5th October 2019
Hellenic League Premier Division
Westfields FC (2) Brackley Town Saints (1)
SAINTS : Crowther, Ball, Gabbidon, Brock, Middleton (D) , Hartley, Stott, Hammond (J), Knight, Hammond (M)(Sherratt), Kille (Middleton L).
Saints knew that they had their work cut out against the league leaders and the only remaining unbeaten team in the division. After a 2 hour journey to Hereford it was brilliant to find a warm welcome, a cracking set up and a good pitch.
The early stages were tight. Fields liked to pass the ball and used the width of the pitch well with both full backs seeing a lot of the ball. Saints defended well and also enjoyed good possession although struggled to make the final pass count. Lewis Gabbidon twice found himself in good advanced positions but was unable to find a telling cross to test the Fields defence.
From about 25 minutes Fields upped the pace, forced a number of corners and it took strong defensive blocks by Sam Hartley and Harry Brock to keep out a couple of shots on the edge of the box.
On 34 minutes great skill from Stoneman was followed by a shot which was well saved by Matt Crowther. Fields were definitely on top but Saints were looking comfortable, although unable to fashion a clear cut chance of their own.
On 40 minutes Fields took the lead with a goal that Saints disputed strongly. Firstly Sam Hartley tussled for a long high ball with Richard Greaves right on the edge of the box. It was a 50/50 tussle with both players using their body strength to leverage for position. But the ref awarded Fields a free kick. To compound matters, and while the Saints protested, the free kick was instantly taken and although the initial snapshot was parried by Crowther the rebound was smashed into the top of the net by Greaves. Saints complained that the ball was moving when the free kick was taken but the referee was having none of it.
The Fields sensed the kill and only a great save from Crowther prevented Billy Murphy’s curling shot from finding the top corner. Saints were pleased to hear the half time whistle and to re-group.
Saints started really brightly in the second half keeping possession confidently but on 50 minutes a cross field ball from James Hammond was intercepted by Aidan Thomas who drove forward and neatly finished past Crowther.
To their credit Saints dug in bravely. Fields wasted a couple of opportunities and both sides and their supporters became increasingly frustrated by an awful lot of free kicks for fairly innocuous things. On 63 minutes Saints lost striker Matt Hammond who was stretchered off after falling awkwardly following an aerial challenge.
The delay whilst Hammond was treated served to take some of the sting out of the game and Saints re-grouped. Slowly Saints were finding gaps higher up the pitch. James Hammond worked his way into a good position on the left wing but his cross eluded everybody. On 77 minutes it was the Fields turn to gift Saints a goal when a back pass was intercepted by Knight who cleverly curled the ball in from a tight angle.
Cue a frantic final 10 minutes where Saints pushed hard and Fields understandably took every chance to wind the clock down. In the 95th minute George Ball, enjoying a superb game at right back burst forward and skilfully cut into the Fields box. His cross low and hard eluded all in the six yard box, much to the relief of the home supporters. From the resulting corner panic set in as the ball bobbled in the six yard box, but the final whistle was blown much to the relief of the Fields.
A great game in which both teams played some very attractive football. Fields deserved to win on the balance of play and on that showing I fully expect them to be amongst the challengers for the title this year.
Saints will move on to face West Bridgford in the FA Vase next Saturday (12th). Please come and support the Saints.