This match was extremely doubtful Friday evening as the snow started to fall in the area which was then followed by a lot of rain so it was quite surprising Saturday morning when Neil Armstrong arrived at 0930 with his son to check the pitch followed by Andrew Glenn and Mark Shaw. There was only one area on the pitch that was waterlogged which was a small area in the centre circle, the rest of the pitch was in a great condition. Everyone got to work with the forks and with help from the little bit of sun that was out, the pitch was declared fit to play.
Manager Paul Ryder didn't have many options at his disposal as Aaron Pinnock was away on holiday and Dan Russell and Scott Clarke had gone away too. With Lee Sayer and Ralph Richardson only available to be named on the bench due to working and not being able to get to the game until after kick-off (although Richardson didn't turn up at all), Ryder was left with twelve players to choose from two of which were keepers so Lewis Cottrill took his place on the bench as an outfield substitute.
Despite the lack of numbers the line up was very strong and the team was confident. They lined up with the following;
Powers, Duffy, Rooke, Anderson
Leek, Short, Weeks
Subs: Cottrill, Sayer, Richardson
Jack Duffy returned from a back injury while Aaron Anderson continued to show what a team player he is by filling in at left back for the second match running. Anthony Short continued in midfield alongside Player of the Month Nathan Leek and Ash Weeks while the manager gave Curtis Thomas a free role in front of them. Duffy still wasn't fully recovered while his partner Adam Rooke has been struggling with an injury to the side of his body and Danny Charlton continues to have trouble with his ankle so the team were slightly battered but all ready to put everything on the line to get the win.
It was the away team who nearly took an early lead in the first few minutes but they were denied as Aaron Anderson blocked the shot on the line to clear the danger and stop an early scare for Smithswood. The home team settled then and took the lead on eight minutes when Curtis Thomas put a through ball in behind the defence for Liam Williams. Williams put pressure on the covering defender and goalkeeper and managed to toe the ball away from them both and walk it in to give his team a 1-0 lead.
Badsey almost levelled things up a quarter of an hour in as they managed to get in behind the Smithswood defence but Harry Gardiner made a fantastic save to keep his team in the lead. The Lions took a two goal advantage when Anthony Short and Nathan Leek won the ball back for their team and fed the ball to Curtis Thomas. This time he chipped the ball over the defence for Liam Williams who finished calmly past the keeper for his second of the game.
The two goal lead only lasted two minutes as Jack Duffy slipped as he was about to receive a pass and Badsey were clean through and made no mistake to make it 2-1.
As the half was drawing to a close Danny Charlton raced on to a pass which he got ahead of the keeper who brought him down on the edge of the area. The referee didn't deem it as a goalscoring chance as two defenders were covering and showed him a yellow card. From the free kick Nathan Leek hit one of his bullet shots which agonisingly bounced off the post and away to deny him his third goal in three games.
The half-time team talk was positive as Smithswood were confident they were the better team and that there was more goals in the game for them, they just needed to stop rushing their passes and take control of the game and put Badsey Rangers under pressure.
The second half was one way traffic and it was 3-1 within a few minutes. Nathan Leek picked out Anthony Short with a great thirty yard pass which Short calmly controlled in the box and then slotted home to finish another great team move. Leek went close again from a free kick before being substituted but was thwarted by a great save by the keeper as his shot looked to be heading for the bottom corner.
Craig Powers, Jack Duffy, Adam Rooke and Aaron Anderson were in control at the back in the second half. Anderson was extremely impressive at left back playing only his second game there but you would have thought it was his normal position. Not only was his defending and positioning excellent, his forward runs were giving Badsey a real problem and he had got in several times on the overlap in the game. Despite the slip in the first half, Duffy had a great game alongside Rooke who have looked solid this season when they have played together at the back and it is a great option for the manager along with Scott Clarke. Powers is starting to settle in the team now and has been a great signing.
The game was being run from the midfield though in the second half with Anthony Short leading the way. Short along with Nathan Leek and Ash Weeks were proving to good for the Badsey midfield. All three of them are great ball winners as well as footballers as they can all pick a pass out. Short and Leek were making some great runs forward and were a constant threat whereas Weeks sat a bit deeper and just conducted play from in front of the back four.
Curtis Thomas was having one of his quietest games by his standards as he wasn't involved in as much of the play as he normally is as he is usually the player who has the most touches in a game but he was clinical when he got the ball in between the defence and midfield and managed his fourth assist of the game sixteen minutes from time. It was another ball in behind the defence, this time a cheeky flick for Anthony Short who used his strength to beat the defender to the ball and fired across the keeper to make it 4-1.
Thomas turned provider again for the fourth and possibly the best goal of the game as he hit a thirty yard cross from the right towards substitute Lewis Cottrill. Everyone on the bench had called him Mark Viduka when he came on but nobody expected what happened next. Rather than bring it down in the area as he was in clear space, he hit a 15-yard bullet header, very much in the guise of Mark Viduka past the keeper to send everyone on the sidelines crazy. An absolutely great goal from Cottrill to put the icing on the cake for Smithswood with their fifth.
The home side hadn't finished there and their dominance showed once more with substitute Lee Sayer netting a great finish from a through ball from Ash Weeks to complete a good 6-1 win for Smithswood Firs and with the way the other results went in the Division, put them firmly in the driving seat for the title with all their games in hand.
Man of the Match was a close run thing with the impressive Aaron Anderson narrowly missing out to Anthony Short who was simply faultless. He showed great passion and desire in the game and never gave Badsey Rangers a second on the ball, he was a constant menace and made some great attacking runs which got him two goals.
Next week is the long trip to Inkberrow as the team look to pile more pressure on the teams above them and close the gap before they even get to their games in hand.