Two First-half Strikes Enough To Defeat Plucky & Improving Oakham
Oakham United 0-2 Blackstones
This match took place at Oakham, in the Vale of Catmose, west of Rutland Water, once boasting a Norman Castle, whose hall remains and contains a collection of horseshoes, brought to the town by nobles and royalty through the ages, as forfeits. Apparently one left by King Edward IV survives from 1470 and all of the horseshoes are displayed upside-down to prevent the devil from oozing into the hollows. I follow the American College Football team the Wisconsin Badgers and Oakham is twinned with Wisconsin’s Dodgeville, home of ‘Lands’ End’ clothing and once the largest city in Wisconsin, so that added to my wish to cover a game in this Rutland town. Cornish miners once emigrated to Wisconsin and many worked in Henry Dodge’s mines in the city which was named after the guy who became the 1st Governor of the state.
|VERY SERIOUS EXPRESSIONS...|
This match though wasn’t affected by horseshoes, neither team wore Lands’ End apparel (as far as I am aware) and there was no mention of the Gunpowder Plot during the whole afternoon. Joy… Blackstones, minus injured striker Danny Barker, looked dominant before the interval against a hard working United who nevertheless rarely threatened visiting goalkeeper James Connell. The strong breeze and slight slope favoured the Stones but their shooting wasn’t sharp enough, although home custodian Tom Bedford did make a few important saves before Stone Liam Harrold, the guests’ leading scorer, nabbed a fortunate opener. A second strike before the break by left-flanker Jack Bates was hard for Bedford to take but surprisingly his team-mates really caused Blackstones some problems after half-time and won a majority of challenges, as the visitors became disorganised and totally frustrated their manager. In fact the Stones rarely troubled the home defence from then on, in which Will Lee must be flagged up as a positive influence on the day. The finishing wasn’t good enough though, yet Connell was forced to make an awkward tip-over from a corner and then made a parried save later in the match. The points were inevitably bagged by Blackstones however, even though Oakham must have surely taken heart from their second period showing.
Stones’ right-back Ben Easson, who was impressive throughout with his interventions and reading of the game, bar one second period pass, was first to make an attempt at goal with a clipped shot too high but Andrew Broome was evident in the guests’ midfield from the start, alongside the feisty and creative Scott Musgrove. Indeed, a Musgrove ‘lift’ saw Harrold move towards goal at inside-left but the ball appeared to bounce off his leg and Bedford was able to save with his feet. Bedford repeated the dose when Bates moved in on goal from the left, courtesy of Broome’s sweeping pass, blocking the wide-player’s low shot with his active boots. Dan French followed those chances up with a shot way too high after a free-kick had been cleared but certainly by this point, United had struggled to make any offense at all. When they did, the burly Cam Brookes won the ball from Stones’ Matt Carter but when his low right-side centre rolled for Jake Mason to strike, he miscued from 12 yards and as Connell fell to grab the loose ball, Easson took charge, knocking his clearance against Mason, but the ball cannoned safely for the guests.
|MASON KICKS OFF FOR OAKHAM...|
Another smart Musgrove pass freed Bates on the left for a shot again but he was again denied by the diving Bedford, who parried the effort behind the near post. Following a left-flank corner, Broome threatened at the near stick, then he drove wildly too high from distance, before a fine pass inside the home right-back Aaron Simpson again, saw Bates shove a low delivery into the 6 yard box which Bedford failed to gather, forcing Stuart Lambie to defend the ball and left-back Denis Moran to hack it clear. From the clearance Ben Porter’s left boot curled a 20 yard effort from the rebound past the left angle of crossbar and upright. Another left-side delivery, this time by Carter, was headed on by a defender but onto French’s boot and his volley was well turned aside by the plunging Bedford, who also leapt to tip away the subsequent left-side centre as his defence rocked slightly more…
|...DECENT LEAP TOO...|
|THE COACHES, DEEPLY CONCENTRATING...|
|THE LATE AFTERNOON SUN OFFERS A STRANGE LIGHT...|
|SPECTATORS BOTHERED BY THE SETTING SUN...|
|LEE & HARROLD...|
|THE STONES ATE, SHOT TWICE & THE CLUB NOW LEAVES ITS MARK ON THE TURF...|
|PELL & MASON...|
After trying and trying, the Stones finally succeeded but the goal they snatched was strange, when efficient skipper Jake Pell laid a pass for French to strike but the forward’s effort was going well wide, in fact straight at Harrold, who was apparently standing onside and he was alert enough to divert it into the net.
|HARROLD THE SCORER...|
|HE IS CONGRATULATED..|
|...BUT NEEDS A DRINK...|
No time to recover though for the Oaks, who conceded again shortly afterwards from a corner which nudged off a defender’s head, struck Harrold just 3 yards out and there was Bates to leap like a martial artist to volley the ball into the net via the unfortunate Bedford’s right palm.
|DA SILVA: BUSY RUSHER AT TIMES...|
|...& BATES THE SCORER...|
The sky reddened, the breeze shivered, the Stones began the second period with less dominance and the Oaks began to find some confidence. Easson managed to spoil a shot by Mason which thus trickled to Connell then the more noticeable Lambie fed Mason again but his low shot wasn’t well struck and Connell slithered across his goal-line to gather. Easson’s pass inside was then intercepted and the tricky, if thus far ineffective Laureano Da Silva set off on a dangerous looking run at goal but just as he set himself to shoot, his left boot kicked the chilled air, not the ball and the chance was lost. Lambie struck a 27 yard free-kick into the three-man defensive wall of Blackstones, then from a right-wing corner Brookes’ drive was well blocked by Matt Simpson, the Stones’ centre-back who had taken an early knock but had carried on regardless of the pain.
|HARROLD STARTS THE SECOND PERIOD FOR THE STONES...|
Connell touched an awkward left-side corner onto his cross-beam and away, before Matt Simpson was cautioned for being as late in his challenge as the local train tends to be when there are leaves on the line. Connell raced from goal to grab the ball near his 18 yard line as Dan Dumford slid in at him feet first which Matt Simpson wasn’t too chuffed about but what of the Stones? They hadn’t managed any offense until Harrold was prevented from shooting by the home defence and soon, Porter was replaced by Joe Papworth and Musgrove who had taken a knock, was substituted for the introduction of Nicky Butler. A pass by French then freed Harrold on the right but when his cross dropped near Bates, the winger miscued from 15 yards.
|DUMFORD (8): PHYSICAL...|
Lewis Thorpe replaced United’s Da Silva, who for some reason had incurred the wrath of the Blackstones dugout and Mason skied a shot, before he fed wide-player Mark Wilde at inside-right but under pressure, the Oakman could only slide the ball wide of the near post. Nathan Arkle replaced home defender Aaron Simpson, Mason got onto a Blackstones error but failed in an attempt to shoot, Connell fell to parry a better shot this time by Brookes and Lee’s long header from a corner was held easily beneath his crossbar by the Stones’ gloveman. The very best opportunity for the hosts though, came from a left-side set-piece which dropped for Brookes, right side of the penalty-box but his volley flew across the goalmouth and just past the far upright.
|HOT COALS SKY...|
Josh Edmondson replaced Stones’ Carter then Broome would have rued a chance from a right-flank free-kick which found his head just a few yards from goal but the effort somehow bounced past the right stick. A low Mason shot off target was followed by a long Edmondson effort for the visitors from distance which flew too high and the referee soon brought the encounter to a chilly end.
Just checking the mentions of offensive play by Blackstones after the break, it does appear that their resolve had sunk like sand from an egg timer, for despite the constant pushing from Broome, the all round effort put in by Easson and the occasional threat from Bates, Harrold was too often isolated and their previous first-half ascendancy was wiped away by the grit of Oakham. Brooks and Mason caused more trouble to the Stones during the second period but it was surely the industry of Lambie and Dumford which affected their performance positively. Martin Bennet supported Lee in defence well but the resurgence after the interval simply wasn’t enough. And top scorer Chris Fury remained on the bench…
Maybe the devil had crept into the Oakham horseshoes after all…
TOM BEDFORD, AARON SIMPSON, DENIS MORAN, STEWART LAMBIE, MARTIN BENNET, WILL LEE (CAPT), LAUREANO DA SILVA, DAN DUMFORD, JAKE MASON, CAM BROOKES, MARK WILDE.
NATHAN ARKLE, LEWIS THORPE, CHRIS FURY.
JAMES CONNELL, BEN EASSON, MATT CARTER, JAKE PELL (CAPT), MATT SIMPSON, ANDREW BROOME, BEN PORTER, SCOTT MUSGROVE, LIAM HARROLD, DAN FRENCH, JACK BATES.
NICKY BUTLER, JOSH EDMONDSON, JOE PAPWORTH.