Monday, January 12, 2009

Otley Town 6 Wheatley AFC 1

11 January 2009

With no match practice the previous week due to a frozen pitch, Wheatley AFC travelled to rivals Otley Town for what promised to be an entertaining derby match.

The blustery conditions were always going to prove tricky, but the game was played in admirable spirits and referee Tony Brown must be commended for arbitrating some free-flowing football. All too often officials bear the brunt of criticism. Neither side could have any grievances; Mr Brown was mostly spot on throughout the match.

Wheatley goalkeeper Andy Rhodes started brightly, parrying a low shot to his right after a clinical Otley build-up down the right flank. This installed some confidence in the Wheatley defence and was all the more remarkable since Rhodes made the save without gloves.

Wearing bright orange in the same vein as Holland, Otley turned on the style in a bid to play “total football”. Short, crisp passes were the order of the day. The home team was awarded two free kicks on the edge of the penalty area in successive minutes. The first was charged down by the gutsy Wheatley defenders; the second headed inches over the bar. It was all Otley now but Wheatley managed to endure the onslaught.

Wheatley skipper Andy Hibbert then played in midfielder Danny Bott with a sweeping long range pass. Bott’s shot clattered into the side-netting, but at least it was an attack with intent.

Otley were increasingly looking like to take the lead, so when Wheatley striker Rory Kroon opened the scoring after 25 minutes, it left the home bench bewildered. Kroon was put in on goal by a superb pass down the left wing by Al Hey. Keeping a calm head, the striker nicknamed K-Dog dinked across goal and slotted his shot in at the bottom left corner.

Although jubilant, Wheatley manager Mark Powell must have been wary. Wheatley have been guilty of late of conceding straight after scoring. The trend did not lie.

Otley opened their account two minutes later with a terrific shot by Richard Sharpe. He gave himself time to pick his spot and Rhodes could do nothing but watch the ball sail into the top left corner.

Otley deserved their goal, and were now starting to dictate proceedings. However, contrary to their dominance, it was Wheatley who should have gone 2-1 up. Young striker Danny Knight put Kroon in one-on-one with the Otley keeper. Both teams held their breath as the keeper went to ground, the ball falling to Kroon six yards in front of an open goal. Kroon tried to hit the back of the net with a powerful thump but only succeeded in hitting a Vauxhall Corsa in the busy car park.

A Wheatley lead would have been hard for Otley to take. Kroon’s open goal howler sparked a call to arms in the Otley ranks. Rhodes pulled off a fine save on 40 minutes and left back Dave Healy worked overtime to thwart waves of Otley attacks. 1-1 at half-time told only half the story.

Otley stepped up a gear in the second half. Danny Royston’s 55th minute shot was hit with venom, comfortably beating Rhodes at his near post. The home team was now eager to make it three, which they did courtesy of a Scott Firth free kick on 60 minutes. No one could dispute the Wheatley efforts but it was looking more and more likely that Otley would increase their two goal lead.

A golden opportunity to do exactly that was handed to them on a plate. Robust Wheatley defender Johnny Turnbull lunged earnestly in the box but the ball was nowhere to be seen. Penalty to Otley. The ball was again nowhere to be seen as it flew high over the bar from the penalty spot. A chance wasted by the home side from an effort more commonly seen half a mile up the road at Otley Rugby Club.

Nevertheless, Otley were fired up for the last twenty minutes. Danny Royston bagged his second of the day with a coolly placed shot, and followed this up five minutes later with his hat-trick from a feeble goal clearance by Rhodes. 5-1 to Otley with ten minutes left to play.

It would have been understandable had Wheatley thrown in the towel, but this is not in their nature. Midfield duo Andy Wheeler and Chris Quaife never gave up, and Richard Arundel made a triumphant return to the side at right-back.

Sam Dexter piled on the Wheatley misery with a rasping shot in the dying minutes. 6-1 may have flattered Otley Town, but there was no denying who were the better team. To add to Rhodes’s woes, referee Mr Brown labelled the young keeper “uncouth”. This will surely rally the troops for next week’s fixture.

Compliments go to all players for a keenly contested match, and to loyal supporter John Wood for providing goalkeeping gloves to Rhodes in the 20th minute.

Wheatley AFC travel to Angel FC next week hungry for victory. Manager Powell has hinted a return to the side in a bid to restore the side’s winning ways. There is indeed plenty to play for in 2009.

(Match report by guest contributor Lager)

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