**NIFFY RANGERS 2-1 FROLESWORTH UNITED**
JAKE Pantony’s 82nd minute strike wasn’t enough to spark a late revival from Frolesworth United, as the Rabbits succumbed to a disappointing defeat at the hands of rivals Niffy Rangers at Horsewell Lane on Sunday morning.
Rory Cuthbert gave the hosts the lead inside the opening 60 seconds, after he capitalised on an uncharacteristic error from captain Mark Baker, before thumping in an unstoppable 30-yard volley seven minutes before the break.
Cuthbert was later dismissed for a disgraceful lunge on Pantony, but the visitors were to be ultimately left frustrated by the 10-men, as Pantony’s 11th goal of the season proved to be too little, too late for United, who are still searching for their first away win in the league this season.
Manager Ben Harris made just one enforced change following last week’s 6-1 demolition of White Lion for the trip to Wigston, replacing the unavailable Sam Young with Tom Stokes. But his side were left facing an uphill battle inside the first minute, after a dreadful mistake from the skipper, Baker.
The usually reliable centre-half was guilty of dwelling in possession inside his own penalty area, and Rangers striker Cuthbert picked his pocket before confidently dispatching past the stunned Luke Evans at the near post.
The goal completely shell-shocked the visitors and Harris immediately altered his strategy, partnering Stokes up front alongside Joe Cook in a 4-4-2 formation. But the change wasn’t to have the desired effect, as the visitors barely threatened the home side’s goal until Joe Swanwick came close from a corner.
But matters were to be made a lot worse for United just seven minutes shy of the break, when Cuthbert scored one of the goals of the season to completely and utterly deflate the visitors. Both Pantony and Swanwick struggled to deal with a bouncing ball in midfield and the Rangers striker sent a vicious, dipping volley in to the top corner from fully 30-yards, which left goalkeeper Evans with no chance.
Manager Harris was left astounded and his troubles were deepened when Miles Splevings was forced to be withdrawn soon after due to a recurring groin injury, which meant he was replaced by Jack Rudman.
United’s response came through an unlikely source, as right-back Mark James’ long-throws continued to be Frolesworth’s most dangerous assault and Swanwick once again saw his effort drift agonisingly wide of the far post.
It was the worst possible opening 45 minutes for Harris’ side and he decided to once again change the dynamics of his side by throwing caution to the wind and employing Jack Sutherland, Cook and Stokes in a three–pronged attack.
And it worked, albeit only sparsely.
Cook soon became Frolesworth’s most likely route back into the game, linking well with Pantony from the right and driving into the heart of a clustered defence, he fired wide.
But United were to be given a glimmer of hope just before the hour mark, when Algerian referee Ali Ramezenkani dismissed Cuthbert for an atrocious lunge on Pantony. The challenge prompted another 22-man mêlée, involving coaching staff from both teams and also resulting in the United number 8 receiving a caution.
Harris decided to reshuffle once more, this time pushing Baker further forward in a 3-4-3 formation as the hosts attempted to shut up shop with a well-organised two banks of four approach.
And it worked, as they continued to stifle the away side. Centre-half Jack Boulton was unlucky not to have won a penalty after he headed over, when it looked as though he had been shoved in the back. Cook came close once again, but this time his effort shaved the far post before it was the turn of youngster Stokes, this time, to be flattened.
But Frolesworth would finally get a reward for their relentless endeavour, as Baker jinked past two and unleashed a powerful, left-footed shot, which was spilled into the path of the onrushing Pantony and it was game on once again with eight minutes to play.
But it proved to be nothing more than a consolation, as Rangers survived a smattering of late pressure from United, and in doing so leapfrogged their opponents into 6th place in Division One.
The result now leaves Frolesworth with just one win in their last seven games and incredibly, the Rabbits have only ever one once in a staggering 22 outings when they have been trailing at half-time under Ben Harris’ stewardship.
He will be desperately hoping his side lead at the interval against table-toppers Perrin Rangers next time out, who recently thumped fellow promotion contenders Sparta Moshdock 4-1.
FROLESWORTH: (4-2-3-1) EVANS 6, JAMES 6, BAKER (c) 6, BOULTON 6, FINNIGAN 6, PANTONY 6, SWANWICK 6, SUTHERLAND 6, SPLEVINGS 6, COOK 6, STOKES 6. SUBS: RUDMAN 6.
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