Radcliffe were at home today against Sandiacre Town and if the away fixture was anything to go by we were in for a treat of football. The sun was beating down for the first time this year and everything was set up for a glorious game.
Sandiacre love to play the ball from the back and it’s laudable that they stick to their principles regardless - after all, it’s about development. They started smartly and Radcliffe had to be on their toes to block an effort in the first minute.
Radcliffe were closing down brilliantly though and forcing Sandiacre to overplay their passing game on a tricky pitch. This was their downfall with a smart effort being diverted by Fin Jackson goal-bound only to see Harry Timson-Smith get a toe to tap it home and claim the goal 1-0 (5).
The heat was a factor but Radcliffe seemed to have boundless energy and Jack Willis and Fin Jackson were immense in the centre, time and again descending on the player with the ball to harass and force an error. On the odd occasion Sandiacre managed to get in Radcliffe’s final third they were met with crunching challenges from Harry Timson-Smith or William Quilter.
Radcliffe looked threatening every time they pushed forward and great wing play from Josh Jones-Wilkinson and Nathan Stocks created a number of chances. Oliver Jones-Wilkinson was in one of those moods where he’s totally unplayable and he was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet on a few occasions too.
At half time it was 1-0 but probably should have been 2 or 3, would Radcliffe live to regret it?
Second half underway and yet again, Jack Willis was everywhere, harrying and pressing. Sandiacre had a bit more zip in their game though and a couple of times we had backs to the wall. The back line stayed strong though and, when needed, Harvey Woodward was there to tip over the bar with his fingertips.
Ollie Skinner had been threatening all game and with his back to goal he won a great ball and played Ollie Jones-Wilkinson in down the left channel. His strength and determination took him past the defender but had he taken it too wide? Of course not...he drilled home from the tightest of angles for 2-0 (50).
Sandiacre were crestfallen and moments later, from a good challenge by Harry Timson-Smith, he played a beauty of a pass through the centre for Ollie Jones-Wilkinson to run onto. The ball bounced high off the turf but a lovely touch and a header into his path allowed Ollie to get a shot coolly away into the corner for 3-0 (52).
Sandiacre were still in this game though and probably had their best spell of the game so far. Ethan Fallon had been brought on for the injured Fin Jackson in the centre and was doing a great job of staying goal-side to help the back four. It was only a matter of time though before they had chances and if it wasn’t for a wonder save from Harvey Woodward, scrambling a shot onto the post and scrabbling it clear before Tom Martindale finally got it away the clean sheet would have been conceded.
With 8 minutes left Radcliffe gave themselves work to do. Failing to clear their lines for the first time in the game led to a Sandiacre lifeline and a well taken goal for 3-1 (72).
How do you respond to that...well, going straight up the other end and getting a goal back is all I could ask for.
Ollie Jones-Wilkinson (already on a brace) beating a couple of players and totally unselfishly slipping a sublime, perfectly weighted ball across the face for Ollie Skinner to tap home for 4-1 (73).
The game was up and all that was left was for Ollie Jones-Wilkinson to see if he could cap a great performance with a well deserved hat-trick.
You bet he could! Ollie Skinner saying thank you in the perfect way for his assist, providing one of his own for Ollie Jones-Wilkinson to curl into the corner to make it 5-1 (80).
What a top performance. Difficult conditions didn’t detract from a great footballing display by both teams - the difference being our pressure on the opposition and our clinical touch in front of goal.
I’m going to break my rule this week and give Man of The Match to two players as each were immense in their own way, amongst a team of heroes.
Jack Willis, a captain’s performance in the centre and Ollie Jones-Wilkinson in full flow and a hat-trick to boot.
Up to third in the table and back-to-back games against table toppers over the next 7 days...
Come on Radcliffe....