FROLESWORTH United suffered their first defeat in the Arthur Moore Cup Group C as they were on the wrong end of a master class from Premier Division Magna 73 Rangers at the Meadows on Sunday morning.
The Rabbits failed to recover from a disastrous first-half display, which now means they will have to beat group leaders Sporting Highcross to progress to the quarter-final stage.
Man of the match Joe Cook hit United’s solitary response just after the break, but it proved to be nothing more than a mere consolation after three goals in the opening period condemned the Division One side to defeat.
Manager Ben Harris was once again faced with a selection crisis, which left him questioning his own commitment as he once again made the trip back from Nottingham, this time accompanied by his assistant Jordan Halford.
He returned to the Warren only to be confronted by plethora of casualties as he had just a threadbare 11 players to choose from. Harris left the back four untouched, but welcomed Martin Fennon back into the fray after an absence of almost two months alongside Craig Rowbottom, who himself surrendered the armband to Mark Baker before kick-off.
Josh Baines and Martin Finnigan lined up on the flanks, whilst Cook was employed as the lone-striker ahead of emergency loan signing Ben Hirst, who was thrust headfirst into the deep end on his debut for the Clarets.
The visitors began reasonably brightly, but they found themselves a goal down after just 15 minutes in rather contentious circumstances. Magna were allowed to take a throw-in illegally, before Fennon conceded possession in his own half and Jack Boulton could only haul down opposing striker Ryan Ogden in the penalty box.
For the second time in as many games, United were duly punished from 12-yards and Harris’ side already faced another uphill battle. Things continued to go from bad to worse for the Yorkshireman, who could only watch on helplessly as debutant Hirst was temporarily withdrawn from the action after suffering a blood injury to his head.
Frolesworth did respond once he returned, however, as Mark James’ left-footed effort was deflected into the grateful path of the goalkeeper before Hirst then skewed his shot wide.
It only proved to be a brief respite though, as the hosts doubled their advantage just after the half-hour. Fennon was once again culpable for being careless in possession as Steve Oliff stole the ball off him and fed Ogden, who made no mistake with the finish.
United seemed to be losing their heads now, illustrated perfectly by chairman Baines’ reckless and unnecessary lunge, which earnt him a caution. He could certainly count himself fortunate not to see red.
The Rabbits then had a penalty claim of their own waved away, as Baker’s pile-driver appeared to hit a hand in the box, but much to the captain’s frustration the referee showed no signs of abating and just before the break Frolesworth’s misery was compounded as Ogden was allowed to turn and pick his spot for three.
Harris’ side were learning how cruel life in the Premier League would be, as the hosts demonstrated all of the cutting edge and conviction which saw them lift the Division One crown without losing a single league game last season.
But striker Cook certainly proved he could play at the highest level, with a finish of true class four minutes into the second period. He latched onto goalkeeper Matt Errington’s lump downfield and volleyed home a stunning strike with his weaker foot to give Frolesworth an unlikely route back into the game.
The goal was a fitting reward to his tireless work ethic on his own up front, but Magna completely took the sting out of United’s tail with a master class in how to keep the ball. They dominated possession in the second period and added a gloss to the scoreline with a fourth in stoppage time.
The result now means that United must beat Premier League Sporting Highcross in the final group game to stand any chance of progressing to the last eight, but they will have to wait until Sunday, 21st November for the Group C showdown.
FROLESWORTH: ERRINGTON 6, JAMES 6, BAKER 6, BOULTON 6, RUDMAN 6, ROWBOTTOM 6, FENNON 6, FINNIGAN 6, HIRST 6, BAINES 6, COOK 7 (MOM).
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