Bartestree 0-1 Stone Old Alleynians
Danny Heard’s fourth minute header secured three points for Alleynians from a tricky away day at Bartestree.
A battling performance, in a feisty encounter, was enough to see the Old Boys triumph in a game that was played on a pitch that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a farm during the ploughing season.
As one might expect on a pitch in early February it was not a game for the purists, but dominant performances from centre backs Luke Askey and Ian Whalley, kept the Herefordshire side at bay.
It was a dream start for Matt Smith’s men; clever play from Carl Dibden on the edge of the Bartestree box played in Paul Griffiths. The skipper’s shot beat the keeper, but not the bar, but Heard found himself in just the right place to nod home the rebound, beyond the reach of the despairing keeper.
Bartestree came close to a leveller soon after, Whalley was penalised for a strong tackle on the edge of the box, but the host’s skipper put the resulting free-kick inches wide of the goal.
The home side used the slope to their advantage, launching balls deep into the Stone half, but the Old Boys defence remained resolute, limiting keeper Matt Burslem’s work to a handful of easy saves.
Carl Dibden should have doubled the lead when an excellent pass from Griffiths saw him clean through on goal, but the striker’s effort went narrowly wide of the far post.
The Old Boys again came close to doubling their lead after the break, Adam Tomkinson was sent clear by Heard but the onrushing keeper smothered superbly to deny the winger. And Tomkinson was then denied by the woodwork, when his free kick struck the bar.
A late spell of pressure from the host’s nearly paid dividends when a poor clearance from Burslem fell to the feet of the Bartestree right winger, who jinked his way to the edge of the box before curling his shot agonisingly wide of the target.
And then some excellent play by the right winger saw his cross blazed over the bar from the edge of the six yard box by the Trees striker.
The hosts always looked a threat in the final third but any hope of salvaging a point was extinguished in the final minute when their right back was dismissed for a cynical foul on Whalley who had raced clear.
Manager Matt Smith was impressed with the way his side dealt with the conditions.
“It turned out to be a real battle. The pitch was very heavy and made it difficult to play football on. We adapted very well and defensively we were excellent, in particular the two centre halves,” said smith
“We could have killed the game off with the chances that we had but because of how well we defended they never truly threatened us. But it’s a good start to what is a big month ahead of us.” Smith added.
Stone OA: Burslem, Bigham, Askey, Whalley, Taylor, Sinclair, Griffiths (c), Wilson, Tomkinson (C Heard), D Heard, Dibden (Thomas)