Arnold Town succumbed to their third successive three goal margin defeat on a heavy sloping pitch at Ashbourne Rec. Any thoughts of an advantage for hosts Mayfield due to the conditions however are countered by the fact that until the ever obliging Arna rolled up Mayfield hadn’t managed to find a single team they could beat on home soil, muddy or otherwise, all season.
Dressed in their old yellow and blue kit to avoid a colour clash with the home claret the Eagles’ starting line-up contained just one change from their previous loss at Linby with new signing from Teversal Eddie Morgan taking the place of the unavailable Billy Bradley. Meanwhile a further new arrival midfielder Owen Taylor (from Ashland) shared the subs bench with James Martin.
Arna were kicking up the slope in the first half and thus defending the boggier end. At left back Kyme Mason had himself half an acre of marshland to patrol and in the absence of any hard standing the spectators along the line nearby had a fair idea of the terrain he faced.
An extraordinary chance in the first minute should have seen the Eagles ahead from the off. Eddie Morgan began as he meant to go on down the right wing and promptly advanced play towards the bi-line. Somehow a pass inside to Trem Lindo saw the ball float across the goal from Trem’s kneecap (or some such) and brush against the crossbar. Following up Tyler Cobb was literally so close to the goal he was in danger of heading the post. Only in an Arna report could we have the effort flying wide of the target.
Two minutes later at the other end Mayfield’s expansive target man John Ford rumbled into action down the incline finding only keeper Piotr Strycharz standing in his path. Thankfully yellows skipper Adam Clift was able to catch up with play and apply a well judged intervention receiving a hefty clip for his trouble.
Despite the heavy pitch and very unpredictable bounce the visitors were managing to play the ball around quite well at times in the early hard going. As the game progressed a frustrating pattern soon began to emerge. From the midfielder still looking to score his first goal for the club in his 31st appearance right through to the striker who has recently joined the 20 goal honours board no one in an Arna shirt looked capable of hitting a barn door from ten paces despite having numerous opportunities to do so.
With 21 minutes gone another incisive run by Morgan ended with a nicely rolled invitation to shoot for Lewis Neville on the edge of the area from where the ball whistled past the left hand post. Then, with Arnold continuing to press for an opener, they found themselves a goal down three minutes later following a quick Mayfield counter attack.
The danger sprang down the right flank from where a lofted ball found Ford patrolling acres of free space. With all the time in the word at his disposal the centre forward provided a swift contrast to Arnold’s woeful finishing with a well directed low drive past the diving Strycharz into the bottom right hand corner.
Just as Arnold were attempting to re-group and set themselves up for some more much needed shooting practice they were caught out on the break again on 34 mins. An alert Mayfield midfielder approaching the centre circle spotted a huge gap in the Arna back line and applied a simple defence splitting pass out into the path of his left winger, Sam Handley. Handley to be fair still had several yards to travel with the ball, pick his spot and apply a clinical low drive past Strycharz to locate that pesky bottom right hand corner again to make it two out of two for the Mayfield conversion rate.
Now two down Arnold knew the next goal had to be theirs if they had any chance of getting something from the game and indeed they continued to create regular goalscoring opportunities. On 37 mins a ball towards the Mayfield area from the left was well controlled by Dan Chambers who managed a neat turn and forceful shot which flew just inches above the cross bar. Minutes later following more impressive wing play by Morgan another perfectly slotted pass to Jake Ogden produced a low drive which again failed to trouble the home keeper who probably retained the cleanest shirt on the pitch.
Just before the break an almighty scramble in the marsh from a Mayfield corner saw all hands to the pump as Arna defenders flew every which way to block two or three goal bound efforts in order to keep the half time deficit at 0-2. Opting not to trudge the quarter of a mile up the slope to the changing rooms Lenny Jenkins called the troops to the half way line where they attempted to make some al fresco sense of proceedings.
With the benefit of the slope and Mayfield’s defence now having to contend with the tricky marshlands Arnold enjoyed even more of the attacking play throughout a second period in which the home team appeared quite content to sit deep and hold onto their advantage.
Again a string of chances were squandered. Good work by Dan Chambers provided another opportunity for Ogden to run through on goal and try his luck. Moments later the same striker was found by Neville to create a one on one chance against the home keeper but a chipped effort wasn’t lifted quite high enough to get past the onrushing custodian.
With the misses mounting up and the hour mark passed manager Ash White sent on his two available subs providing a debut for midfielder Owen Taylor. But the body language on the pitch was now starting to suffer as an understandable degree of frustration began seeping into the Eagles’ game. A frustration mirrored it must be said by those of us watching on the side lines.
Efforts to rectify matters were still being made however. Jake Ogden in particular, no doubt struggling to believe how it was he wasn’t on the scoresheet, was rushing about all over the place trying to trigger some sort of upturn in the visitors’ fortunes. Such efforts were further hindered after Arnold’s man of the match Morgan was the subject of a hefty challenge which saw him virtually hobbling throughout the remainder of the game although he manfully did his best to keep up his notable contribution.
All hopes of a comeback were dashed with about ten minutes remaining. A Mayfield corner from the right was met at a crowded near post by Paul Williams who managed to beat everyone to the ball to head home from close range and complete the scoring at 3-0 for a most welcome three points for our hosts.
To their credit the Arna continued the search for some sort of consolation right to the end but despite enjoying the bulk of possession never really looked likely to break their duck on a day when numerous chances came and went.
All in all an afternoon pretty much to forget. Especially given the hour long traffic jam to contend with upon leaving a ground which had take your reporter and his co-pilot two hours to find in the first place!