After Saturdays great quarter-final victory over Bourton Rovers in the Jim Newman Memorial Cup, Town travelled to the Radcot Road Ground to face hosts Clanfield 85 in the semi final.
The hosts had come through their last eight tie with Marston Saints with a late winner to gain a 1-0 victory. Town knew this was going to be a harder test for the new look side, with Clanfield welcoming some of their bright young stars and new experienced strikers to their squad line-up.
The hosts were quicker out of the blocks and as early as the second minute they broke through the Town backline, with a midfield runner collecting a knock down, but firing widely wide of the Town goal. Soon after however, Town created their own opportunity as new signing Josh Vaughan created a chance for himself when advancing into the Robins penalty area, he lifted the ball over the defender before volleying from close range, which brought a great save from the young keeper. Town were starting to get a foot into the game as the minutes rolled on and were playing the ball out of defence well, but were failing to find the killer pass to unlock the home defence. On fourteen minutes, right full-back Joe Hoskin had a great effort on goal from 25 yards, but it was matched by the keeper who punched to safety. As the half went on, the home sides movement from their wide players and midfield were causing Town issues and they created a number of openings, but failed to test Justin Yates in th
e Town goal, when arguably they should have scored. As the half closed, Yates did make an excellent 1-on-1 save to deny the home striker.
The half time chat was to encourage the lads to build from Saturdays performance and that needed the front three to have better movement, whilst we stayed compact when on the defensive.
Town started the second half on the front foot, Ryan Bradbury stole the ball in the Robins half and strode forward, before unleashing an effort from 20 yards, which unfortunately sailed over the bar. Clanfield were starting to take control and created a number of chances which saw them hit the woodwork twice and Town were struggling to cope. Town were looking to catch the opposition on the break and one move created a great chance for Adam Sly on the left wing, he sweetly struck an effort on goal, but it was straight at the keeper and went away to safety on the hour mark. The two sides were battling hard and the tempo was high, but Town's legs were beginning to tire. Shortly after the Sly effort, Town lost striker Dan Hoskin when he was reckless with a challenge and picked up a yellow card for his troubles, plus a broken wrist, which will keep him out for 4-6 weeks when falling awkwardly! Both sides were pushing for the winner and it was the home sides who managed to break the deadlock with 78 minutes on the clock, as a long free kick found the dangerous Clanfield winger, who out-muscled Joe Hoskin before firing into the far post past Yates. Town now had to throw caution to the wind and pushed forward their Triallist centre back to add some height to the attack after the loss of Dan Hoskin and this nearly paid dividend when Matty Pill picked him out, but his headed effort just missed the far post and Town were out of the competition.
The lads worked their socks off in both games of the competition, valuable minutes to get them up to speed for the season ahead. The performances were above and beyond the management teams expectations and gives us great positivity with the remaining pre-season fixtures coming up.