17th November 2018

UHL Hellenic League Premier Division

Brackley Town Saints (4) Reading City (1) 

Saints, Worby, Whitmore (Baldwin), Brock, Godfrey, Goddard, Ball, Watts, Knight, Hammond (Bowden), Wheeler (Chukwuema). 

Subs not used : Jordan, Haley. 

Another sparkling Saints performance despite falling behind to a Reading side containing a good mix of experience and youthful enthusiasm. Saints made a few changes to personnel bringing in Scott Whitmore at right back, and giving young Alex Wheeler from the U18’s his Saints debut on the left side of midfield. Joe Ward returned at centre half.

Saints nearly paid for slackness in defence in the first minute but managed to avert the danger. They then created a couple of half chances of their own with Knight off target with one shot but then testing the keeper down low to his left. The first 15 minutes continued to be very open with Saints looking dangerous every time they came forward.

However it was Reading that took the lead on 17 minutes. Saints contributed to their own downfall allowing Reading to take a quick throw in without picking up players which led to a corner from which the ball ping ponged about in the penalty and although Ali Worby was able to keep the ball out on a couple of occasions the ball eventually fell to Osuman Darboe who gleefully smashed the ball into the empty net.

Saints were stunned but not disheartened and continued to play their normal expansive game which Reading struggled to cope with at times. Wheeler was finding good space down the left channel and served up a couple of very dangerous crosses which just failed to find a Saints player in the box. On 27 minutes George Ball won the ball and scurried forward, played in James Hammond, who nicked the ball past the central defender to Ryan Knight who took his time and lifted the ball over the keeper and high into the net.

Saints were looking comfortable at the back although the Reading forward line was full of pace. Saints took the lead on 36 minutes when Hammond battled strongly for the ball on the right side of midfield, cut into centre park, outpaced his marker and laid the ball into Knight. Hammond continued his run and a clever pass from Knight played Hammond through and he drew the keeper before clipping the ball over him into the net.

Saints were buzzing and James Watts finished a nice run with a left foot shot but which was well dealt with by Matt Carr in the Reading goal. Ball and Hammond the combined nicely through the right channel and Hammond laid the ball back nicely for Wheeler at the back post but he was unable to keep his shot down and on target.

Saints picked up where they had left off in the first half with Hammond being through on goal but unable to get a telling shot away. Whitmore was replaced by Lewis Baldwin on 56 minutes after picking up an injury. Some of the football was a pleasure to watch a great move started by Jordan Godfrey led to Watts jinking past a couple of players and Hammond cleverly finding Knight whose shot was just wide.  On 60 minutes a one-two between Hammond and Ball ended with a cross that just eluded Knight.

Reading were hanging on in there and threatening on the break although the Saints defence marshalled by Ward and Olly Goddard generally looked in control. Reading shot themselves in the foot on 64 minutes when Carey Best was shown a red card. It would seem that not many people in the crowd other than the linesman actually saw what happened. But after a long conversation with the referee Best was dismissed and Knight was yellow carded.

This gave Saints even more space in which to weave their patterns, Reading knew that they were going to be in for a difficult last 25 minutes and so it proved. On 67 minutes Wheeler and Brock worked some room on the left releasing Hammond who played in Watts, and only a good save by Carr prevented Saints extending their lead. From the resulting corner Goddard rose like a Salmon to firmly head past Carr and into the far corner.

Wheeler was replaced by Caleb Chukwuemeka and his pace and confidence on the ball was immediately apparent. Reading were still plugging away and Worby had to be on his toes to make a fine save to deny the lively Lamin Ceejay.

Reading’s Adam Cashin-Murray was booked on 71 minutes for a late tackle on Ball and 2 minutes later Austin Best picked up only a yellow card for a really poor tackle on Hammond which saw him having to leave the game to be replaced by Josh Bowden. Saints continued to press and Ward hit the post with a powerful header. Chukwuemeka made his mark on 77 minutes picking the ball up 20 yards inside his own half jinking past 2/3 defenders and outstripping the rest to find himself through on goal. In attempting to unselfishly lay the ball across to Knight the unfortunate Carr deflected the pass into the empty net.

Further chances came. Knight volleyed just wide and Ball shot just past the post. Ceejay nearly chipped Worby on a rare Reading break, but Saints saw out the game knocking the ball around in a confident manner. This was a thoroughly comprehensive performance against a good Reading side. The 110 supporters in the crowd thoroughly enjoyed the game. Saints again showed that they can be a class act and are very hard to handle when they are on their game.