Thame Find Range At Last & Secure Deserved Win At Aston Park
Aston Clinton 0-1 Thame Rangers
It took until the final moments of the match for Thame’s second-half dominance over Aston to bear fruit. Substitute Kieron Schmidt benefited from a set up by arguably two of the best players on view, Rangers’ defenders Jeanmal Prosper and Paul Brown, to poke a late winner. Aston had been urged to ‘dig in’ by their defenders for much of the second period, for offensively they were stifled by Prosper and Tom Keen in particular so that leading scorer Lewis Workman was given little to be workmanlike about. Long balls were chased by both Workman and Stewart King, although their team’s best opportunities fell to left-sider Alex Smith but he was denied twice by Thame ‘keeper Sam Ashmead and once by a fine block from industrious Rangers midfielder James Keeble. The guests might have scored more goals but for home custodian Liam Smith who beat away efforts by Jack Page and Chris Davies, whilst Aston Clinton defender Luke Russell did well to block a Keeble shot too and replacement Sean Coles missed with two late headed chances.
|LINO: "NO, ALEX YOU DON'T HAVE TO LOOK AT HIM, IT'S FINE..."|
Ludicrously a farmer made several shuttle runs on his tractor directly behind one goalmouth during the match, hauling a long container, maybe transporting cattle to a field across the park; the playing surface was uneven, dry, hard and bumpy, making passing a drudge and the wiggly marked out lines made me feel that I had been drinking strong cider pre-match but fair play to the two teams, they tried to play football on it and at times, Rangers looked as slick as the pitch would allow them to be…
The opening half was one of few chances at goal, lots of ragged play, long clearances and sheer dogged effort by players to control the ball and pass it with some accuracy along the rutted ground. Certainly Rangers managed it at times, with Brown, Keeble, Ryan Binnee and Collins often working the ball on the left side. After home winger Alex Smith had broken onto a long ball at inside-left but then elected to make a right-boot shot which struck the advancing Ashmead in the chest, Mitchell Collins forced Liam Smith into a comfortable save at the opposite end. The Aston goaltender was in action a little later too when a good move from left to right by Rangers ended with Davies passing to Ricky Williams, whose far post cross was headed back inside by Binnee but home skipper Alex McGowan’s clearing header only allowed Page to volley a drive from 23 yards which the ‘keeper dived right for and turned away. A lurking forward was then deemed offside and Aston breathed a relief sigh…
|LIAM SMITH FINDS A CANNONBALL BURIED BENEATH THE GRASS...|
A right-foot Binnee cross from the left was too hard and too far ahead of Williams supporting on the right but then out of nothing, Rangers cleared an Aston Clinton free-kick, Alex Smith’s miscue struck Page and the home winger lashed a great dipping volleyed rebound from 25 yards which Ashmead did so well to see, never mind tip away at full stretch to his left. The poorly marked Callum Jenkins headed Alex Smith’s corner straight down for Ashmead to collect and then Harrison Mann’s long throw took a bow, causing huge problems in the Thame 6 yard box but when the ball was cleared to Alex Smith 19 yards out, his effort was badly sliced.
|MAN RUNS WITH BALL GLUED TO HIS KNEES...|
And that was it for the half… Brown had been strong and innovative for Rangers, defender Prosper had, er, well, prospered, as had Keen, who was very, er, keen, but there was always the thought that a little bit of magic might snaffle a winning goal for the guests, for the hosts were not really causing their visitors any genuine difficulties at the back, despite the efforts of right-flanker Liam McElhinney and Mann’s long throw ability.
|KEEN WORKMAN... |
The hardworking Ranger James Luckett was UNlucky to have been hurt during the opening half and he was replaced at the interval by Kieron Schmidt, not wearing 12, as the team sheet had suggested, but 14… It can be so confusing… Subsequently Schmidt would settle the affair.
|AUDITIONING FOR A PART IN A SILENT MOVIE...|
AND IS THAT A GROUNDHOPPER AT THE REAR OF THE STAGE??
In truth the guests from Thame tamed their blue-clad opponents and it was only after Sean Coles had a run out from the bench for Rangers, in place of the tricky Binnee, that the hosts managed any significant offense at all. They too had replaced their number 7, McElhinney but it was, unsurprisingly, a long Mann throw which caused Ashmead some trouble again in the Thame goal. His defender Keen nodded the awkward chuck away and Alex Smith smacked a left-foot volley from 18 yards but a superb block by Keeble, who had run ten to twelve yards anticipating the shot, was key. Jenkins picked up the rebound but his loose effort soared too high and Rangers re-established themselves after their earlier bright start to the second period.
"REFEREE! I HAVE BEEN CRUELLY AND INDISCRIMMINATELY MANHANDLED TO THE GROUND... DO YOU NOT THINK I DESERVE A FREE, OR EVEN FAIRLY CHEAP FREE-KICK, YOUNG FELLOW-ME-LAD?"
A one-two between Collins and Schmidt had ended with a hasty and sliced off-target shot by Collins, before the remarkably instantly involved Schmidt’s fine long pass offered a yard or two to Davies just inside the penalty-box at inside-right but Liam Smith got down to usher the resulting shot away with sweaty gloves. Another neat attack involving Brown saw a one-two between him and Collins and the skipper’s low pass across the 18 yard box was fastened onto by Keeble but home left-back Russell somehow deflected the effort wide. After Aston’s brief sojourn in attack, the visitors pressed on some more and Schmidt sliced a poor Liam Smith kick off target, before Keeble made way for Alex Keozierski, who to be fair, sought possession and initiated several attacks from then on. A fine cross-field pass from Prosper, left to right, allowed Williams to cut inside but his shot deflected off home defender Alec Bell and following the withdrawal of Alex Smith, Aston found themselves truly ‘digging in’…
|OMG, NOT AGAIN...|
Collins drove well off target, Coles missed two headers, firstly not really connecting with a fine left-boot, right-flank cross by the influential Schmidt, then rising behind Bell to nod a Williams corner from the right way too high. The remaining action not only included a clash of heads for Russell, who was replaced for the hosts but also a goal was finally scored…
A left-side Williams corner saw Prosper not quite prosper, as his leap and his fall were more akin to a trampolining front-drop but the glance from his head was enough to wrong-foot the home defence, Brown moved to the right byeline to retrieve the loose ball, he rolled it inside towards the near upright and the lurking Schmidt converted with ease. Simple as that then…
|FINALLY, IT'S 0-1...|
I felt sorry for home skipper McGowan however for his efforts to keep Thame at bay had seemed like succeeding, only for a late set-piece to undo all his team’s good defensive digging-in. King and Workman were sorely underused though and to be harsh, the hosts really didn’t deserve anything from the game. Prosper impressed, not only with his general play but also by his cajoling and direction, suggesting a skipper’s role would be ideal for him. Brown though was excellent throughout, even looking casual on occasions, having time on the ball and even on such an awkward surface, he looked skilled. Page supported the right side of the offense well and of course, apart from the contributions of Collins, Keeble and Binnee, the introduction of Schmidt certainly changed the game, along with Coles.
I was left to compare this Aston Park with the one I know better, near Aston Villa’s ground, where I spent some time being the 17th century Sir Thomas Holte working with school groups at the impressive mansion in the park: Aston Hall… Villa’s ground was reputedly built upon what was the cess-pit for the house at the bottom of a hill, suggesting why Villa’s form has been so, er, sh…ambolic recently…
|AS SIR THOMAS HOLTE WITH A BOAR'S HEAD.|
BUT I CAN'T HELP THE SHAPE OF MY SKULL...
I drove back towards Solihull and a barn owl flew across my car on the A41, something neat to end the day…
LIAM SMITH, CALLUM JENKINS, LUKE RUSSELL, ALEX LITTLE, ALEX McGOWAN (CAPT), ALEC BELL, LIAM McELHINNEY, HARRISON MANN, STEWART KING, LEWIS WORKMAN, ALEX SMITH.
ARCHIE HARRISON, MAX MARISCOTTI, THOMAS BURTON.
SAM ASHMEAD, JACK PAGE, PAUL BROWN (CAPT), JAMES LUCKETT, TOM KEEN, JEANMAL PROSPER, RYAN BINNEE, JAMES KEEBLE, CHRIS DAVIES, MITCH COLLINS, RICKY WILLIAMS.
KIERON SCHMIDT, ALEX KEOZIERSKI, SEAN COLES, KEVIN POOLE.