11:27am Thursday 12th April 2012
Gadeside Rangers threw away a great opportunity to secure a fourth0placed finish as they were narrowly beaten 3-2 by Hammer OGB in a thrilling encounter.
Rangers only had themselves to blame for failing to pick up maximum points as a combination of poor finishing and a failure to deal with Hammer’s direct tactics cost them dearly.
The hosts settled the better of the two sides and it was obvious what their game plan was from the off.
As soon as Hammer goalkeeper Richard Walker had the ball, he would hit the front two quickly. It proved a fruitful tactic as Mark Hansard and Gary Wilkes didn’t give the Gadeside defence a moment's peace all game.
It was however, Gadeside who nearly struck first when Daniel Bryon picked out Adam Hills in the area and he turned well past Noonan before firing at Walker, who saved well at the near post.
The deadlock was broken shortly after though, when Ben Higginson’s misplaced pass from defence saw Hammer break and Gary Wickes jinked past two tackles before firing past Tom Oliver.
It was so nearly two moments later when Wickes ran beyond a flat defence and lobbed the ball over Oliver. The ball bounced in front of goal and up to the crossbar before Ian Freeman hacked the ball away off the line.
As the half wore on though, Gadeside found their stride and began to create chances at will. Hills saw a ferocious shot blocked and Mitchell’s effort was smothered by Walker as he ghosted clear of the backline.
The visitors had an even better chance to level on 35 minutes when Tom Mitchell was tripped by Walker and the referee awarded the penalty. Mitchell picked himself up to take the spot kick but his effort was woeful and sliced several yards wide.
Moments later, Gadeside had another glorious opportunity when Jay Evans’ superb cross found Hills unmarked at the back post but his powerful header crashed against the crossbar.
But they did finally level on the stroke of half-time when they were awarded a second penalty.
Jay Evans' cross was spilled by Walker and Mitchell again nipped in ahead of the keeper, who tripped the striker for the second time. Hills took over the responsibilities this time and made no mistake.
Gadeside continued their form into the second half and enjoyed the vast majority of the possession. Bryon dragged an effort from the edge of the box wide and Mitchell headed off target from a Freeman cross.
Russ Popplewell’s darting run down the left-hand side then created an opening for Jay Evans, whose powerful drive cannoned back off the post with Walker beaten.
However, Hammer gave a reminder that they were still very much in the game when Mark Hansard cut inside to fire a powerful shot at goal, which Oliver did well to get down to and push away.
But Gadeside finally got the goal their play deserved when Mitchell did well to win a loose ball in the box before superbly hooking into the top corner with his back to goal.
It was possibly at this point that Gadeside assumed the game was won and switched off as, from looking very comfortable, they were soon at sixes and sevens. Their cause was not helped when Justyn Walcott fell awkwardly on his shoulder and had to replaced.
The home side drew level on 76 minutes when Hansard collected the ball and drove at the Gadeside defence, which backed off and allowed the striker to fire a low effort into the far corner.
Hammers then completed a remarkable turnaround seven minutes later when Hansard powered down the right-hand side and crossed to the far post where Rob Booth controlled well and fired a stunning drive into the top corner.
Gadeside piled men forward looking for a quick response and Hills was agonisingly close to getting on the end of Popplewell’s cross but Hammer defended well to take the three points.
Green Dragon beat fellow strugglers United 6-2, with Sam Dove getting a brace to take his tally for the season to 15. Mick Miller, Lloyd Willingham. Chris Agger and Ben Nassau completed the rout.
Europcar got back to winning ways after two disappointing cup defeats as they overcame spirited Wellington Arms Reserves 2-1 in their first league game since January to move back to the top of the table with three games to go.
The start couldn't have got any better for the visitors as they won possession straight from kick off and Mark Lomas crossed for Hugh Trayte to head home.
With Wellington showing big signs of improvement recently and also with the addition of two first-team players in their side, it was never going to be easy for Europcar and the hosts` were level midway through the half when a quickly taken free-kick on the edge of the box found the back of the net while the defensive wall was still being organised.
Both keepers were called into action in the second half as the game remained deadlocked and looked to be heading for a draw. But with five minutes remaining, good work by Sven Barth was rewarded when he found Trayte, who crossed for Lomas to bundle home from close range.
Chorleywood Club had am excellent 5-0 away win against Langleybury CC to improve their chances of promotion and move up to joint second alongside AFC Spartians.
Both teams have 29 points but AFC have played a game more than their rivals James Webb scored a key hat-trick, while Chris Wagstaffe and Michael East weighed in with one apeice.
The Bell grabbed all six points against strugglers AFC Oddfellows with a 13-2 aggregate scoreline in their double header.
Danny Fielding hit six goals as his side won 6-0 and then 7-2, Cameron Bleakley and Dominic David scored two each, with Jamie Higgs, Callum Hayley and Michael Griffin also netting.
League leaders Oxhey Jets Vets made no mistake in increasing their lead to six points with a 7-1 victory over bottom club Sun Postal United.
Matt Deamer and Nick Simmons both scored hat-tricks and Matt Collins got one.
Leaders Evergreen thumped West Herts Reserves 7-1, with Taylor Murphy and Max Moore scoring two each and Jonny Daly, Philip Waldock and Andy Murphy also finding the back of the net.
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