26th December 2019 

Brackley Town Saints (4) Easington Sports (3)
Hellenic League Premier Division

Saints: Crowther, Gabbidon, Brock (c) (Wood 50), Sherratt, Middleton D, Hartley, Middleton L (Ball 60), Godfrey, Knight, Watts, Kille (McConnell) 

Subs not used: Harris 

Attendance - 139 

This was a fantastic local derby and a great example of the so-called game of two halves. Saints came into the game on a losing streak of four games whereas Sports had enjoyed five wins in the last 6 matches. Saints were boosted by the return of Sam Sherratt after injury and the first full league start of the season for James Watts. 

The early exchanges were as expected in a local derby with lots of industry, strong tackling and intensity. Over the first 15 minutes Saints generally bossed the possession but it was Sports that were creating the meaningful chances and they took the lead on 12 minutes when a clearance fell to Joe Ayre on the right edge of Saints penalty box. Ayre took a touch and curled a sweet left footed shot around Saints keeper Matt Crowther and into the bottom corner. Cracking Goal. 

Sports celebrations were cut short within a minute when Bradley Cox needlessly upended Ryan Knight just inside the Sports penalty area to concede a stonewall penalty. Cox was booked and Knight jumped up to calmly convert the spot kick and level the scores. 

Sports continued to create chances and Crowther was required to make two quality saves, one from the lively Ayre and one from a Luke Swann drive. On 26 minutes Josh Rose had a great chance to extend the Sports lead when he met a Swann corner but could only glance his header wide of the post. 

Saints were struggling to trouble Adam Rimmer in the Sports goal with the only threat in this period being a long range left foot shot from James Watts. Sports finally took a deserved lead on 35 minutes when Jack Dunmall was first to react to a Swann corner and direct a powerful header past Crowther. 

As it turned out the turning point in the game came on 43 minutes when Brad Cox made a late tackle on Knight just outside the Sports box. The referee showed a second yellow card and the Red which meant that Sports would have to face the remaining 47 minutes with 10 players. However, in the next phase of play Sports broke to the other end of the pitch where Eyre showed great skill taking advantage of a slip by Sam Hartley and keeping his balance brilliantly to round Crowther and slide the ball into the empty net. 

HALF TIME – Saints 1 Sports 3

The second half was a completely different ball game. Crowther in the Saints goal was largely redundant and untroubled as Sports sat back to protect their advantage. For 20 minutes Sports defended stoutly and restricted Saints to a couple of long-range efforts from Sam Sherratt and Jordan Godfrey. 

But slowly Saints raised their game and on 69 minutes they reduced the arrears. An incisive move down the left channel led to Godfrey breaking into the left edge of the Sports penalty area where he appeared to be tripped by Joe Coleman. The referee thought so and awarded Saints another penalty. Knight again coolly slotted the penalty past Rimmer. Game on. 

Saints were finding lots of space down the wings with full backs Lewis Gabbidon and substitute Dan Wood bombing forward. A sweet move down the right wing saw James Watts break in behind the Sports left back and his excellent cross was met by Knight whose first-time shot was only just over the bar. 

With 15 minutes to go Knight turned provider picking up the ball 40 yards from goal. He wriggled into space and curled a pinpoint ball to Jordan Godfrey who controlled the ball on his chest just inside the Sports box and fired past Rimmer to level the scores. 

Saints were rampant and with 5 minutes to go Knight again did well to hold the ball up before setting George Ball free into the box. Just as Ball tried to lift the ball over Rimmer it bobbled and screwed off his shin and wide of the post. Saints pushed again and Wood and Hayden McConnell combined well to set Knight free down the left wing. His cross found its way to Ball who jinked the inside onto his left foot and shot. There was at least one deflection, but the ball rolled agonisingly past the wrong footed Rimmer and nestled in the back of Sports net. 

What a game. Saints showed real spirit in the second half and belying the belief that it is very often harder to play against 10 men they took full advantage.

Well played Sports. An excellent first half team performance and contributed to a great spectacle for the bumper Bank Holiday crowd. 

Saints are back in action on the 4th January when they will visit Burnham FC. In the meantime, best wishes for a very Happy New Year.