Home league match played on 26 March 2023.
Kicked off at 10:30 AM

A second 3-0 home win in a row saw the Raiders extend their lead at the top of the table with a commanding performance at a rain-soaked Nowton Park. The first challenge of the day was the pitch and, more specifically, the soggy goalmouths. Fortunately The Raiders once again had Suffolk’s finest groundsman on hand (with his fork!) to ensure that the game would go ahead. It was a lively start to the game and the home side’s players looked bright, unlike their fans who arrived somewhat bleary-eyed (only due to the clocks changing). Raiders had the better of the opening exchanges and mixed neat passing with long balls to catch out the visitors’ defence. It wasn’t long before a clever throughball from Cook found Barrett, who ran through and had his cross-shot blocked by a Stow defender. Horler then made a smart catch at his near post after a rare Stow attack but the Raiders kept pushing and creating more chances. Parker saw his volley go over the bar and Clarke sent a low shot into the arms of the visiting goalie. The Falcons were visibly worried about Horler’s long kicks and a couple of these in quick succession nearly paid off. But instead it was a great ball from Arnold that led to the opener on 13 minutes. His lofted pass through the middle was met by the Stow defender, who volleyed his clearance straight at his teammate and the rebound fell kindly to Everard. The Raiders targetman took advantage as he raced clear and dispatched a right-footed shot into the bottom corner. 1-0. Raiders were playing the better football and were worthy of their lead, but they were nearly caught on the break when Number 14 ran through. Fortunately, some clever shepherding from Cook pushed their danger man wide and out of harm’s way. Once again it was a story of near-misses as Deeks was unlucky with his shot from the edge of the box and Heston Andrews’ effort from Kobylecki’s cross was saved. The pressure eventually paid off in the 19th minute though, when Everard played a neat ball through the right channel and Kobylecki ran through at lightning speed to rifle a superb finish into the bottom corner. It was a first Raiders goal for Kobylecki, which was rightly cheered on the sidelines (much to the disappointment of Grumpy Grandpa in the away end). Raiders didn’t have to wait long for their third when, in the 26th minute, a Stow defender was punished for an illegal header inside the box. Indirect freekicks inside the box are so often wasted at every level, but not when Parker and Deeks are around! As the Stow players lined up on the goalline, Deeks rolled the ball to Parker who intelligently lifted his strike into the roof of the net (the only part of the goal that was unguarded!). A great goal and a comfortable 3-0 lead that looked very secure, thanks to some solid cover at the back from Cook, Hibbard, Parker and Arnold. Just before half time came one of the game’s more controversial moments when a freekick sent to the back post was met by Heston Andrews, who finished like a seasoned striker. The Raiders’ joy was short-lived though, as they realised that Mr Robo-arm’s flag had been raised to give a very suspect offside. The first half came to a close with Raiders well in control. The home fans praised a commanding and energetic performance in midfield from Clarke and some neat football all round. Surely Stow were now dead and buried in this game… The second half gave the Raiders coaches an opportunity to mix up the team and try some new combinations around the pitch. But this didn’t disrupt the flow of the game or the home side’s dominance. Some silky midfield play led to a Gooderham chance, which was blocked well at close range by the Stow stopper. Horler’s role changed from ‘keeper to sweeper as his long passes (and one incredible mazy run!) continued to threaten. He still found time for some great handling though, and a smart save at his near post. Arnold got a good touch on a Parker long ranger, which was tipped wide. Barrett then rounded the ‘keeper but hit the side netting with his shot and next saw his half volley go wide of the far post. Perhaps the most hard-done-by was Gooderham, who scored the header of the season from a great Everard cross, before realising he’d fallen foul of the dreaded ‘no heading’ rule. The match came to a close and, in truth, the 3-0 scoreline flattered the visitors. Three more goals and three more points…back on the road in the cup next week (and hopefully some better weather!). Moreton Hall Raiders 3-0 Stowupland Falcons

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