This weekends match saw the return fixture of Radcliffe Olympic Red against Eastwood Community F.C. played at the home ground of Radcliffe Olympic on the 3G surface at South Notts Academy. In the previous cup fixture played just before Christmas, which was the first meeting between the two teams, todays visitors ran out 3 - 1 winners. With Radcliffe Olympic opening the scoring early in the first half, Eastwood Community levelled the scores before halftime and then went on to make the most of their chances in the first half to add two more goals. In the second half Radcliffe Olympic didn’t do enough to have the desired influence on the game and Eastwood Community secured a well deserved victory.
Although the result of the previous match ended with Radcliffe Olympic bowing out of the cup competition early, it was felt that the best of performances was not seen on the day from Radcliffe Olympic. Therefore the prospect of a thrilling, well contested match was on the cards if both teams were able to perform as anticipated.
As the game got underway, if the match was likened to a sprint the home side would have dwelled in their blocks. In just the 1st minute goalkeeper George Beech was called upon to save the team's blushes from a well directed shot. Unfortunately for Radcliffe Olympic the warning was not heeded, with less than 3 minutes elapsed the visitors had taken the lead. From a free kick awarded for a foul on the Radcliffe Olympic left the ball was not cleared from inside the area. The ball fell to one of the visitors forwards who gratefully placed the ball into the back of the Radcliffe Olympic goal from close range.
Not to be phased by the early set back the hosts attempted to settle down and play themselves back into the game. They managed to fashion an opportunity that fell to Jacob Murden but he was unable to test the abilities of their goalkeeper. The hosts continued to ride their luck and once again just 8 minutes in George Beech was called into action, this time bravely saving at the feet of the onrushing attacker to keep the deficit to just the one goal.
With both teams took it in turns to enjoy good spells of possession without managing to make that all important difference that changed the scoreline. However the game changing moment occurred in the 14th minute when left back Ben Royston received the ball deep in his own half. Ben turned defence into attack down the left wing, he beat two opponents by the time he reached the final third of the pitch. Ben played the ball down the line to captain Manny Johnson who took on the defender in their right back position before he slotted the ball in the bottom right hand corner of the net.
For the majority of the remainder of the half ROR had grown in confidence and had started to dominate proceedings. Goalkeeper George Beech had become all but a spectator albeit for one moment just before halftime when the visitors were close to taking the lead again. Unfortunately for the visitors they found George in good form and he pulled off a creditable save from a shot that was struck just inside the box on the ROR left hand side. The referee blew for halftime not long after and the sides were both worthy of the scoreline still being remained tied. (HT 1-1)
Although the scores were level, ROR finished the 1st half the better of the two teams and needed to restart the 2nd half in the same vein as they ended the 1st. In addition ROR needed to press the opposition and afford them very little time on the ball. As substitutions were made at the beginning of the restart and throughout the half the instructions that were metered out at the interval were followed to the letter by the players.
As early as the 33rd minute of the game from the pressure being applied by the hosts a free kick was awarded on the ROR left hand side just outside the box, that was well within Ben Royston range. Ben struck the free kick well however the ball deflected off the wall and out for a corner.
The ROR midfield all worked hard to close down and stifle any signs of the visitors trying to take control of the game. If the ball wasn’t won through challenges being made then the opposition surrendered the ball from being put under constant pressure. When the ball was won it was played early into the forward Manny Johnson to search for the goal that would put the hosts back in front. If the midfield were beaten then the ROR fullbacks were on hand to clear up any danger before George was required to be called upon.
In the 41st minute ROR were rewarded for all their hard work when Ryan Banks in midfield carried the ball forward before playing in a perfectly weighted through ball for Manny Johnson to chip the ball over the advancing keeper and into the empty net.
Once ROR had regained the lead they seemed even more determined to not allow the lead slip from their grasp. The challenging, battling and teamworking intensified and the hosts never looked like surrendering their lead. In the 44th minute as a result of this increased pressure the visitors were unable to clear the ball from out of their area and an own goal was scored. With just 6 minutes to play and the ROR team playing like demons the visitors had what appeared to be a mountain to climb to turn things around.
To their credit Eastwood Community did have a late rally with some pressure being put on the ROR defence and a few questions being asked of George in goal. However the ROR maintained their focus and hard work ethic to close out the game without any further incident of note.
On the whole a good team performance was witnessed today that could have been a little disjointed at times with the number of substitutions that were implemented throughout the game.
There were a lot of good individual performances throughout the team, and all players who participated should be proud of the part that they played in the team’s overall performance. However Noah Mitchell was awarded the star player of the match for his all round contribution. Noah chased, challenged and tackled throughout his performance and led by example for his teammates to follow.