19th November 2019
Flackwell Heath FC (1) Brackley Town Saints (2)
Hellenic League Premier Division
Saints: Crowther, Middleton (D), Brock, Sherratt, Hartley, Goddard (Gabbidon 30), Ball (Kille 80), Godfrey, Knight, Hammond, Middleton L (Stott 78)
Saints continued their recent excellent form with a good all-round performance at Flackwell Heath. They were exciting in attack and resilient in defence and are now on a positive run having lost only one game in the last seven and having won the last four league games on the bounce, moving back up to 3rd place in the division.
Things did not look so good in the first five minutes of the game with the Heathens very quickly on the front foot forcing three early corners and with Matt Crowther having to be on his toes on a couple of occasions.
But having soaked up non-stop pressure Saints broke on seven minutes and good interplay between Ryan Knight and James Hammond saw Hammond burst free just outside the box and his accurate left drive found the bottom corner of the net.
Hammond almost doubled the advantage a minute later when his nifty footwork created space on the edge of the box but this time his left foot shot was pulled just wide of the post.
Saints were to enjoy a purple patch for the next 25 minutes during which Hammond, Knight and George Ball regularly terrorised the heathens defence with fast direct breaks created as a result of good defending, and incisive passing. Saints were getting from end to end in style, and the Heathens defence was being stretched. On 14 minutes Ball teased the Heathens full back with a swift and mazy run down the left wing. He pulled the ball back to Harry Brock who delivered a first time cross to the back post where Knights header looped just over the bar. The Heathens were struggling to get a foothold in the game and on 20 minutes Hammond again came close with 30-yard drive that hit the left post.
Saints were looking secure at the back although were disappointed to lose Olly Goddard on the half-hour mark when he limped off after falling awkwardly. Even so Saints were able to rejig, and apart from one header which squeezed past the post Heathens didn’t create any clear-cut chances. Before half-time Knight once again got in behind outpacing the heathens defence and his rasping shot was just over the top of the bar.
The second half started in much the same way as the first with the Heathens pushing strongly. Two or three dangerous corners were well defended, and Crowther was called upon to make a couple of good saves and relied on a bit of luck with a couple of others when the ball was ping ponging around the box.
But the Saints were defending stoutly as a unit, although struggling to retain the creativity going forward. Dan Middleton put his body on the line with two excellent blocks one on the goal line to thwart the Heathens. On 51 minutes Flackwell had perhaps their best chance from open play in the game but a header from the 6 yard line was directed straight into the arms of Crowther.
On 73 minutes having soaked up a lot of pressure Saints extended their lead when Hammond picked up the ball in midfield and cleverly timed his chipped pass through to Ryan Knight who raced away from the defenders before skilfully rounding Watkins in the Flackwell goal and tapping the ball into the empty net.
Saints enjoyed a period of 10 minutes where they were knocking the ball around confidently and with a little more care could possibly have manufactured another couple of goalscoring opportunities. However, the Heathens had not given up and pulled themselves back into the game on 80 minutes when Sam Sherratt was adjudged to have committed a foul in a dangerous position just outside the Saints penalty area. It looked a little harsh, but Khaled Simmo showed no mercy and stepped up to hit a cracking and bending shot into the top corner, giving Crowther no chance, and setting up a grandstand finish.
Saints came under further pressure now with Flackwell pushing more and more players forward and becoming more direct. Even so Sam Hartley and Dan Middleton coped well in the air down the middle, and although the final 10 minutes were very tense Saints always looked dangerous when breaking and the Heathens did not create a clear-cut opportunity during this period. The referee somehow found five minutes of added time which added to the entertainment, but Saints saw the game out fully deserving of their victory.
As the score suggests this was a tight game, However Saints created more clear-cut opportunities and always looked a threat coming forward. As with last week’s performance the overall team spirit and resilience was encouraging particularly at the start of each half when Flackwell sensed that they had Saints on the ropes.
Thanks to Flackwell for their generous hospitality and for their part in what was a game played in an excellent spirit. We look forward to seeing you again at St James’s Park later in the season.
No game for the Saints this weekend but they will be back in action next Monday, 25th November, with an away trip against Reading City.