Todays Challenge Vase match saw two of the Divisions top teams go head to head for the first time. Smithswood Firs were coming into this game off the back of six straight wins in all competitions while Rostance Edwards boasted an unbeaten record in the league so both were in good form.
As has been the case the last three weeks, manager Paul Ryder was hit with late injury worries. Aaron Anderson and Daniel Wall were back from their injuries last week, Renaldo Mayers was back from long term injury to take his place in the squad for the first time this season but the latest blow came from Curtis Thomas who was ruled out on the morning with a leg injury.
Smithswood still lined up with the following strong team
McKenna, Evans (Capt.), Rooke, Billingsley
Taylor, Thompson, Shiels, Harris
Subs: Cottrill, Glenn, Godwood, Mayers, Wall
Paul Ryder wanted his team to come out firing, as they haven’t in past weeks. He was eager for them to get the first goal and not have to chase the game but control the pace of the game and pass the ball around. They almost had the perfect start from a Craig Evans free kick as Adam Rooke rose above the defence but headed just wide. Rostance Edwards then almost got lucky as a clearance from the back looped high and towards Smithswood goal forcing David Stratford to tip it over. There was no luck involved from the corner though, just bad marking on Smithswood’s part as Rostance Edwards headed wide of the goal.
William McKenna almost provided the cross for the first goal. He collected the ball at right back and whipped a quality 40 yard cross field pass finding Adam Hemming in the box who met the ball ahead of the defender but headed it agonisingly wide. The game settled down after ten minutes as the chances were few and far between with both teams cancelling each other out.
The best chance of the first half fell to Adam Hemming. Hemming started the move as he dropped deep to pick the ball up. He played it into Aaron Anderson who held it up and spread it wide to Lee Harris. Harris moved inside and gave it back to Hemming who had continued into the box. He had a defender to beat but spun him brilliantly and unleashed a bullet shot, which was heading inside the near post but for a quality save by the keeper.
Andrew Glenn got into a bit of trouble off the pitch as he decided it was a good idea to go in search of one of the match balls in a growth of stingers. The fact that he was in shorts meant it was only going to have one outcome, as he got stung all over his legs.
At half time Paul Ryder and Stephen Shenton urged their team to calm down. They weren’t good enough all over the pitch by their standards and were starting to argue among themselves. They just needed to keep the ball much better in the second half and not panic and start working the ball into the box the way they can. The game was even and there for the taking if they could just step it up a few gears.
Craig Evans went close within five minutes of the restart as he launched a free kick, which went inches wide of the post. Both technical areas were amazed at some of the referee’s decisions, as a lot of clear-cut calls appeared to be going the opposite way. Carl Shiels was booked for an incident right by the technical area as he went in for a 50-50 challenge and looked to have won his team a throw in. As the referee booked Shiels, Assistant Manager Stephen Shenton voiced his opinion, which resulted in the referee sending him off and asking him to remove himself from the technical area.
Rostance Edwards had their best chance just after the hour mark as David Stratford was forced to make a quality save from a strong shot.
Ryder changed things up in the last half an hour as he made three changes bringing Daniel Wall, Andrew Glenn and Renaldo Mayers on during that time for Carl Shiels, Daniel Billingsley and Adam Hemming.
Craig Evans forced a save out of the keeper with a long-range effort and a moment of brilliance almost got them the goal they had worked hard for. Lee Harris had moved inside and picked the ball up 25 yards out from goal. He unleashed a cannon of a shot which had the keeper beaten but rattled back off the crossbar.
Rostance Edwards had a couple of late chances, the first following a Stuart Taylor free kick, which was cut out, and they hit Smithswood on the counter-attack breaking clear but firing over the bar. The other was an attack through the heart of Smithswoods defence which had Adam Rooke at full stretch to win the ball and put it out for a corner. A quality tackle but the Rostance Edwards bench were adamant it was a penalty but you could clearly see the ball move in a different direction as Rooke toed it away from the striker. Stuart Taylor also collected a yellow card in the last minute as the referee blew up for full time and the game went into extra time.
Paul Ryder was positive as he gathered his team on the pitch. Daniel Wall and Renaldo Mayers were causing them massive problems with their pace and freshness and Stuart Taylor and Lee Harris were creating chances in the middle. Ryder decided to change his formation and be more positive going with a 4-3- in an attempt to get his ball playing midfielders in the middle and on the ball and the pace of Wall, Anderson and Mayers up top.
The only half chance in the first half of extra-time came from a Lee Harris header, which looped high for the keeper to save.
After the restart Craig Evans created a great chance for himself. He stepped out of defence to intercept the ball and played a pass into Aaron Anderson and continued his run. Anderson held it up and passed it back to him on the edge of the box but Evans’ shot went just wide.
Rostance Edwards then took the lead following a clearance from the back, which beat everyone and put them clear. Their striker calmly slotted under David Stratford to make it Smithswood Firs 0 Rostance Edwards 1
Smithswood went three at the back and pushed Craig Evans up top to try and get a goal and force penalties. They were always going to get another chance the way they were pushing on and it came following some good work from Craig Evans and Renaldo Mayers wide. Mayers played it back into Stuart Taylor who picked out Evans but the shot went just wide.
The referee blew for full-time as Smithswood Firs lost their first game of the season. Paul Ryder now needs to pick them up, as their focus must now move back to the league and keeping their 100% record going in that as they face Inkberrow at home next Saturday.