A double from Conor Moore and a late Eugene Francis goal sealed all 3 points for 10-man Radford against Gedling Miners Welfare at the CDW Arena on Saturday afternoon in the East Midlands Counties League.
The visitors came into the game following a poor run of form and looked to avoid a 7th consecutive defeat in the league and they started well in this one. Jurgen Charlesworth registered their first attempt on goal after 4 minutes but, following a loose piece of control by Radford’s Matt Hopewell, the wide man could only find the side netting. 4 minutes later and talisman Jack Jepson, with superb control and poise, stung an effort goal bound but his shot deflected off Jan Yeomans and the ball trickled out for a corner.
A minute later and the hosts had their best effort of the game in their first noteworthy attack. Ryan Smith found the dangerous Conor Moore and his thunderous left footed strike was superbly matched by Lance Walker, returning to Gedling for his second spell between the sticks, who got down well to thwart the opportunity before the ball was cleared.
The game began in an open fashion – typically so when the two clubs meet for the Nottingham derby – and Radford started to find their feet in the affair and, in the 11th minute, they took the lead.
After Ravarne Jackson found acres of space down the right, latching on to a flicked header from Ryan Smith, his low cross found the onrushing Moore who, through a sea of bodies, slotted home past Walker as he wheeled away in celebration. A minute later and Smith may have had one of his own from a Jackson corner but his header into the ground looped over the crossbar.
Radford looked good for their lead but Gedling, unlike previous weeks, were out to ensure their hosts weren’t comfortable despite the scoreline. Both teams endured decent spells in possession and the football on show was an excellent advert for the East Midlands Counties League. However, only 20 minutes in and Gedling really had it all to do as the home side doubled their lead.
Following a deep cross from the right by Hopewell, the ball was half cleared by Jacob Tabreham to the edge of the area and assumingly to safety. Though, with sublime improvisation and forethought, Moore’s unorthodox and unexpected volley, left Walker rooted to the spot as the ball nestled into the bottom corner.
By this stage Radford were enjoying their best spell of the half and Gedling, whilst solid, were mainly pinned on the back foot as they endured a period of relentless pressure as the half neared its conclusion. Despite this, however, the visitors always posed an attacking threat and looked to Jimmy Spiers and former-Pheasant Joe Meakin to orchestrate any venture forward that would worry the experienced centre half pairing of Simon Hore and Wes Spencer – both ex-Miners stalwarts – and shortly after the half hour, they were rewarded for their troubles.
In a carbon copy to Radford’s second, a deep free kick by Felix Hogg was only semi-cleared by Hore and the ball fell kindly to Charlesworth who, in one swift movement on the corner of the box, controlled well with his chest and wonderfully volleyed the ball into the top far corner with an effort that had ‘keeper Hadlee Dunn flapping. An excellent effort by Charlesworth to notch his first goal since his return to Gedling from West Bridgford.
Since conceding, Radford looked nervous and their characteristic composure when in possession was lost as they resorted to a no-nonsense approach to their defending and found it difficult to find targets with their passing. Gedling, meanwhile, were committed to the cause and matched their opponents in every regard.
Shortly before half time and they should have had the opportunity to level the scoreline going into the break but Yeomans’ clumsy handling of Dwayne Brown at the far stick, trying to prevent the midfielder from latching onto a Charlesworth cross, was unseen by the officials and referee Imran Khan frantically waved away the claim as the visitors’ furious protests began.
Gedling continued where they left off after the break and should have scored a deserved equaliser 2 minutes after the restart. Meakin, dancing around 3 challenges undeterred, fired his shot through a congested area and Dunn had to save smartly with his legs. From the rebound, Charlesworth’s effort deflected wide as Gedling sought some encouragement from their performance.
At the other end, Moore had two chances to really put the game to bed, however, and to complete his hat trick either side of the hour mark. On 57 minutes, following a Paul Durham free kick, Moore smartly fathomed a commonly known scorpion kick following Spencer’s knock down which sailed over the bar. 4 minutes later and, albeit from a tight angle, the winger unleashed a fierce strike that just evaded the crossbar and Walker’s outstretched hand.
As expected, and with Miners chasing the game, the match was stretched with both sides sharing ample opportunity to trouble their opposing goal. Meakin, typically providing chances, floated a dangerous cross after 63 minutes that had the unsure Dunn flapping unconvincingly and, from the loose ball, substitute Aboubacar Sylla lashed an effort goalwards which the redeeming Dunn saved well down low.
Despite the chances, Gedling were experiencing the unwanted side of Lady Luck as nothing was falling their way and, frustratingly, failed to get any rub of the metaphoric green whatsoever. However, on 64 minutes, their fortunes may have started to change following referee Khan’s decision to dismiss Kevin Spriggs.
Following a rather innocuous middle-of-the-park scuffle, a testament to both team’s style of play, Spriggs, unexplainably and unnecessarily given the circumstances, lunged at Jepson catching the striker and Mr. Khan, after a minor delay, gave the midfielder his marching orders following an earlier caution.
The home side were now up against it and the dismissal of Spriggs gave Gedling an unforeseen and much-needed spark. The visitors’ football was good and Radford often found themselves on the defensive trying to preserve their score shorthanded.
Their best chance to level the scoreline came 15 minutes from time when Mason Coy found Spiers at the edge of the area but, despite turning well to evade attention, he couldn’t keep his left-footed effort down and the ball sailed comfortably over the crossbar. The opportunity followed Jackson’s earlier effort which was excellently parried away by Walker to keep his side in the game.
In the closing stages, Gedling remained the better team and certainly deserved more than the score suggested. However, in a nod to their experience and know-how, The Pheasant’s defensive four were excellent in limiting any further chances as the game neared its end and 4 minutes from time their efforts were rewarded as another former-Welfare striker put the game beyond doubt.
As the visitors pushed for the equaliser, inevitably committing more players forward, Radford broke with speed, spearheaded by Jackson, and his deft pass found the onrushing Eugene Francis who, with fine serenity, nonchalantly flicked the ball over Walker via the underside of the crossbar to ensure all 3 points and city bragging rights stayed at Selhurst Street.
Despite their spirited and gutsy performance, Gedling experienced their 7th consecutive defeat in the league but, based on this performance, should not be a record they will continue for much longer. They put their unwanted league form behind them on Tuesday night (6th November) as they welcome Arnold Town to Plains Road in the 2nd round of the Nottinghamshire Senior Cup, kick off 7.45pm.