The hottest day of the year and typically, due to the Bank Holiday weekend and an impromptu DofE event, Radcliffe were severely struggling for players. Luckily, Travis Cox stepped in to ensure we had 11 for the game but we had no subs. This was to prove a factor later...
The pitch was mowed short for a change and this allowed both teams to play their football.
Rolls Royce had the first strike with a blocked effort falling to their player in the box and it came through a sea of legs past Harvey Woodward for 1-0 (10).
Radcliffe had been having chances and soon there was a good opportunity for Ollie Jones-Wilkinson to stretch his legs down the left wing and deliver a great cross. It arrived at chest height for Ollie Skinner but his technique was top drawer and he volleyed sweetly into the goal for 1-1 (20). This was the cue for a drinks break as the heat was taking it’s toll.
The remainder of the half was played out with some great passing but in the final third defending winning the day. The only chance of note was almost a carbon copy Ollie Skinner goal but this time the cross along the floor just came too quick for his right foot swing and it went wide.
The second half started in the bright sunshine and straight away it was clear that Radcliffe were struggling a little for energy, Rolls Royce using their subs well and seeming to have more space.
A ball from midfield fell to their player 30 yards out and his first time strike couldn’t have been hit sweeter...the dip and swerve completely foxing Harvey Woodward and it was 2-1 (44).
This gave them the lift they needed and it was now backs to the wall. The pressure finally told and Rolls Royce managed another for 3-1 (47).
Radcliffe needed to rally and a great worked chance saw Ollie Skinner hit a sweet strike that beat everyone but agonisingly clipped the outside of the post and went wide.
Small margins...and Radcliffe were punished again a few minutes later when a seemingly innocuous long ball was brought down by the Rolls player and his teammate drove the ball past Harvey Woodward again for 4-1 (55).
Soon after, Harvey pulled off an incredible save from a Rolls free kick and it looked like we’d ridden the storm. Another drinks break due to the heat and all I could ask was for the boys to give everything and try and win the last quarter.
Soon after the restart a cruel decision though, when tangled legs between Jacob Sadler and a Rolls player saw him hit the deck and the ref ruled a penalty. I’ve seen them given and I’ve seen them not - today our luck had run out.
The resulting penalty kick wasn’t the best but even though Harvey got his body in the way, the ball bounced wickedly over him and went in for 5-1 (65).
Radcliffe weren’t down and out though. These boys give everything and pride was at stake. Harry Timson-Smith, in his unfamiliar midfield role, set the standard with a few tough challenges and driving runs and Rolls took their foot of the gas a little too.
From an Ollie Jones-Wilkinson corner, who was there to force it home but Harry Timson-Smith 5-2 (75) and a well deserved reward.
Radcliffe hadn’t finished either, a late challenge brought a free kick from around 35 yards and Will Quilter stepped up to drive an unstoppable shot over the keeper and under the bar for 5-3.
Time ran out and the game was lost but they’d done exactly what I’d asked and finished string, winning that final quarter.
With a few subs and a bit more luck it could have been different but today Rolls Royce deserved the win.
My man of the match goes to Harry Timson-Smith for his never say die attitude and setting the tone when all looked lost.
A special thanks to Travis Cox as well for stepping in at the last minute, showing his class and composure in difficult circumstances.
Two matches to go and no reason we can’t finish with two wins based on that last 20 mins...