Dragons win second half at Stanway
Stanway Rovers 2 Wivenhoe Town 1
Stanway Rovers: 1) Paul Rutherford 2) Andrew Joslin (Josh Gould 46) 3) Daniel Slatter 4) Martin Calver 5) Michael Fitzgibbon 6) Ross Norfolk 7) Kevin McLeod 8) Mark Maher (Alex O’Leary 76) 9)Michael Cheek 10) Lee Townrow 11) Ben Newson. Unused Subs: 12) Raymond Turner 14) Liam Daniels 17) Ben Rudney
Wivenhoe Town: 1) Ritchie Robins 2) Tola Odedoyin 3) Marley Spindler 4) Ben Lampon 5) Tom Cutts 6) Bryan Turner 7) Markel Greenidge 8) Tim Dennis 9) Michael Schofield (Tom Moore 76) 10) Ben Connell (Ben Parkin 73) 11) Marcus Spindler. Unused Subs: 15) Aaron Peck 16) TJ Amass 17) Jonathon Carr
It was the archetypal game of two halves at the Hawthorns with Wivenhoe dominating the second half but unable to overcome a two goal deficit from the first.
Wivenhoe kicked off towards the club house end of the ground and into the wind. Opening exchanges were even but untidy as both teams struggled to deal with the wet and windy conditions, but Stanway gradually gained the upper hand using their greater physical size and strength to muscle the Dragons out of the game.
Neither team had a shot until the tenth minute when Townrow’s effort was tipped over the bar by Ritchie Robins to give Stanway the first of six first half corners. After thirteen minutes a good ball out of defence by Tim Dennis fed Marcus Spindler who made excellent progress down the left flank, but his cross went beyond the far post and in front of the Dragons’ most forward players. Within a minute however, Stanway went close as Maher controlled a long punt well on the edge of the box and fired past the far post. Newson then played in Cheek whose rising shot was again tipped away by Ritchie Robins for a corner. Cheek had sight of goal again three minutes later as Norfolk released him into the box, but his shot was weak although Ritchie Robins almost spilled it as it bounced awkwardly off the curiously undulating Hawthorns pitch.
A minute later Bryan Turner had Wivenhoe’s first shot, after a long throw from Tola Odedoyin, but it was blocked pretty soon after it left Bryan’s boot. Markel Greenidge earned the Dragons’ first corner sixty seconds later as Fitzgibbon headed out a cross. Tola Odedoyin met Bryan Turner’s corner with a near post diving header but it was wide of the target. Back at the other end Stanway earned their third corner as Ben Lampon blocked a Townrow shot, but Ritchie Robins claimed the resultant kick confidently. Four minutes later Ritchie repeated the trick, but this time under much more pressure in a crowded six-yard box. In between these corners Wivenhoe produced their best passing move of the half as Bryan Turner started a slick move involving Markell Greenidge, Ben Connell and Marcus Spindler before Tola Odedoyin sent in a cross from the left that Rutherford claimed.
Wivenhoe’s attacks were sporadic and not threatening Rutherford’s goal, but Stanway continued to press and won another corner on the half hour which led to a goal mouth melee from which the ball was eventually cleared. But within seconds the ball came back and Marley Spindler had to concede another corner. This time Stanway took a short kick and former Colchester United and Braintree man McLeod was fed just inside the box from where he clipped in a precise cross to the near post, which Cheek cheekily headed home to give Stanway the lead. Stanway were looking dangerous now and Ben Lampon did well to tackle Newson as he turned quickly and was about to shoot. But the respite was brief and when McLeod helped on a ball from the left on 35 minutes, Cheek was unmarked at the near post again as he claimed an easy headed goal. Having defended well up until now, it was frustrating that the Dragons were suddenly two goals down and not looking like they could hit back.
Stanway had been solid but by no means spectacular, but that all changed briefly six minutes from the break as McLeod hit a dipping volley from at least thirty yards out that thumped against the Dragons’ cross bar. Finally with a minute to go until half time Cheek broke in to the box but pulled his shot hopelessly wide of the far post.
If the second half was to be like the first it seemed that Wivenhoe would do well to keep the score down, but what actually happened was a complete role reversal. Wivenhoe attacked Stanway straight from the re-start winning two corners in the first two minutes. In the forty-eighth minute a free kick was won on the left hand side of the penalty area as Stanway resorted to strong-arm tactics to protect their goal. Markel Greenidge stepped up to take the kick and produced a gently curling shot that embarrassed Rutherford at his near post and placed Wivenhoe firmly back in the game.
Wivenhoe proceeded to dominate the game and Stanway were forced to spend most of their time in their own half. Former full professional McLeod became to the first player to be booked by referee Mr Evans when on fifty-one minutes he addressed one of the referee’s assistants as a dozy person who was born out of wedlock. Three minutes later Ben Lampon was adjudged to have pushed over Townrow but Maher sent the free kick over the stand and into the car park. Play quickly returned to the other end of the field and a good run down the right by Marley Spindler ended with his cross evading the despairing dive of Markel Greenidge. Just before the hour the Dragons won a free kick on the right near the corner flag, Bryan Turner floated over a high free kick which dropped just beyond the far post where Michael Schofield headed over from a good position.
On sixty-five minutes Marcus Spindler had a decent shout for a penalty when he was sent tumbling by the goal line, but Mr Evans believed that the Stanway defender had played the ball. In the ensuing recriminations Tola Odendoye received his customary booking for an unnecessary foul. A minute later Wivenhoe came close again as another cross from Bryan Turner was met with a looping twisting header from Markel Greenidge that again dropped over the cross bar. Shortly after that Marley Spindler almost put Ben Connell through in to the box but he slightly over hit his pass on the muddy surface and Rutherford was able to gather up the ball.
Tola Odendoye was troubling Stanway with his pace down the left and Maher was booked on sixty-eight minutes for fouling him again. Bryan Turner was getting plenty of practice with free-kicks but this time his deep cross in to the box was easily gathered by Rutherford. Two minutes later another move down the left ended with the ball being cleared to Tim Dennis on the edge of the penalty area; he had time and space but hit his shot over the cross bar when a decent shot on target had looked on the cards.
As the game entered the last fifteen minutes Wivenhoe’s dominance faded a little and Stanway’s strength came back to the fore. Marcus Spindler was very unlucky to be booked when he was backed into by Slatter and Slatter then bounced off him. With seventy-nine minutes gone Tim Dennis misplaced a pass in the middle of the Dragons’ half and Stanway quickly went away on the right and sent in a cross that happily went beyond Ritchie Robins’ far post. Tim was very apologetic. Stanway had another chance four minutes later when Cheek won a high ball against Ritchie Robins and Townrow hooked the knock down over the bar from about eight yards.
In terms of goalmouth action the game petered out in the final five minutes and Mr Evans stole the limelight as he booked Stanway’s O’Leary for bringing down Tom Cutts and Ben Parkin for not retreating ten yards at a free kick.
Although Wivenhoe had lost, it had been a good overall performance and they undoubtedly deserved a point on the balance of play. It is also fair to say that when Wivenhoe played well it was better to watch than when Stanway were on top. The game was lost because of a couple of isolated defensive lapses and the absence of any really decisive forward play. But performances like this give hope for the future and now that there is no prospect of finishing outside the bottom three we can at least enjoy the luxury of a situation in which performances are more important than results.