Bishops Cleeve stunned promotion chasing Winchester City as they keep their survival hopes alive after winning 4-2 at Kayte Lane, writes Bill Ledbury.
It was a lively start to the match, both teams failing to get a real foothold of the game and a number of hard challenges being thrown in.
But it didn’t take long for the home side to open the scoring. Harli Price latched onto a loose ball in the penalty area and drilled his effort past the hapless Ryan Price, putting the home side 1-0 up in the first two minutes – delight for manager Stephen Cleal.
Winchester were caught with Price’s sucker- punch, so they went in search of an equaliser from the get-go.They had a penalty appeal turned down on fifteen minutes, Dan Williamson felt he was dragged by a Cleeve defender.
However two minutes later Winchester were awarded a penalty, defender Jordan Staten pulled down Oli Bailey giving the Citizens a route back into the game. Captain Jamie Barron made no mistake dispatching his spot kick.
It was all Winchester from then on, forward Pat Cox’s miraculous volley from a tight angle crashed off the up-right.
But when you thought that the Mitre’s heads would drop, they retook the lead on 23 minutes. A mishap from defender Danny King, as his back pass wrong-footed the keeper and rolled into the back of the net.
Stephen Cleal’s men were fighting for every ball, and they were in dreamland on 35 minutes. A shot from Jack Watts was parried by Price, and Harrison Iddles was on-hand to smash in the rebound.
The Mitre’s cruised into half-time with a two goal cushion to protect.
The Citizen’s started the second-half with a real impetus taking the game to Bishops Cleeve. They forced keeper Sam Gilder into a number of saves, but failed to convert any of their efforts.
After a lively start to the second-half, similar to the first, the match sizzled down and both sides failed to create any clear-cut opportunities. Winchester forward Pat Cox saw his header saved a point-blank range.
In the 72nd minute, Bishops Cleeve almost extended their lead to three goals. The Mitre’s were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out, after winger Jack Watts was brought down. Midfielder Joe Bates stepped up to take the set-piece and saw his shot cannon of the post.
With Winchester throwing everything at the Mitre’s defence, they held strong and started a counter attack of their own. Bishops Cleeve maestro Joe Bates broke at break-neck speed, and he was tripped in the area giving the referee no option but to award the spot-kick. The midfielder stepped up and placed his penalty beyond Ryan Price.
The Citizens did however pull one goal back. Striker Oli Bailey’s effort evaded the Mitre’s defence and beat Simon Gilder in the Bishops Cleeve goal.
However Bishops Cleeve held on to secure their third home victory of the season, taking them within 7 points of Barnstaple Town, with a game in-hand and 14 matches left to play.
Severn Sport caught up with Cleeve boss Stephen Cleal after tonights clash at Kayte Lane.
”We’re very pleased” he said. “It’s important that the next 14 games we have, we need to attack them and try to get as many points on the board and see what can happen”
“I said to the lads tonight that we can’t influence what happens at Barnstaple, we can only influence what happens ourselves.”
Cleal expressed his delight of his sides character to regain the lead so quickly after conceding.
“I think the own-goal happening so soon after we conceded really helped, we were rightfully on top. We took the lead because we demanded it and scored a good goal. And to be fair the referee awarded them a penalty which the lad tucked away, but full credit to our lads for going right on the front foot and putting us 3-1 ahead”
“Going into half-time two goals ahead of a team chasing the play-offs gave us real confidence to go on and win the game.”
The Bishops Cleeve manager praised his sides team performance, but felt that a number of individuals were pivotal in their victory over the Citizens.
“I thought our two lads in the middle smelt the danger that Winchester possessed, and it was a case of continuing that in the second-half and not giving them a sniff.”
One stand-out player was midfielder and Severn Sport man of the match Joe Bates who was instrumental in the Mitre’s starting lineup this evening.
“Joe’s a very good footballer, he’s joined us on-loan from Worcester City and has covered for us a few-times this season. He’s lacking confidence after his sending off at Taunton – and he needs to learn from that”
“But he’s a quality footballer, and tonight showed why we are very lucky to have him at the Football Club.”
Looking ahead to the Mitre’s next clash, they host high-flyers Salisbury next weekend as they approach their remaining matches in the Evo-Stick Southern League West.
”The important thing after a win is to follow it up. Salisbury are second in the league for a reason. They’ve got one of the biggest budgets so it’ll be tough.
“But we can’t have any fear, we’ve got 14 cup finals left where we’ve just got to attack them all and see what happens. We got our first point against them away from home, which no-one expected us to get anything from there.
“They’ll be up for Saturday as they look to secure second place, it’ll be difficult for us but we just have to make sure we play to our strengths and get something out of the game.”