Oakham United Reserves progressed to the second round of the PFA Challenge Cup after the PDFL Division Two side kept up their winning ways in style with a 4-0 victory against PDFL Division One side Whittlesey Athletic Reserves.
Oakham looked to see how far they had progressed this season when they faced Whittlesey Reserves and also wanted a bit of revenge, having previously been eliminated from a cup by Whittlesey’s third team.
They started positively and with only seven minutes gone, found themselves a goal to the good through Sam Linford.
Pete Shirley broke down the right flank from in his own half and carried the ball all the way into the penalty area before being challenged. Despite the challenge, he was able to poke a shot at goal and just before it tickled in, a defender swept it off the goal line, but that clearance only went as far as Lucas Alais whose shot fell to Cameron Brookes. Brookes then slid the ball to Linford, who was able to tap home.
Oakham continued to press but were unable to extend their lead and Whittlesey played their way back into the match. They began to look dangerous in the final third, but only managed one shot on target which was well saved by stand-in goalkeeper Martin Owers.
In the wet conditions, the match grew into a bit of a midfield scrap and neither team were able to create any clear cut chances and neither keepers’ goals were really troubled.
Just when everyone thought it was going to remain 1-0 at the interval, Linford pulled a brilliant finish out of nowhere to extend Oakham’s lead.
Craig Welbourn threw the ball in to Linford on the left and he cut inside before letting fly from 20 yards and the ball sailed into the far top corner, leaving the keeper no chance.
Oakham came out for the second half knowing they still needed another goal to kill the game off, but they started poorly and nearly let Whittlesey back into the game, but again Owers managed to keep them at bay. A shot was deflected and after going to his left at first, Owers quickly readjusted to get down to his right and at the last moment, tip the ball around the post for a corner.
This scare woke Oakham from their slumber and they began to press and attack more, as they searched for a third goal. Their best efforts came from volleys from Welbourn, who had been pushed forward after Brookes had taken a minor knock, but they both sailed over the crossbar.
It turned out to be third time’s the charm for him though, as he made it 3-0 with 25 minutes remaining. James Dalby took a throw in from the right to Nathan Arkle, but he was not able to latch onto the ball and it rolled to Welbourn, who calmly slotted home from just inside the box.
Oakham were now able to control the game and were determined to get more goals. However, Whittlesey weren’t ready to give up and they fought back, but they were unable to hit the target with their efforts at goal.
Oakham had made a couple of changes, including reintroducing Brookes and with 15 minutes remaining, he nearly made it four as he was played into the area and his curling effort beat the keeper, but not the far post.
A few minutes later Whittlesey nearly reduced the arrears as they had another shot deflect off a defender, but this one still just stayed within Owers’ reach and he brilliantly got his fingertips to the ball and tipped it onto the post. From there, Ash Chamberlain cleared the ball long to Brookes, who drove into the area and passed the ball past the ‘keeper.
Oakham controlled the final 10 minutes and progressed to the second round.
Assistant manager Dave Grieve said: “We knew this would be our toughest test so far, as they are playing in the division which we are trying to get into. We had to send a few players up to the first team, including our regular ‘keeper Andy Collin, but I think we performed very well throughout.
“Martin played brilliantly, especially as the last time he played in goal was for me in the A team, 3 seasons ago!
“At 1-0, they played some good football to try and get back on level terms and they caused us several problems. However, the defence and midfield dug in well and allowed us to attack with a fair amount of freedom.”
Oakham United: Martin Owers; James Dalby (Dave Grieve), Will Lee (c), Ash Chamberlain, Craig Welbourn; George Maxwell; Pete Shirley (Sam Watchorn), Nathan Arkle, Sam Linford, Cam Brookes (Joey Watchorn); Lucas Alais (Charlie McKie)
Sub unused: Aaron Simpson