25th November 2019 

Reading City FC (3) Brackley Town Saints (1)
Hellenic League Premier Division

Saints: Crowther, Gabbidon, Brock, Sherratt, Middleton (D), Hartley, Ball (McConnell 85), Godfrey (Kille 79), Knight, Hammond, Middleton L (Stott 45) 

Sub not used: Thompson 

A disappointing result for Saints who were not able to adjust as well to testing conditions as their opponents. The game had been subject to 2 pitch inspections earlier in the day which were passed in the hope that further rain would stay away. In the event heavy rainfall prior to kick off left the pitch very heavy with standing water in places. The referee judged that the pitch was playable and given that both teams had arrived at the ground his decision was understandable. 

Saints started poorly and in the first 15 minutes Matt Crowther had to be alert to make 2 good saves, one from the lively Luis Le Pais who was to cause Saints problems throughout, although he should have scored on 11 minutes when a dangerous corner found him unmarked in the six yard box but he failed to make contact.  On 15 minutes the Citizens worked another excellent opportunity when Fergus Burton found himself one on one with Crowther but chipped the ball wastefully over the bar. 

Saints first attempt on goal came on 20 minutes when James Hammond, Ryan Knight and George Ball combined well down the left channel. The ball was partially cleared, but only to the onrushing Jordan Godfrey on the edge of the box who rifled his shot wide.  

Le Pais showed excellent dribbling skills on 26 minutes running from the halfway line but his shot was easily dealt with by Crowther, who was needed again on 33 minutes to make a fine save to keep out Ellis Cowd’s point blank header. 

Completely against the run of play Saints took the lead on 35 minutes. Hammond picked the ball up in midfield and jinked away from a couple of tackles before flighting a pass out to George Ball who raced beyond the full back. Although he initially appeared to have lost control of the ball in the box, he regained possession and was upended by Michael Butcher who mistimed his tackle. No complaints from The Citizens and Ryan Knight stepped up to confidently convert the penalty. 

A similar move minutes later again saw Hammond feeding Ball who was getting the better of Ben Lambourne and his dangerous cross flashed across the six-yard box and was cleared for a corner.

Right on half time a breakdown in communication saw Dan Middleton take the ball away from Matt Crowther on the edge of the six-yard box. Le Pais nipped in and stole the ball before feeding it to Adam Cashin-Murray who levelled the scores with a nice finish past Crowther into the bottom corner. Terrible timing for Saints who squelched off the pitch for a half time cup of tea. 

Saints made a change at half time with Alex Stott replacing Lewis Middleton, and the early signs were encouraging. The Citizens were keeping Crowther busy, but the better chances were being created at the other end where the best move of the match saw Gabbidon and Hammond combine with Ball who played Hammond into the Box. He fed Stott who crossed to Knight who headed wide, although it looked as though the linesman had flagged for offside. A few minutes later Jordan Godfrey played a super ball through to Knight whose left foot shot was headed for the top corner but tipped acrobatically over the bar by keeper Charlie Yorke. From the resulting corner there were loud Saints shouts for a penalty for hand ball. The referee was unmoved.

Saints continued to knock on the door and on 58 minutes George Ball came agonisingly close from a free kick just outside the box. 

The Citizens sparked back into life on 64 minutes and only a fine save from Crowther denied Mitch Parker. From the next phase of possession, the Citizens took the lead. They were patient knocking the ball around the Saints penalty area. Saints were passive and allowed Ben Lambourne to fire a cross for Sam Tucker who lost his marker on the 6-yard box and headed past Crowther. 

The last 15 minutes were frantic and muddy. Lewis Gabbidon was having some joy down the right channel but was finding it hard to get a telling cross into the danger area. On 88 minutes his cross was intercepted at the front post and the ball fell to Le Pais on the edge of the Citizens box. He ran at pace into the space left by Gabbidon and covered the length of the pitch without being challenged, and although Crowther saved his initial shot from just inside the box Le Pais picked up the rebound and showed great composure in waiting for substitute Sam Bell to arrive in support. Le Pais squared the ball and Bell stabbed home. 

There was still time for Saints substitute Hayden McCallum to have a great opportunity when he broke clear of the Citizens defence, but York spread his body well to keep the ball out. 

So, a disappointing defeat. Yes, the pitch was too close to a quagmire for comfort, but it was the same for both teams. Given the conditions it was a nice competitive game played in a good spirit and although Saints had to rely on some poor finishing and numerous saves by Matt Crowther, they were still in the game at 88 minutes. Well played Citizens. See you later in the season. 

No game for the Saints on Saturday, but a home match against Burnham FC next Wednesday 4th December.