Matlock Town Eagles 2
Manor Rangers JFC 2
WHEN Rangers rocketed in a second equaliser with six minutes left, there were, understandably, some signs of anguish among the Eagles’ hard-working cohort yet, to the casual spectator, it was probably a fair outcome to a contest which ebbed and flowed with both teams impressing, in turn, with their passing game.
A cagey opening to this Under 18s League One game sprang to life in the sixth minute when Charlie Britner, a rock for Eagles’ defence, cleared off the line and a combination of Sam Boam and Jack Johnson averted the danger.
Clearcut chances were few but a beautiful move midway through the half catapulted the home side into the lead.
Thomas Evans’s harrying in midfield was critical before Ben Harrison fed Jacob Gunton. Sweeping into the box, he stroked the ball across the goalmouth, where it was expertly controlled and dispatched into the back of the net by Jack Crossley.
Suitably galvanised, however, Manor struck back with a fine move of their own which was only thwarted by a fine save from Harry Westnedge, who not only deflected the ball away, but also prevented the concession of a corner kick.
The teams changed ends with all to play for and, within minutes, three pivotal moments changed the course of the contest.
First, Jack Wilson’s endeavour enabled him to deliver a fine cross which just evaded the onrushing Jake Hatcliffe. Moments later, a pinpoint header by Scott Lester was, somehow, tipped over by the visiting keeper.
Immediately, Rangers swept upfield to earn a penalty, which was duly dispatched.
It signalled a breathtaking display of attacking football from both sides before another well-crafted move appeared to seal the points for Eagles. Matt Marshall, excelling throughout, fed Evans, who, in turn picked out Gunton marauding down the right wing.
Running to the byline, he somehow managed to deliver a cross which deceived the retreating defence and which fell to Harrison, who struck with some relish.
It should have been a moment which determined the outcome but Rangers, although a player short by this stage following a sending off, simply refused to wilt, found renewed strength and were in raptures when a vicious drive hit the back of the net.
There was, however, one more note of high drama in the 90th minute. With Manor players committed upfield, a swift countermove was forwarded by James Reeves to Harrison, who delivered a peach of a pass to Gunton, whose finish was decisive. What a pity that the linesman’s flag was up.
Two points dropped, certainly, but no-one could really argue with the outcome from what was an absolutely riveting battle.