It was Sportings last home game for a few weeks and they were looking to continue an unbeaten run with victory as the Victory Ground. Looking to build on last weeks stellar performance in the second half Sporting named a strong line-up with two débuts; Matt Brown coming in from the Reserves and Tony Germany in place of Jack Warnock who was on reserve team duty.
Also missing today were tricky winger Nathan Krogh through illness, Paul Stebbings with personal commitments and Daryl Manning also called up to the reserves.
Referee Ryan White was in charge of this hugely anticipated fixture against a stuttering Bildestone side, the whistle blew.
Sporting took the game to Bildestone from the off and looked to pile on the pressure, with last weeks second half to inspire them Sporting looked as good as they have at any point this season in the early stages of this game. Sporting adopted a long ball game not in keeping with previous matches and it almost paid dividends when débutante Matt Brown gathered the ball before jinking his way past Bildestone's defence and rounding the keeper, only to find his shot hit the side of the net. The intentions of Sporting were clear, they were here to win. The long ball system began to show it's failings however as Bildestone's defence won the ball time and again, keeping in form striker Bailey at bay. Some fantastic defending by Jaime Rodwell who was deputising at right full back in the place of Stebbings stopped dead an attack down the right hand side. Benwell who was leading the Man of the Match table at the start of the game looked to continue his high level of performance as he won several key headers in midfield early on and produced some fantastic distribution for forwards Bailey and M. Brown. On 23 minutes however a well timed tackle from Benwell was deemed a foul and on the edge of keeper Page's box it was a dangerous prospect. Bildestone's midfielder stepped up to take the shot and curled a well placed shot round the wall and into the bottom corner of a helpless Page's net. 1-0 Bildestone.
In previous seasons an A Team side may of buckled and let their heads go down but this was a team with a new found sense of purpose and drive and it was sporting who would respond when Barton used his well educated feet to twist and turn in Bildestone's box to get off an outside of the foot shot which rattled the cross bar, an on rushing Herrera was uncharacteristically just a little too quick and narrowly missed the rebound before the attack was snuffed out by a clearance form Bildestone. Sporting were fighting back now and just a lack of quality on the ball was stopping them from pulling one back. Bildestone went on the attack but the rejuvenated Honeyball stepped in to end the assault and launched a well placed long ball forward, Bildestone's defence failed to deal with the long ball and Barton anticipated well to get in behind the defence and whip the ball past the keeper with his weaker foot into the bottom corner. 1-1 Sporting.
The whistle blew at half time and Sporting were making this harder than it needed to be, Manager Mark Crawford who returned this week had some work to do at half time.
Sporting's long ball play was lambasted by Crawford and encouraged his side to keep the ball and for players to keep their heads up and hold possession.
Sporting stepped onto the pitch with these instructions in mind and the second half began.
From the off Sporting broke down the left and Barton played some fantastic one twos with Bailey and Benwell but narrowly failed to get in behind the defence. Sporting seemed more composed and calmer in these early stages as some good played flowed from Sporting. It was to be another long ball though that would pose a problem for Bildestone as an on rushing keeper collided with his defence and after several deflected shots the ball rolled out to Barton, who in full stride hit the ball perfectly and curled in from 30 yards past a helpless Bildestone keeper and onlooking defenders. 2-1 Sporting. Herrera was substituted midway through the half and was replaced by Ash Brown, with Matt Brown switching to the right and Ash moving up top to play alongside Bailey this was a tactical risk from manager Mark Crawford but there was to be method to his apparent madness. Sporting continued to pile on the pressure and wave after wave of attacks came at Bildestone who held on tight to repel Sporting who were champing at the bit to get another goal. Bailey was unlucky not to score and both Benwell and A. Brown had chances that only just fell short. A. Brown was beginning to show why he had been positioned as a forward as he won several key headers in attack resulting in a corner for Sporting. The resulting corner was dealt with by Bildestone and with a huge clearance was lumped up field to their hovering attacker who managed to latch onto the ball and made his way past a sparse defence before slotting past keeper Page. 2-2 Bildestone.
Sporting were distraught at going level and continued to press hard as Bailey was closed out after bursting free and only just failed to get in on goal after a firm challenge from a Bildestone defender. Tim Lovejoy was having a solid game a let out a rallying cry as he continued to win the ball back in key areas, David Taylor and Tony Germany worked hard on the left hand side to repel a Bildestone side with a bit between their teeth as they pushed for a winner of their own. Some great play from Sporting ended with a flick on from Ash Brown to brother Matt who whipped in a delicious cross which found the sensational Barton who swept home his 3rd of the game and put Sporting back in front. 3-2 Sporting. The lead would not last long however as after some good attacking play, the ball was gathered up by a Bildestone player and launched forward and as if it were a replay of their second goal, Bildestone's striker picked the ball up again after a defensive header was missed and whipped in a shot past an on rushing Page. 3-3 Bildestone.
The game dissolved into a bit of a scrap as Benwell was pulled up for another foul and Barton was on the receiving end of some argy bargy from the Bildestone players. Salvation was at hand it seemed though when a Bildestone player was deemed to of fouled M. Brown as he was trying to cross and a penalty was awarded. Barton, Sporting's penalty taker stepped up to try and chalk up his 4th of the game. The resulting penalty was poorly taken however with the ball hit straight at the stand in keeper and kept out, it looked as though another dismal draw was on the cards and Crawford looked forlorn on the sidelines. His frown was to be turned upside down however when in the closing stages of the game, Tim Lovejoy rose above Bildestone's midfielder to power the ball to Bailey who flicked the ball on with his head to A. Brown who finished with aplomb to put Sporting in the lead and vindicate Crawford's tactical changes with one movement of his boot. 4-3 Sporting.
The final whistle blew and a visibly relieved Crawford will no doubt wonder why his side made such hard work of a game that could have been won comfortably. Yet more improvement needed as Sporting take on Kesgrave away next week as they will look to get the win they should of secured at home.
In other Sporting news, 2 A Team players Jack Warnock and Daryl Manning; both called up for the reserves, played a fantastic game ending in a 7-1 win and a goal a piece for Manning and Warnock. The A's will no doubt look forward to their return in next weeks fixture as both players are in hot form.
Benwell's run of 163 minutes of no cramp ended as he slumped to the floor midway through the second half however he did manage to shake it off to complete the game.
Sporting who have yet to hit top gear will be hoping that next weeks game proves as the catalyst to springboard them up the table and to even better form.