Smithswood Firs 2 Barnt Green Spartak 1
Smithswood Firs Goals: Troy Baker, Curtis Thomas MOM: Aaron Anderson
Barns Green Spartak Goals: Nathaniel Hare MOM: Kevon Henry
Subs: Dale Hewitt, David Raore, Anthony Short, Craig Powers
Despite only being the third game of the season, Saturday’s visit of Barnt Green Spartak was already an important game for the home side following their opening two defeats. Manager Paul Ryder was without a few players as Darryl Taylor, Scott Clarke, Dan Russell, Martin Crawford and Adam Rooke were injured, Tyron Smith was suspended, Jack Duffy was on holiday and Harry Gardiner was at work.
New signings Michael Crawford, Dale Hewitt and David Raore were all in the match day squad hoping to make their debuts.
Both teams started well and cancelled each other out early on as they battled for control of the game. The home side had the first chance following some great work from Daniel Charlton. He picked the ball up in his own half and cut inside and drove at the defence. Charlton put a great ball over the top of the full back and Troy Baker broke in behind him but the Spartak keeper deflected his shot away.
The away team took the lead shortly after when a great ball split the Smithswood defence and beat the off-side trap to slot home calmly. There was no panic from the home side though and within five minute of going behind they had drawn level. Henry Donaghey made a great interception to break down a Spartak attack and then fired a high ball towards Troy Baker which looked like the full back would intercept but he made a mistake and it fell nicely for Baker who made sure the keeper couldn’t get near it this time as he slotted it in the bottom corner.
The game was an entertaining affair as both teams had chances before the half but both keepers were on form and made some good saves while a few shots went agonisingly wide or over as both teams went into the dressing room on level terms.
Paul Ryder and his team were upbeat in the dressing room as they felt they had the better chances in the first half and just needed to be a bit more clinical in front of goal and control possession and not force things. Everyone was confident they could come out and create more chances and get the win they needed.
It only took the home side five minutes to find the goal their play had deserved when Captain Curtis Thomas picked the ball up 25-yards out in the centre of the goal. He had options both left and right and runners through the middle but he created space on his favourite left foot and let fly with a great shot which took a slight deflection on the way in but looked like it was always beating the keeper anyway.
Dale Hewitt and David Raore came off the bench to make their debuts and it was great to see Anthony Short come on too following his injury that had kept him out from pre-season. The battle in midfield was fierce but Aaron Anderson was excellent all game. He helped Michael Crawford out defensively and Curtis Thomas going forward and seemed to be everywhere the whole game and played a key part in shutting down one of their main threats.
Hewitt and Raore were extremely lively and added even more pace to the Smithswood attack as they went looking for the third goal. It almost came when Nathan Leek’s shot deflected in the area and looked like it was falling for Aaron Anderson but he just couldn’t get to it and direct it in on the line. The clearance fell nicely and Spartak broke in behind the Smithswood defence and it looked like they were going to equalise but Jake Woodward made a great save and then Anthony Short deflected the rebound away.
After that scare Smithswood were much more organised and had some great chances to finish the game off with Anthony Short going close and Dale Hewitt creating some great chances from the left. David Raore used his pace up top to close down the defence and force them into long balls which were being controlled easily by Nathan Leek and Ashley Weeks who were then spreading the ball wide to their full backs Cameron Knight and Henry Donaghey as they looked to play possession football at the end.
There was one last chance though for the away side as a ball over the top beat Ashley Weeks but Nathan Leek was there supporting him and made a fantastic tackle in his own area to come away with the ball as Leek and Weeks continued to work and cover each other as they had done brilliantly all game and the three points were secured as the referee blew for full time.
It wasn’t a comfortable victory by any stretch as Barnt Green had a few great chances but the home side will feel they were the better side overall, creating more clear cut chances but they were made to work for it by a good organised Spartak side who in the last minute almost got a point but for that great challenge from Nathan Leek.
Focus now moves to Monday with the visit of Leamington Hibernian. Hibs won our Division last season beating us twice in the process so the lads will want to get some revenge and get the three points and follow up Saturday’s win with another.