vets Premier league tie with Witney Royals wasn’t going to go ahead.
The two sides had proven last season that they were closely matched and in fact, Town had failed to beat the Royals in our previous three meetings, so the Vets had an incentive to turn the visitors over. Preparations were hampered by the late arrival of some players, but as the match official blew his first whistle, the squad was intact and in action. The opening minutes saw both sides trying to test each other out, but it wasn’t until the 10th minute the first opportunity came when Town’s leading scorer Paul Smith latched onto a through ball, but failed to get sufficient contact on the ball and managed to just put the ball into the stomach of the man in orange.
Town were struggling to come to terms with the movement of the Royals midfield as they sprang into life at the earliest opportunity, however, their first shot at the Town goal didn’t arrive until 20 minutes, when a shot from 20 yards was easily collected by Lee Ruddle. At this point, the heavens had opened and the pitch was very sprightly with the Royals creating another chance on 23 minutes when an effort just missed Town’s far upright. From the resulting goal kick, Town played through the Royals side and put striker Colin Yates away from the last defender, he held off his man and drew the keeper towards him, before calmly placing the ball into the far post and Town were 1-0 up.
They always say ‘You’re at your most vulnerable after you’ve just scored’ and this was proved right for Town as the Royals sprang on to the attack, we didn’t track the runners and the visitor’s midfielder exploited the space and squeezed the ball home past a packed goalmouth. The rest of the half was a midfield battle, with neither side creating a clear opening and the two sides went into the break level.
Town knew at halftime that they had been trying to force the passes, gave the ball away to easy and this allowed the Royals to attack our backline. We had to sharpen up and make sure the advantage of numbers on the bench paid dividends. Shortly after the restart and Town created the first opening, Paul Hulme through on goal but his shot was easily saved. On 50 minutes and Town’s hesitancy in defence allowed the visiting striker to bare down on Ruddle’s goal, but from an acute angle, his shot sailed past the far upright. Moments later and it was Town’s turn to go on the attack and Yates had a chance to double his goal tally, but dragged his effort wide.
The game was beginning to become a midfield battle again and Damian Francis was particularly enjoying the opportunity to test his scissor action, which did earn him a yellow card. The Town management had left their substitute changes to the last 30 minutes and this provided the side with fresh legs, whilst Royals had struggled from early on with injuries throughout the 80 minutes. The changes made weren’t to Rocky’s taste, but luckily the Town lads did give the Gaffer something to smile about. One of the substitutes, Chris Roche deep into injury time latched onto a Smith headed flick on, held off the defender, rounded the keeper before slotting home and celebrating with the now customary knee slide for a 2-1 lead.
Royals did push to gain an equaliser and felt they should have had a penalty, but it was clear for all to see including the healthy Town following that the lad took a tumble without any assistance from the Town’s Gavin Stevens. The final whistle was blown and Town gained a valuable three points and managed to get the Royals monkey off their back, with a bit of passion and will to win.
Town Gaffer Martin Harries was pleased with the lads effort “We’ve managed to finally get one over Witney, they are a good side and whenever we play them the games are always tight and can go either way. Our squad numbers in depth definitely helped tonight and getting the five lads on in the last 30 minutes paid dividends with Rochey grabbing a well taken goal. We’ve just got to get the spirit going from the first whistle as our Skipper put it!”
Squad: Lee Ruddle, Steve Pugh, Dave Legg, Damian Francis, Gary Sutton(c), Glenn Townsend, Anthony McCusker, Phil Thompson, Colin Yates, Paul Hulme, Paul Smith, Pat Graham, Gavin Stevens, Chris Roche, Chris Pettis, Troy Redman.
MOTM: Damian Francis (Excellent workrate, just stay on your feet!!)
DOTD: Troy Redman (Collapsed on the ball in the penalty area, why???)
Next Match: 14/11/18 Home v Aylesbury Vets 7.45pm KO