21st September 2019

Hellenic League – Premier Division

Bishops Cleeve (4) Brackley Town Saints (0) 

Saints: Crowther, Gabbidon, Brock, Goddard, March (Kille 54), Hartley (Middleton 68), Davies (Ball 20), Hammond (J), Hammond (M), Stott, Knight  

A heavy defeat for Saints against a well drilled Cleeve side that will be right up there in the shake up for honours at the end of the season. As has been the way over recent weeks Saints shot themselves in the foot after a promising opening 30 minutes. In fact the match statistics suggested that Saints enjoyed 54% possession, but Cleeve were well organised and Saints had to work really hard to create chances against a team that gave little away and stuck to their game plan. 

The early exchanges were tight. Saints were pressing well and giving the Cleeve defence little time on the ball. The first clear cut opportunity came Brackley’s way when James Hammond burst into the box and was checked by the defender who appeared to take Hammond down with his arm. The referee thought otherwise. 

There was early evidence of Cleeve’s ability to break at pace. Saints were committing numbers forward and on a couple of occasions both full backs were in advanced positions when attacking moves broke down. Long accurate passes in behind Lewis Gabbidon saw Saints outnumbered twice and Matt Crowther was forced to be on his toes both times to thwart one on one chances. 

On 20 minutes Lester Davies, who had passed a pre match fitness test, was forced to retire being replaced by George Ball. 

Saints were playing some nice football and on 24 minutes Stott found space in midfield and worked the ball out to Harry Brock. He combined excellently with Ryan Knight who set Brock free on the left side of the box. Brock whipped in a cross which Matt Hammond flicked goalwards. Wieczorek in the Cleeve goal did not move or see the ball coming but it  hit his hand and was hacked away to safety. 

On 29 minutes Ollie Goddard emerged from a challenge in midfield and tried to curl the ball into the bottom corner but the ball drifted past the post. 

On 33 minutes Cleeve took the lead when Dean March’s pass out of defence was intercepted and following a neat one two Jack Watts beat Crowther with a shot which cannoned in off the post for his 12th goal of the season. 

The next 10 minutes were tight but Saints were not troubling Wieczorek in the Cleeve goal. However on 45 minutes excellent play in midfield ended with an excellent defence splitting pass from Stott setting Matt Hammond away one on one with the keeper who got his angles right and blocked Hammond’s shot with his legs. 

Such is football that instead of going in at half time on level terms Cleeve extended their lead 5 minutes into added time. The excellent Adam Mace delivered a sweet in swinging corner which, an unmarked and unchallenged, Mike Davis got the faintest of flicked headers onto in the six yard box. Unfortunately Saints did not have a man on the far post, and the ball drifted past Crowther and into the empty net. 

The second half brought a change of shape for Saints and for 9 minutes it was nip and tuck. But on 54 minutes March hobbled off injured to be replaced by Charlie Kille.  Saints were unsettled and 2 minutes later appeared to have no central defenders with Watts taking full advantage bursting clear through the middle before unselfishly passing to Stephen Davies who tapped into an empty net. There followed much discussion as to whether this was offside but not in the opinion of the linesman. 

Saints to their credit continued to seek a consolation goal and a header from Stott and a shot from Matt Hammond did not trouble the keeper. Yet another injury saw Sam Hartley forced to leave the field on 68 minutes replaced by Lewis Middleton. Kille had a couple of shots from range but off target and then in the final minute he was forced to leave the field after an unsavoury incident that saw Davies yellow carded. To those close enough to see the incident it was a red card and was a situation which was completely out of the character of the whole game which was highly entertaining and played in a strong bur fair manner. 

There was still time for Cleeve to have an appeal for a penalty when Davies tumbled in the box and 2 minutes later Jack Watts bagged Cleeve’s 4th tapping in from a really tight angle. 

So did Cleeve deserve their victory? Yes. Was 4-0 a fair reflection of the game? No not really.But 4-0 it is. 

Saints must now begin to pick up some points or they will be drawn into a battle at the wrong end of the table. Their next match is at home to Holmer Green on Wednesday 25th - 7-45pm.