Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Retford United 2 v Clipstone 0 - NCEL Prem

Tuesday 22nd March 2016
Toolstation NCEL Premier Division
at the Jones & Co. Solicitors Stadium, Cannon Park
Retford United (0) 2
Brad Johnson 90, Christian Savage 90+2
Clipstone FC (0) 0
Admission £5. Programme £1.50. Attendance 88
New whiteboard marker required
When these two sides last met back in September, see HERE, the Cobras played some really good football on a night when they thrashed their hapless visitors by seven goals to nil, while Retford United capitulated, whilst a good few of their fans were already on their way home well before the final whistle sounded.
Both clubs have had a size-able turnover of players since then and Clipstone have a new management team now, because Jas Colliver and Ryan France both left the Worksop Van Hire stadium, with the former now occupying the managerial hot seat at the 'the oldest club in the world', Sheffield FC. 
Billy Fox, who has previously worked with the development teams at Hallam and Doncaster Rovers, before managing both Thackley and Staveley in the NCEL, subsequently took over the reigns at 'Clipo', with Jason Truscott, who recently stood in as interim manager, combining his physio duties with the assistant manager's role.
With this being Clipstone's first ever season playing at Step 5, regardless of how they see the season out after taking the premier division by storm in the opening few months, they will finish in their highest ever position in the non league pyramid.
But United were in a far more urgent need of a win tonight, as they kicked off just five points above the clubs battling it out around the drop zone, this was a must win game for the Badgers, but very few people gave them much hope of pulling off such a result after Saturday's 6-0 reversal against Armthorpe Welfare on their own turf.
As things turned out, Billy Fox's side found United to be a far more formidable force to be reckoned with than when they rolled over and died six months ago, under the floodlights at the Lido Ground.
Josh Statham, Retford's new signing from Hallam, went straight into the team and was pivotal in keeping Clipstone's attacking threat in check, as the visitors struggled to get any rhythm or momentum going from the middle of the park.
Jermaine Gordon too, was played to his strengths and unsettled the Cobras back line with his physical presence (and footballing abilities, of course).
Although the home side left it until late (and then even later) to break the deadlock and claim the result, their is no disputing the fact, that they should have already put this game to bed long before then.
Some of the Clipstone delegation who had made the short journey north, reckoned that their team hadn't played very well tonight, while the majority of Badgers fans were pleased with both sides of United's game plan, i.e. their willingness to attack and determination to stop the visitors playing anything like as well as they are usually capable of.
For what it's worth, I think the best team on the night won; they could sit ten men behind the ball when they were required to, but created plenty of chances on the break as well, certainly far more than their opponents could muster over tyhe 90 plus minutes... and the Badgers came out on top in several key one onto one battles too.
Keeping Nicky Walker and Alec Denton on a tight leash, while having a man over to deal with James Ashmore's impressive array of ball distribution skills, requires a lot of focus and application and Retford had plenty of both in abundance.
With a bit more luck in front of goal, the Badgers could have been looking at an even more impressive result come full time, but I'm sure nobody in the home team's camp will be complaining.
Clipstone will probably have been aware that their opponents this coming Saturday, Maltby Main, were running the rule over them tonight at Cannon Park. They're level on points with the Cobras and it promises to be a close run and intriguing game this weekend, that will possibly be where I'm heading after the Stags U18's lunchtime game v Bradford City U18, which is a noon kick off at Rainworth Miners Welfare... you know you're VERY tempted!
After a tentative opening few minutes, Christian Savage had the first opportunity of the game, when he ventured forward down the left, but his scuffed shot flew high and wide, while Stuart the gate man scurried off into the car park on his first (but by no means last) ball retrieval mission of the night.
The home side pushed forward again and Jermaine Gordon nodded the ball past the right hand post, from Brad Johnson's well weighted delivery, as he broke free from Liam Royles' attention.
The ever busy Ellis Wall, mistimed a tackle (it's in his genes) 30 yards from the Cobras goal.
Adam Lee took the resulting free kick, but the ball dropped just wide of the target.
Jordan Hardman picked out Gordon with a long range pass, but his attempted bicycle kick (of sorts) went wide.
Right back Hardman and James Finnigan both looked very comfortable on the ball tonight, playing alongside Gareth Campion and Josh Statham, it will be good for Retford if they can keep this back four playing together for at least the remainder of the current season. It certainly gives Chris Sellars more options than he's had thus far this term.
United were getting in behind Clipstone's full backs and Lee flashed a shot over the bar from Savage's cross.
Alec Denton cut into the home side's penalty area, but Josh Statham was reveling in going face to face with the prolific striker and he calmly intercepted and played the ball away from danger.
Ashmore played a wide ball out to George Milner, who escaped his marker with a burst of pace before delivering a low cross cum shot across the face of Retford's goal, but Jamie Davies pounced and smothered the ball.
Savage beat Liam Kay to the ball and unleashed a shot that Steve Hernandez did very well to save. Unfortunately, the Cobras keeper and captain, took a knock as he went in for a 50/50 ball just before half time and he was replaced by Michael Ball during the interval.
Hopefully 'Nando' isn't seriously hurt, he's a really nice bloke and definitely one of the best keepers on the local scene.
HT: Badgers 0 v Cobras 0
The visitors attacked first after the break, with Walker putting Milner through on goal with a measured through ball, but Davies came to the rescue.
Hardman worked the ball forward down the right wing to Jordan Good, who exchanged passes with Lee, before lobbing the ball back towards the Badgers captain, who put the ball over the bar with an overhead kick that the Brazilian World Cup star Robert Rivelino, who came to prominence in the Mexico 1970 tournament. would've been proud of. Mind you, he is 70 years old now!
Good and Lee combined again and fed the ball to Savage, who's first time shot was held by the Cobras substitute keeper.
Brad Johnson dispossessed Denton and played a long pass forward to Savage, but Michael Trench got across quickly and nicked the ball away.
Pat Lindley entered the fray for the visitors and livened things up in his own inimitable way.
With Lindley and Gordon both on the same pitch, it was definitely going to be no place for the faint hearted.
Milner passed to Lindley in the Retford area and the former Staveley Under 19 captain forced a corner.
Liam Kay flicked on Ashmore's flag kick, but Retford cleared their lines quickly through Hardman who raced forward, cut in from the right and had a pop at the replacement keeper, but Ball (the goalie) saw the ball (a size 5 Mitre) past his post.
In the 90th minute, Clipstone made a mess of getting a corner away and the ball fell invitingly to Johnson who put his foot through the ball and slammed it into the back of the net. As the game ran into stoppage time, Savage chased a long clearance down the pitch, got a touch on the ball to take it away from Chris Fawcus and steer it round the 'Clipo' keeper before running on to roll the ball into the open goal.
Crash, bang, blooming wallop!
What a finale!
FT: Retford United 2 v Clipstone 0
Truth be told, Retford United deserved their win and ought to have been at least a couple of goals to the good much earlier in the game.
Clipstone can... and must, play far better than they were allowed to tonight as they aim to finish as high in the table as possible.
Unfortunately a spectator was asked to leave the ground during the second for spitting at one of the referee's assistants, when a heated stream of criticism got out of hand. 
Hopefully the culprit, an OAP from Retford, will be banned from Cannon Park indefinitely, his actions, be they out of character or otherwise were disgusting and completely unacceptable. I have been encouraged to name and shame this person, but this is a matter for the host football club to deal with, not me.