And we're off!
Management duo get off to flying start! Report by Dave Robinson
Something had to give as 2 teams unbeaten in the league met at the Marston Road ground and it was the host’s record which bit the dust as Ashton turned the game around after the interval. With the Robins down to the bare bones of their squad following several departures Terry Smith returned in goal with joint caretaker managers Will Haining & Jody Banim both named on the bench.
Rangers made the much more positive start and soon had the visiting defence at 6’s & 7’s – just 2 minutes in a cross to the near post found George Cater turning past Gary Gee before he was denied by a combination of Smith and the post but just 3 minutes later Hodge’s square pass found Kyle Perry driving against the same post with Jack Sherratt knocking home the rebound. Melbourne then picked up Hodge’s clever pass but saw his effort blocked by Gee who was then in the action at the other end placing Chris Baguley’s lay off well wide.
Lee Gaskell could then have levelled after latching on to a bad back pass but failed to get any strength behind his effort and Smith was soon back in the action tipping over Kris Taylor’s free kick. Just past the half hour Gaskell missed another great opportunity as he brought the ball down from Mason’s cross but again failed to connect properly from near the penalty spot. On the stroke of half time Ryan Crowther made a great run into the area and saw Baguley’s attempted shot from his lay off blocked by a defender with Baguley needing to be replaced by Richard Smith.
Straight after the resumption Ashton got the break they needed to get back into the contest as Alex Frost won a header leading to a mistake in the home defence by Johnson which left Jack Dorney a clear run on goal from which he finished confidently. Taylor then curled a free kick just past the angle after Frost was adjudged to have fouled Perry and Cater should have done better from Melbourne’s cross but the Robins could have moved ahead as a fine move saw Ryan Crowther’s cross helped on by Gaskell to Dorney who cut back inside before bringing a low save out of Whitehouse.
With 12 minutes to go a long clearance was flicked on by sub Rhys Nevins for Crowther to head over Whitehouse and Nevins himself made the matter safe 4 minutes later as Crowther cut in from the left wing before setting him up for a low finish.
Team: T.Smith, Mason, Mather, Connor, Frost, Lees, Crowther, Gee, Gaskell (Banim), Baguley (R.Smith), Dorney (Nevins). SNU: Haining.