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15 December
Puhlsport football kitremier Division

Ascot United 1 Bishops Cleeve 0
Fabien Etienne’s solitary header was enough for Ascot United to beat fellow high-fliers Bishops Cleeve in atrocious conditions on Saturday. The defender popped up to score in the 43rd minute to earn his side a sixth straight win as Ascot regained top spot, underlining his side’s increasing credentials. With the home side looking to extend their already stellar run and the away side having lost just two of their last seventeen matches, this was a defining clash between two teams vying for the top spots.

The first half was a surprisingly entertaining affair despite the awful conditions, and Luqman Kassim saw his early effort beaten away by visiting ‘keeper Lewis Clayton. Kassim then tried to flick home at the near post as Ascot dominated the opening stages, although The Mitres came back onto the game and Jack Watts might have done better than direct a weak header into the arms of Lee Allen from Clayton’s free kick; Clayton having traversed half of the pitch to take the set piece.

Joe Bates then did well to stay on his feet to tee up Adam Mace who dragged wide, but Ascot reasserted themselves and would be rewarded just before the break. Before that, both Nathan Minhas and Dan Price saw hopeful efforts saved, but the Yellamen struck two minutes before the break when Etienne’s towering header from Jonny Denton’s right wing corner sailed into the top right corner of the net. Etienne would later produce a fabulous block to deny Watts a scoring chance, although there was still time for Minhas to test Clayton on the stroke of half time, but it remained one-nil to the hosts.

With the driving win and rain now behind their backs, the home side emerged hopeful of building on their half time lead and despite the increasingly difficult conditions, they continued to carve out chances. However it was the visitors who threatened first when Elliott Kennedy dragged wide after a neat one-two, although ‘Cleeve escaped shortly afterwards when Laflin almost found the target with a long-range effort when Clayton was stranded near the touch-line.

Home ‘keeper Allen then made an excellent diving save to palm Kennedy’s skidding effort wide – 65 minutes played – but the rest of the half belonged to Ascot after defending superbly well. Kassim shot over after good work, Minhas was denied by Clayton’s legs, and Etienne saw another header chalked off for pushing as Ascot looked for a second. Visiting substitute Ieuan Crowe flashed a header wide in between those chances, but the day belonged to Ascot whose relentless charge continues.
Ascot United: Allen, Kibaki, Denton, Carey (Carlisle), F Etienne, Ellis, Laflin (Sullivan), Sankoh, Minhas, Price (Lalustani), Kassim. Subs unused: Lock, Haworth

Windsor 1 Brimscombe & Thrupp 3 (away view)
Brimscombe may have hit a rut midweek but they made up for it when they headed down the M4 to Windsor’s Stag Meadow.

Conditions were slick but both teams adapted well to the tricky playing surface. The First half didn’t throw up any real chances, the home side’s star striker Robert Lazarczuk had a few opportunities to put the home side ahead but the Brimscombe back line stood firm. Jake Parrott saw his effort from 20 yards deflected out for a corner and Ollie Pitt found the hands of Hugo Sobte. Kyle Pitts headed over from close range to send the two teams in level at half time.

The rain continued to pour over Stag Meadow with a cold wind blowing around the ground. Both Ash Gale and the Brimscombe defence were called into action early into the second half but they dealt swiftly with any dangerous attack that Windsor forced upon them. It took 7 minutes from the start of the second half for the deadlock to be broken when Sobte was forced to make multiple saves but Kyle Pitts was on hand to hit home the loose ball giving the Lilywhites the lead. It didn’t take long for the home side to get on level terms when Lazarczuk’s cross/shot beat Gale and sailed in at the far post. The visitors desperately searched for the leading goal and got it on the 66th minute thanks to Kyle Pitts again, a free-kick sailed into the box and Pitts was there to nod it home from 6 yards out. James Singh was replaced by Elijah Simpson after Singh had picked up a knock. With 20 minutes left on the clock, Windsor made the mistake of leaving Pitts unmarked in the box when the cross came in, Pitts headed it past Sobte again to complete his hat-trick. Windsor were unlucky not to pull closer after Lazarczuk fired just over the bar before Fabio Nunes saw his effort go over giving the Gloucestershire side all 3 points and a very happy minibus on the way home!

Tuffley Rovers 1 Royal Wootton Bassett Town 3
Since the postponement of their home match against Binfield a week earlier Rovers had slipped to the bottom of the table by virtue of Longlevens’ surprise 2-0 win at Brimscombe in midweek. ‘Levens still had a game in hand on their Gloucester neighbours so Tuffley knew that they were now facing a serious battle to retain their status in the top division of the Hellenic League, an almost inevitable consequence of losing six of their opening eight league matches this season. The first defeat of that grim opening sequence had been a 6-1 reverse at Wootton Bassett on the opening day of the season. Rovers had, however, gained a modicum of revenge and also restored some pride by defeating the Wiltshire club 4-0 in a cup-tie towards the end of September.

Although Bassett would arrive in Gloucester sitting fourth in the table they had only taken all three points in one of their opening ten away league games plus they had just been knocked out of the Floodlit Cup by suffering a heavy 4-0 defeat at Windsor. So while the visitors would be hoping to resume what had generally been good away form this season the hosts knew that this was a huge opportunity to put some pressure on Longlevens and any other clubs struggling at the wrong end of the table. This fixture only went ahead after two pitch-inspections but the surface coped pretty well in extremely cold, wet and windy conditions which must have been as unpleasant for the players as it was for the spectators inside Glevum Park. That Rovers slumped to a sixth home league defeat of the season was largely due to the prodigious talent of much-travelled striker Terence (TJ) Bohane, who plundered his second hat-trick of the season for Bassett against their Gloucester hosts, having also notched a treble against them in the reverse fixture in Wiltshire back in August. Rovers gave an immediate debut to Will Dawes, a recent acquisition from Cheltenham Town; whilst Wootton Bassett made four changes to the starting team which had performed so poorly at Windsor earlier in the week and the inclusion of Bohane was a pivotal reason for only their second away league win of the season.

The visitors kicked off but it was the hosts who had the first attempt on goal but the shot from Brett James lacked both pace and direction and drifted wide of Charlie McCready’s right-hand post. As the players tried to adjust to the treacherous conditions Rovers’ Paul Carter received a yellow card for a dangerous challenge near the halfway line and a few minutes later Bassett’s Danny Lachacz received a similar punishment for a not dissimilar challenge.
The game sprung into life with a quarter of an hour played when Harry Birkett received the ball about thirty-five yards from goal, took it on a few more yards and then thundered an explosive shot into McCready’s top-right corner which the goalkeeper might have just got fingertips to without it affecting the outcome of the shot.

But Rovers’ Achilles heel this season of being unable to hold on to a lead was soon evident again. A strong run by Bradley Pagliaroli took him into the Tuffley penalty-area, where he was tripped by Luke Payne. Bohane grabbed the ball and rolled his spot-kick left-footed away from Kane Winman’s right side to quickly equalise Birkett’s opener. It soon got worse for Rovers. Bohane chased a long ball over the top and was tripped about twenty yards out. He took a moment to regain his composure, before taking the free-kick himself and curling it up and over the wall and into the top corner of the net. If Winman had had ten other goalkeepers standing on the line next to him, none of them would have reached it. It was a truly stunning strike. Another foul on “TJ” brought a caution for home captain Macaulay Herbert. The subsequent free-kick was a little further out but the striker kept it low this time and it trickled into the net after a deflection and the best efforts of Winman, who had got a slight touch. Bassett continued to push forward and neat passing between Pagliaroli and Lachacz led to a chance for Adam Corcoran but the defender’s shot flew over the crossbar from twenty yards. As the conditions got worse Bohane was lying prone on the ground deep in the Tuffley half and needed lengthy treatment on the pitch before being able to continue. In the minutes before the interval there were some wild tackles but most of these challenges were ill-timed rather than malicious because the match was really played in a good spirit, particularly considering the deplorable conditions.

Rovers performed better after the break but needed an early goal to get properly back into the match. James was through on his own but shot wide from a position where you would normally expect him to score. Bassett had brought one substitute on for the second half and would make another change midway through the second period. Winman dived bravely at Bohane’s feet to deprive the striker of a fourth goal for himself and his team.

Rovers were struggling to clear their lines as the rain continued to hammer down so it wasn’t a surprise when they made a triple-change around the same time Lee Beale came on for the visitors to replace Mani Roper. Joel White helped to steady Tuffley’s defence after being under so much pressure while Ryan Dobbins and Rhys Davies came on to offer other options in attack.

Unfortunately for Rovers, you don’t get any points for keeping a clean sheet for forty-five minutes. The damage had been done in the first half by a man who has been scoring regularly for many years. Even in the worst conditions imaginable, “TJ” still has the Midas touch in front of goal and was the big difference between the two teams today. For Rovers, though, it was a depressing start to the second half of their League programme. With only three wins from their first nineteen Hellenic fixtures they know that they will need more than that from the next seventeen if they are to retain their status at this level.


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