Despite the glorious sunshine it was a bank holiday to forget for Wantage as they slipped to their third defeat of the season at 10-man North Leigh.
The Freds started the game attacking down the slope and were soon pushing their hosts back. Jack Buchanan closed down a second minute clearance from former Wantage custodian Eddie Cavanagh but although the hurried clearance only reached Jack Dunmall the latter’s first time effort went wide with Cavanagh scrambling back.
The hosts then came close themselves when a seventh minute free-kick from the right was headed onto the Wantage bar, the ball went straight up and back off the bar again on the way down before being scrambled clear.
Cavanagh was in action again on ten minutes as he rushed to meet a high through ball for Tom Stanley. Stanley got his head to the ball first, only for Cavanagh to flatten him, but the referee decided that as both players were jumping to contest the same ball it was natural momentum and therefore not a penalty.
George Seacole then called Wantage keeper Charlie McCready into action to make a one-on-one save in the 14th minute, and the hosts went close again four minutes later as Lance Williams headed a Morgan Williams cross over the bar.
Ryam Markham’s 20th minute free kick from wide on the right eluded everyone, before another let off at the other end as Callum McNish latched onto a long clearance but steered his shot past the far post.
Wantage went behind on 29 minutes when, not for the first time, they got themselves into difficulty trying to play out from the back and conceded a needless throw-in. North Leigh delivered into the box for Lance Williams to see his header come back off the bar, but Seacole was on hand to fire the loose ball home.
The hosts had another couple of chances as they looked to take advantage of a shaky looking Wantage with both Brad Cox and Chris Jackson making vital last minute blocks to prevent them extending their lead.
Jack Buchanan then almost capitalised on a weak back header from North Leigh that left Cavanagh stranded, but from an acute angle on the right hand edge of the area his shot fizzed harmlessly across the face of the goal with no Wantage player being anywhere near getting on the end of it.
Then came the big talking point of the half as Stanley raced onto a McCready 42nd minute clearance, Cavanagh came out of his area to clear but took the ball on his chest and then arm in doing so, and the referee had no hesitation in blowing for a free-kick. The inevitable red card that followed saw Morgan Williams take over between the sticks, but he was helpless to prevent Stanley’s free-kick finding its way into the net for the equaliser.
With north Leigh down to 10, and a stand-in keeper, Wantage had 45 minutes to make it count to their advantage. Alas the old adage that it’s harder to play against 10 than 11 came to the fore, and the second half was a huge disappointment.
It wasn’t until the 56th minute that Wantage tested Morgan Williams again; Jim Glover’s effort was nothing more than an easy catch though.
Then just before the hour Wantage conceded the second, a long ball down the right was being shielded out for a goal-kick by Jackson, but Seacole picked his pocket right on the goal line before pulling it back for McNish to find the back of the net. Unfortunately neither the referee nor his assistant saw it as a tackle from behind, even though Seacole floored Jackson in getting to the ball, and the goal stood.
What was already appearing to be a difficult task had become doubly hard with Wantage unable to show the drive and determination up the hill with North Leigh coping much better with the sweltering heat and using the ball better.
In fact the hosts had the better chances to add to the score-line, with Seacole a constant danger as they used the slope to its full advantage.
Harry Dalton, on for Stanley, used his strength to win Wantage a couple of corners, but North Leigh were always first to the ball to clear the danger. Dunmall produced a great ball into the box on 78 minutes, but again there was no Wantage player coming in at the far post to meet it.
With eight minutes left Buchanan found himself on free-kick duty, but the stand-in keeper managed to palm the ball away for a corner. And four minutes later Buchanan’s shot had the sting taken out of it by a deflection that took it straight into the keeper’s grateful arms.
And that was pretty much it. A disappointing day, with it hard to disagree that North Leigh did more than enough to win the game.
Next up is a trip to Kempston Rovers on Saturday, followed by the FA Cup replay at Thame Rangers on the Wednesday. Hopefully Wantage’s luck will turn soon!
North Leigh: Edward Cavanagh, Jordy Ngathe, Kynan Isaac, Harry Grant, Adam Learoyd, Ben Brown (C), Lance Williams, Callum McNish, George Seacole (Roger James 80), Michael Alexis (Ekow Elliott 65), Morgan Williams. Subs n/u: Joshua Dutton-Black, Andrew Gunn, Billy Gillett.
Wantage Town: Charlie McCready, Tyron Lee, Shemar Pettet, Ryan Markham (Jozef Fullerton 55), Chris Jackson (C), Bradley Cox, Jack Buchanan, James Glover, Jack Dunmall, Tom Stanley (Harry Dalton 61), Nicholas Thorne (Joseph Hartley 69). Subs n/u: Ben White.
Referee: Declan O’Shea
Assistants: Ireneos Christodoulou & David Evans