Improved display keeps Reserves on promotion course

Action from Oakham United against Thrapston Town. Photo: Geoff Atton EMN-151221-100308001
Action from Oakham United against Thrapston Town. Photo: Geoff Atton EMN-151221-100308001

Oakham United Reserves’ league record now stands at 12 wins, 0 draws and 0 defeats after a close, battling 2-1 win away at Parkway Eagles in the PDFL Division Two, which shouldn’t have been as close as the result suggested.

Oakham got off to a more promising start, looking to use their pace on the flanks to get at the Parkway defence, but early on they struggled to create any major chances. Their first real chance fell to Cam Brookes after 10 minutes, as he was played in down the left flank, but his shot went over the crossbar. A few minutes later, Liam Mullineaux came close when he received the ball on the right corner of the 18 yard box, but his low shot dragged wide.

Parkway were now getting into the match, but Oakham were able to force them into only taking long-range shots at goal. That was until about halfway through the half when Liam Oliver-Smith pounced on a poor back-header from Ben Cox, but stand-in keeper Nick Buff managed to get a goal-saving tackle in before he could shoot.

From here Oakham began to improve and the defence got to grips with the high winds that faced them, allowing the forward players a little more freedom. With fewer than 15 minutes to go in the half, Oakham finally broke the deadlock as Brookes scored his tenth goal of the season, prodding the ball home from close range following a Mullineaux cross, which was whipped in behind the defence.

Oakham finished the half striving for a second goal, but were unable to find a way through, despite efforts from Mullineaux, Lucas Alais and Will Lee. Oakham were denied a stonewall penalty just before the interval, when Lee was fouled from behind in the area. Somehow, the referee thought the challenge was a fair one and waved play on.

Despite the lead, Oakham were warned at half-time that they still needed to improve, especially in the final third. They didn’t heed this warning and within five minutes of the restart, Parkway were level. Buff charged out of his area to intercept the ball, beating Oliver-Smith to it, only to see it bobble over his foot and Oliver-Smith duly passed the ball into the empty net.

The game became a cagey affair for the next 20 minutes or so, but Oakham didn’t let the setback get to them and they pushed for a winner. Despite chances from Brookes, Lee, Alais and Sam Linford, Oakham were not able get their winner until the 76th minute. Oakham were pressing on the edge of the Parkway area and Alais managed to slip the ball to Brookes, who turned a defender before slotting the ball under the keeper for his fourth goal in two games.

Oakham managed the game well for the remaining minutes and held on for a hard-fought victory.

Oakham Assistant manager Dave Grieve said: “The lads improved on last week’s performance, although some of their decision making left a lot to be desired, especially in the final third. The defence suffered a bit of a shaky start, but they grew into the match and they gave the attack-minded players a solid base to build on.

“We should have scored a couple more, but Parkway defended well and in numbers and we still can’t get our heads around the referee’s decision to not give us a clear penalty. But, sometimes these things happen and we’ve got to move forward and get the most out of the three matches we have coming up in the space of seven days.”

Oakham Reserves: Nick Buff; Ben Cox, Aaron Simpson, Ash Chamberlain; Liam Mullineaux (Sam Watchorn), James Dalby, Sam Linford (Nathan Liptrot), Craig Welbourn, Cam Brookes; Will Lee (c), Lucas Alais

Subs (unused): Joey Watchorn, George Maxwell, Charlie McKie