GNP Finally Break Alcester’s Resolve & Snaffle The Challenge Vase (Cup…)
GNP Sports 2-0 Alcester Town
The force that is GNP finally overcame the resistance that was Alcester Town to win the MFL Challenge Vase at Racing Club Warwick’s Townsend Meadow. Resuming after a fairly dire first period during which both teams struggled to create any real offense at all, despite GNP’s slight pressure as the interval approached, at least the second-half produced some attacking play. However, that came essentially from the Raiders, for Town continued to be unable to generate any threat to GNP goalkeeper Paul Lawrence whose medal was won with very little physical effort at all. The best the Romans could offer was a pair of headers, one in each half but both were well off target, whereas at least Town goalie Alex Gretton was called into action, mostly after the two GNP goals had changed the game into domination by the League Champions.
There is no doubt that young Town right-back Kieran Donnelly was in fine form, backing up his good display against Boldmere Falcons and again, Lewis Marston was strong in the Romans’ midfield. Daniel Mumford worked hard in the Town engine-house too but striker Louis Bridges was starved of service. His cross offered a header to Ryan Watson in the first-half which was off target and his own back-header from Marston’s cross flew wide at the start of period two. GNP looked out of sorts from the beginning, having lost prolific striker Adam Knight with a hamstring problem during the warm-up. Josh O’Grady had a back problem but started and Scott Hammond carried a bad ankle injury but emerged from the bench late on to cause some trouble to the Town defence.
|"THIS IS LEIGH PHILLIPS. DO YOU KNOW HIS FATHER?"|
|COMPTON STARTS IT & HIS GOAL WOULD FINISH IT...|
The tentative and untidy opening half began with a couple of O’Grady free-kicks from the left, the first of which was nodded too high by Jin Dhaliwal, whilst the second saw Corey Jack Brookes leaping but Gretton managed to fist the ball clear. A long Luke Swinnerton shot bounced harmlessly past Gretton’s right stick, before Watson and Matty Compton tangled in midfield and Compton was clearly fouled, although the referee played on and Gretton was forced to palm aside an angled drive by GNP skipper Leigh Philips. Compton looked at Watson and complained politely: “How now, my good fellow, please do not behave as a dolt in front of these paying customers…” I’m certain that’s what he told me he said… Replacement Raiders’ ‘centre-forward’ Nathan Stoute suffered a traumatic half, finding himself offside a few times and he committed several fouls, without managing to look particularly dangerous. That would later change…
|DONNELLY, STOUTE, O'GRADY & SOWE...|
As the Raiders’ passes went astray even more regularly, Bridges got away on the right for Alcester but with Marston moving threateningly goalwards and completely unmarked, the ex-Southam and Warwick forward crossed to the far post where Watson was unable to direct his header. As the half neared its later stages though, at least GNP became a little bolder and good work on the left flank by O’Grady offered a near post chance to Stoute, who appeared to allow the ball to roll across him to shoot right-footed and that delay allowed a challenge to deny him from close range. Phillips, whose opening 45 minutes had been somewhat inconsistent, did feed Stoute on one occasion but the striker lost out again and Compton clipped his subsequent pass across towards the right-wing where no Raider was lurking. The first real problem for Gretton came when a shot from 21 yards by Brookes deflected upwards off a defender’s boot and the ‘keeper was forced to tip the bouncing ball over his crossbar as it dropped like a conker from a tree in an autumn wind.
|BRYSON & BRIDGES...|
|BRIDGES: A LONG EVENING...|
|DHALIWAL WATCHES AS BRYSON APPLAUDS BRIDGES FOR SCRATCHING HIS GROIN...|
|WATSON & COMPTON ARE IN TROUBLE BUT MARSTON BREAKS WIND...|
A right-side O’Grady corner saw both Dhaliwal (head) and his sturdy, effective central defensive partner James Bryson (miscue) challenging in the 6 yard box but Compton’s 18 yard drive from the induced melee rose way too high. O’Grady was then fouled three times, receiving little protection from the main official, so that only once was a free-kick given but the disappointing half soon ebbed away, as did the spectators, to partake of Warwick beer and finger sandwiches of radish and red lettuce.
|NOT QUITE THE RIVER DANCE, MORE THE RACECOURSE DANCE...|
|GNP LIKED HUGGING SO MUCH THE FIRST TIME THAT THEY TRY IT AGAIN BEFORE THE 2ND HALF STARTS...|
|8 + 9 = 17... |
AND BEACH (17) WOULD GO ON TO MAKE RUNS ON THE LEFT FLANK FOR TOWN...
|BRIDGES BEGINS HALF 2...|
Wil Beach replaced the ineffective Mat Fearon at the break for Alcester and soon an early second-half delivery from inside-left by Marston was flicked on by the head of Bridges from 12 yards but the ball bounced well wide of the right upright. Donnelly, for all his quickness, his ability to tackle and compete, had displayed a harsh quality as well and for his wild challenge on Phillips, he was cautioned. Phillips drove the free-kick from the left corner of the penalty-box diagonally across the 18 yard rectangle but no Raider was found a-raiding. O’Grady, tucked against the right touchline like a meaty spider lurking on the skirting board in a lounge then began to influence the match and his effectiveness was mirrored by Phillips’ improvement. The pair would curse Alcester and indeed it was their shots which provided the assists for their team’s two goals.
|...& IS CAUTIONED...|
An O’Grady free-kick from deep on the right was bundled over the crossbar by Compton’s jumping torso, then the opening goal came from a deep Bryson free-kick. O’Grady took possession 20 yards out at inside-right, he turned and fired a low left-footer which Gretton dived left for but couldn’t hang onto and there was Stoute to convert from an angle into an empty net.
|1-0 TO GNP...|
|STOUTE APPLAUDS HIMSELF...|
|...& LETS THE CAMERAS KNOW WHERE HE IS...|
Frustration boiled over for Alcester skipper Keiran Downey and he launched into a bad challenge, offering a free-kick to the Raiders in a central position from about 27 yards. Phillips rapped in a low drive which took a slight deflection, ultimately messing up Gretton’s attempt to save to his right and he was thus wrong-footed, having to palm the ball down with his left glove but straight to Jason Evans. His shot was blocked probably by Gretton, or possibly by the sliding Donnelly but the ball rolled across goal anyway to Compton who couldn’t miss from a few yards out and he gleefully shot into the empty net.
|BOOKING FOR DOWNEY...|
|GOAL FOR GNP...|
|...& COMPTON SIGNALS TO THE CROWD, THREE-QUARTERS OF WHICH WERE RELATED TO HIM.|
TOMMY MAGUIRE IS, HOWEVER NOT RELATED TO MATTY, NOR ME ACTUALLY...
Evans, who had made a few decent runs on the GNP left, was replaced by Hammond, before a Brookes shot which was probably going wide of the left stick, struck Stoute and flew well wide of the right upright, displaying Stoute’s defensive roots… Courtney Sowe, who had been a strong defender for Town, was hurt and then replaced by Dean Hay but in a rare attack, Chris Mills volleyed a hopeful effort from 32 yards high and way off target. Phillips then fed Hammond on the right flank for GNP and the forward drove inside to set himself up for a good scoring chance but his low shot from 12 yards flew beyond the left uptight. Hammond struck two more shots as GNP turned the screw and the first from inside-right rolled wide but the second, from an acute angle on the left was well parried by the exposed Gretton.
|THE RED RAIDERS ARE LOOKING COMFORTABLE NOW...|
Gretton saved a free-kick by O’Grady easily, before The Tricky-man displayed his wares by dribbling inside from the right, leaving defenders turning and twisting like corkscrews from a bottle but his curled and angled shot flew past the far stick. Charlie Cook replaced the dependable Swinnerton, Luke Williams replaced Town’s Watson, Hammond set up Cook for a low curled shot which was really well reached and pushed aside diving left by the harassed Gretton and Cook and Hammond entered into some fine interplay but no further goal was forthcoming. A 15 yard header by Town’s Hay, I believe, was caught easily by Lawrence, Williams was warned for a foul, Scott Lindley replaced Stoute for GNP and Beach found himself cautioned as Sports wasted time in a corner…
And then the celebrations began for GNP… Alcester, despite the efforts of the largely nullified Beach and Bridges, were well beaten in the end but Mumford, especially Marston and also James Robbins, battled tirelessly. The central defenders Downey and Sowe did their jobs and of course Donnelly was really splendid at right-back.
|PLUCKY ALCESTER: WORKED SO HARD...|
For GNP, Stoute and Compton were perhaps unlikely scorers and so that looks good for Alcester, for the more likely Phillips, O’Grady, Evans, Cook and Hammond were all prevented from getting goals by stout (not Stoute) defending. And Dhaliwal didn’t appear to claim either of the goals… (Ask Sham…) Callum Rai was effective in defence but once again Lawrence was simply not tested; testament to the power of Dhaliwal but especially to the dominance of Bryson. Naturally Compton revelled in the midfield challenges and Brookes was his foil, often emerging with the ball from tight situations.
Well done to the Raiders and their manager Sham the Sham… Whatever you get from him, there’s no Woolly Bully…
|SIGNINGS WHICH PUSHED GNP ON...|
PAUL LAWRENCE, LUKE SWINNERTON, CALLUM RAI, COREY JACK BROOKES, JAMES BRYSON, JIN DHALIWAL, LEIGH PHILLIPS (CAPT), MATT COMPTON, NATHAN STOUTE, JOSH O’GRADY, JASON EVANS.
SCOTT LINDLEY, RYAN PRICE, CHARLIE COOK, RYAN ISHERWOOD, SCOTT HAMMOND.
ALEX GRETTON, KIERAN DONNELLY, COURTNEY SOWE, DAN MUMFORD, JAMES ROBBINS, KEIRAN DOWNEY (CAPT), RYAN WATSON, LEWIS MARSTON, LOUIS BRIDGES, MAT FEARON, CHRIS MILLS.
LUKE WILLIAMS, DEAN HAY, ASH BUNN, LEWIS FATHERS, WIL BEACH.