Radcliffe Olympic Red lie in 4th place, with a 100% win record, after having only played one game in the Spring league so far, as their last fixture was postponed, due to a waterlogged pitch, away to Bulwell Athletic Sat. When the two sides met previously in Oct ‘15 at Jubilee Park, Ruddington the game ended in a very close 2-1 home win to Ruddington Colts.
This weekend’s game should prove to be a good test for Radcliffe Olympic Red as they had to face the league leaders with the absence of experience provided by three ever presents in the guises of Jamie Porter (22), Noah Mitchell (19) and Jay Holmes (15) that had notched up 56 appearances between them this season. In addition just a squad of eleven players were fielded to take on the league leaders, which could prove to be beneficial to both the strength of the squad and the individual players involved.
After the start it didn’t take long before the first piece of action that led to a change in the score line. With just 5 minutes of the first half elapsed the visitors were awarded a free kick on the right hand side about half way inside the ROR half . The ball was delivered into the box where it was deflected into George’s top right hand corner from close range.
Although this was an early setback for the ROR players, the hosts worked hard to push for an equaliser. Particularly breaks initiated down the left hand side from good passing out of defence by Ben Royston and down the right hand side by Ethan Cooney. These early sorties into the oppositions half seemed very promising for ROR, with Isaac Suttle making several intelligent interchanging runs from deep with Manny Johnson.
In the 8th minute of the match ROR were caught out with a swift counter attacking move when the ball was delivered down the ROR left. The Ruddington Village Colts winger got down the line and crossed the ball into the box for his teammate to side foot the ball home. Whilst there was just a couple goals between the two teams the game looked like that there was still something in it for ROR.
A couple of minutes later ROR went in search of a goal to repair some of the damage. Ryan Banks latched onto the ball and caught it sweetly on the volley but it just dipped over the bar. From one of the breaks down the right hand side, at 14 minutes in Manny played the ball infield to Isaac as he ran through the centre. Isaac was unable to take the ball cleanly in his stride and the keeper was given the opportunity to avert the danger.
The ROR defence started to come under a lot less pressure with Ryan Banks, Kieran Cooper, Isaac Suttle and Jacob Murden working hard in midfield. Another example of the understanding that has developed between Manny and Isaac was in evidence again in the 15th minute when Manny wide on the right found Isaac free, breaking through the centre of midfield. This time Isaac brought the ball under control inside the box, he jinked back onto his right foot as he tried to place the ball into the bottom right hand corner which this time forced a save out of the keeper.
In the 24th minute George was called upon a couple of times before the break to prevent the visitors extending their lead, when from a break down the ROR right a shot was tipped onto the bar and out for a corner. In the 27th minute George had to make a timely save with his feet at his near post.
In the final minute of the half Manny was brought down about 10 yards outside the area on the ROR right hand side. Ben Royston strode forward, he struck the free kick hard, low and on target, only for the ball to be cleared at the near post and out for a corner.
The players were given a halftime pep talk, which was to give the opposition less time on the ball - to quote Nick Banks “Get in their faces”; and to get the ball down and play forward passes in behind their defence. Although the 1st half performance hadn’t been bad, this seemed to have the desired effect on the players at the start of the 2nd half, with an obvious improvement in the ROR play.
However in the 38th minute, from the pressure that the visitors had been subjected to, ROR managed to halve the deficit. Manny Johnson battled for the ball just outside the box where he won it and then decided to shoot from distance. The shot that was somewhat under hit as it travelled, what seemed harmlessly along the ground, toward the bottom left hand corner. The shot wrong footed the keeper before the ball crept into the goal which surprised the goalkeeper, the ROR faithful and probably everyone else who watched on.
ROR seemed to have hit a purple patch in the game with shots raining in on the visitors goal from other players trying to get on the score sheet. In the 39th minute Kieran Cooper came very close to opening his account for the season when his shot was pushed around the corner by the keeper after being put in on goal by Manny.
From the mounting pressure the visitors seemed as though they were rattled, with just one goal in it and with ROR doing all the pressing. This eventually resulted in Manny being pushed in the back just as he was about to skip away from a challenge in midfield en route to goal. Once again Ben Royston stepped up, he struck the ball on target down the centre of the goal, that was blocked on the line and cleared away.
A lot of the action was occurring in the Ruddington Village Colts half with Jacob Murden being involved with a lot of the good work going forward on the right wing. In the 20th minute Jacob passed the ball infield to Manny who played in Kieran arriving from the left hand side. Kieran bravely challenged for the ball with the keeper and his bravery was rewarded with the all important equaliser for ROR. The ROR faithful went beserk whilst Kieran was being mobbed by his teammates as they all shared in Kieran’s delight at scoring his first goal for ROR!
However after the equaliser it seemed to stir the visitors, almost as though a hornets nest had been disturbed. Within 4 minutes of the equaliser they had regained the lead from a quick counter attack that started down the centre of the pitch from the edge of their own box. The Ruddington Village Colts player was released on goal from just past the halfway line where he ran through on goal to place the ball calmly into the bottom right hand corner of the goal.
As ROR went in search of the second equaliser they were caught out with another counter attacking move during the final minute of the match. The ball was switched from the ROR left to the ROR right to a player who had plenty of time to bring the ball under control and fire the ball past George into the bottom right hand corner. This was the last notable action of the game before the referee called time on proceedings. (FT2-4)
Although the score line may appear to flatter the visitors the game was much closer than the scoreline suggested. However having said that, goals do win matches, the visitors probably created fewer chances but were the more clinical in front of goal.
Even though the match was lost, a good performance was witnessed from ROR against the league leaders who I believe knew that they were pushed all the way today. Some notable performances today were seen from Ethan Cooney who had a very good performance in a new position at the right side of defence, he looked assured on the ball, he won a lot of challenges and played some good balls down the line and switched the play to initiate attacks. Ben Royston too showed a lot of coolness and calmness at the back as he also delivered some good passes down the line, won his battles and carried the ball forward.
Jacob and Kieran worked hard down the wings when they received the ball from Ethan and Ben to continue the attack forwards, with Jacob being involved in the build up play for Kieran’s goal. They both combined well with Isaac and Manny through the centre to create several chances especially in the 2nd half. Ryan Banks took the fight to the visitors in the centre of midfield as he never stopped challenging for the ball and linked the defence with Manny and the more forward of the midfield players. Isaac did a lot of intelligent work, running off the ball to constantly provide an option to break forward, in behind the defence, he interchanged well with Manny to stretch the play, and came back to cover at times throughout the match. Manny never stopped battling, winning the ball and setting up teammates to run through on goal, he also assisted for Kieran and scored a goal.
The player of the match award was deservedly given to Ethan Cooney for his performance in a new position on the right side of defence against a quick winger, and he used the ball well when he was in possession.