Willand Rovers vs Evesham United
It’s been an interesting few weeks at Silver Street. While I’ve been gallivanting around the Americas Willand have won 2 games and drawn another, taking themselves from the precipitate of relegation to the heady heights of anywhere above 17th position and the nirvana of league safety.
Indeed the worse case scenario is no longer a berth in one of the two automatic relegation spots, those positions having been begrudgingly taken by Slimbrige and Cindeford, but a last chance playoff game against an unknown opponent.
But with two games left of the regular league season, Willand’s fate is still in their own hands.
So what’s happened over the last few weeks to predicate this turnaround? You could argue that the whites have simply found an improvement in form at the right time, but as was pointed out to me on Twitter recently, Willand could still be relegated with a better goal difference than a promoted team. Think about that for a minute.
Form has never really been an issue for Willand in truth. Of course there have been ebbs and flows in performance but there has never been a prolonged period of time when we’ve played consistently badly and been soundly beaten.
There is of course the thing of which we will not speak, which has cost us both points and games all through the season, but I think I may have covered that in other reports.
So what has changed? The view from the sidelines is that the difference has been a direct result of actions from David Steele and his team, and specifically the signings of three new players.
All at Silver Street were excited to see Alfie Moulden and Jack Rice return to the fold. They, without doubt, improve the squad. But I think more importantly they have expanded the squad. David and Liam now have the ability to pick the best team for the game ahead of them, rather than the best team that they have. It’s a small but subtle difference that has seen Camilo, Bray, Griffith and Hill, amongst others, seeing less game time but it can be argued that each has made more of an impact when they have been played.
The other signing that has been instrumental in the turn-around is the arguably less glamorous, but potentially more influential recruitment of Nick Milton. The signing from Buckland has added some Steele (sic) to a Willand defense alongside Kieran Bailey, Josh Searle and much improved (and impressive) Bailey Kempster. To quote Nick Miltons twitter account, it’s been ‘raining cleano’s’ for the last few games.
The opponents for tonight’s important game, Evesham United, came into the match as desperate for points as the hosts, albeit looking to secure a playoff place rather than just a place for next season.
There was one chance from the draw against Larkhall, with Bray replacing Camilo in the starting eleven.
An early crunching tackle from Hewitt showed Willand’s intent, the combative midfielder winning the ball on the halfway line before unleashing an ultimately unsuccessful but free flowing attack.
The first chance of the game came in the 9th minute, a cross headed from under the bar by an Evesham defender before it could trouble the line.
Evesham’s first chance came in the 15th minute, a free kick fired in low into the danger area that Burton did well up push away around the post.
It was a frenetic but nervous start from both teams with Willand adopting an early approach of launching long balls towards the diminutive Griffith that were easily dealt with and returned by the gargantuan and bloodied Evesham number 5.
Willand eventually began to dominate the game though, complementing their early long ball tactics with some excellent pressing play from the front three that started to ask questions of the Evesham defence.
The best chance of the half came in the 35th minute, Rice raiding down the left before finding Moulden who slipped the ball back to an unmarked Guppy. The Willand midfielder struck the ball well but could only find the keeper with his powerfully hit shot.
Willand continued to press and created a number of half chances as the game ambled towards half time. A winding run from Kempster was hampered by an Evesham defender, leaving the Willand fullback unbalanced and unable to find a cross, a quick free kick from Searle found Bray whose cross was put out out for a corner, from which Moulden almost swept directly into the top corner of the goal, the keeper doing well to palm the ball around the post.
In truth the half was a fractious affair, with neither side able to produce the quality or intensity required to break the deadlock.
Half time Willand 0 – Evesham 0
The second half started as the first ended, although Evesham may argue that they were the team who came out of the changing rooms with more gusto.
The game was decided by a moment of brilliance in the late evening gloom. Belmonte picked the ball up in his own half and the Evesham striker, seeing Burton loitering outside of his box without intent, proceeded to lob him from a full 70 yards, much to the delight of the traveling fans. It was a moment that even with heads held firmly in hands you couldn’t help but admire.
Evesham should have extended the lead minutes later when Milton was robbed of the ball by the Evesham winger, his cross falling to the feet of Belmonte at the back post who may have still been celebrating his earlier goal as he blazed his shot over from 6 yards.
Willand continued to push forward but frustrated at times with some lackadaisical and misdirected play before Guppy missed a chance to level up the game with the last touch of the ball, somehow missing the target from 6 yards with his header.
Willand now move on to the final game of the season, away to Cinderford on Saturday, with their fate still firmly in their own hands.
The palms of which are getting slightly sweaty.
Full time Willand 0 – Evesham 1
|Private: Bailey Kempster|
|Private: Jack Rice|
|Private: Ben Griffith|
|Ashton Hewitt||Yellow Card|
|Private: Lewis Hill||Sub|
|Private: Adam Kelly||Sub|