22nd January 2020 

Brackley Town Saints (2) Virginia Water (1)
Hellenic League Premier Division

Saints: Crowther, Middleton D, Brock, Godfrey, Goddard, Hartley, Middleton L (McConnell 74), Kille, Knight, Ball (Wood 85), Gabbidon, 

Subs not used: Thompson, March 

Attendance - 63 

Saints and Waters had already met twice this season in very closely contested games. This was no different with the match very much in the balance until the final 10 minutes. It was a solid performance from Saints, an excellent defensive display, and as the second half wore on Saints seemed to have the edge as Waters tired. 

After an even start the first real chance cane Saints way with Ryan Knight set free by an excellent pass from Jordan Godfrey but his cross shot was just too far ahead of the onrushing Lewis Middleton. At the other end Waters full back Josh Hill came very close with a rasping right foot shot which absolutely whizzed past the post. 

On 15 minutes Dan Middleton found space in the Waters penalty area but his shot was deflected wide. Two minutes later Saints were thankful for a great fingertip save by Matt Crowther from a Joel Drew shot after he had wriggled free in the box.  

Saints were close when Olly Goddard rose well and met a Godfrey corner, but he was unable to keep his header down.  Waters created a chance at other end when indecision in the Saints penalty area allowed Josh Dillon a free shot, but Crowther recovered his ground and tipped the shot over the bar. 

For the next 10 minutes the teams seemed to take a breather after a hectic opening 30 minutes, but Waters were marginally on top re possession and forced a couple of corners. Saints only goal attempt in this period came when the ball fell to Lewis Gabbidon on the edge of the box after a free kick, but his shot was straight at Matt Jones in the Waters goal. 

Somewhat against the run of play Saints took the lead on 44 minutes when Goddard was alive to the opportunity to quickly and cleverly take a free kick on the halfway line setting Knight free behind the Waters centre backs. Matt Jones rushed out, but clipped Knight as he attempted to round the keeper, and the referee quite rightly awarded a penalty. Knight jumped up and coolly slotted the penalty under Jones to score his 21st goal of the season. 

Half Time 

Saints began the second half on the front foot and on 49 minutes George Ball was persistent in battling to win ball out wide on the right. He nicked the ball off the full back, cut inside and crossed low for Knight who chose to shoot first time, but his effort was wide of the post. 

But Saints swagger was interrupted out of nowhere on 51 minutes when Dale Wright collected a loose ball on the edge of the Saints area. He looked up and curled a stunning shot around Crowther into top corner. Unstoppable that one. 

Saints responded and within 2 minutes a good move down the right wing saw Gabbidon deliver a teasing cross which was met by George Ball whose header was saved by Jones showing excellent reflexes. 

The game was lively now with the action swinging from end to end. Who could find that bit of quality to make the difference? It was Saints, and amongst the quality there was a bit of luck when a deflection midway in the Waters half favoured Ball. However, he showed great pace bursting into the Waters area, and although his shot was blocked Knight showed great composure to collect the ball, turn back onto his left foot and calmly pick his spot before lifting the ball into the back of net.  

Saints were showing their attacking flair and substitutes Dan Wood and Hayden McConnell were both very lively and certainly instrumental in the move which ended with Gabbidon being upended in the penalty area and the referee pointing to the spot for Saints second penalty. Knight stepped up looking to complete his hat trick but his attempt to lift the ball high into the net unfortunately saw the ball fly over the bar. 

All in all, a good 3 points for Saints and I think just about deserved on their overall performance which was very solid defensively with a composed performance from the whole back four clearly helped by the return of skipper Goddard whose presence on the left seemed to benefit Harry Brock who was up and down the left wing putting in a great defensive/offensive full back performance. 

When Waters did create chances, Crowther was in the right place to make good saves and tidy up. 

Next up for Saints is a visit to Windsor FC (well worth a trip – nice town, and a good facility/pitch). Following that Saints have a run of 6 home games including the visits of highflyers Westfields FC and Binfield FC. They should be cracking games.