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First team report
Sat 4th Feb 2017
Spartan South Midlands Premier Division
Leighton Town 1-3 TAFC First team TAFC goals: Christopher Vardy, Christopher Stapleton, Sam Jolliffe
VARDY AND STAPLETON TOO HOT FOR LEIGHTON
After a minor blip in midweek we returned to winning ways on our first ever league visit to Bell Close against Leighton Town. Our two Chris's, namely Vardy and Stapleton, played a decisive part scoring within seconds of each other in the first half to put us into a winning position which we never look like relinquishing.
After recent struggles with injuries and players being unavailable for various reasons it was great to welcome back Captain Dan Steadman and Vice Captain Sam Joliffe and there was the added bonus at seeing Ryan Sturges make his first start in two months. In addition new signing from London Colney Seb Smith made his second appearance and another new signing Jack Reed from Welwyn Garden City came on as a second half sub. This enabled us to field a better balanced side and we looked our usual solid self.
Vardy and Stapleton were a constant thorn in the home defense's side and the latter had a chance to open the scoring after only three minutes when he did very well to take a pass from Lee Stobbs in his stride but from a promising position he shot just wide of the far post.
After that early opportunity the game became a midfield battle with both sides winning corners and having shots that failed to hit the target or worry the keepers. Leighton's best efforts came from a fierce shot from Lewis McBride that struck one of our players and Martin Griggs wasted a good opportunity to pick out his unmarked fellow forward Lorrel Smith with the cross going behind him, although justice was done as the opportunity arose after the ball was won with a blatant foul that surprisingly went unpunished.
But the game was evenly balance and there was little to choose between the two teams until the 35th minute when we opened the scoring. A long clearance was deftly flicked on by Chris Stapleton to his fellow striker Chris Vardy who calmly slotted the ball past former Aylesbury United keeper Jack Sillitoe. Score 0-1.
Within seconds the roles were reversed as Chris Vardy's clever header sent Chris Stapleton through for an equally calm finish past Sillitoe, to add to the winning goal he scored on this ground against Leighton in the cup back in September. Score 0-2.
Within a blink of an eye the game had swung decisively in our favour and Leighton had a lot to ponder during the interval. HT Score 0-2.
As expected some wise managerial words would have been spoken in the home dressing room as the half time cuppas were being consumed and the players responded with a spirited attempt at a come back when play resumed.
For ten minutes we were forced back on defence and had to deal with a few corners and crosses. Luke Dunstan blocked an attempted shot and Jack Hopwood tipped over a fine long range effort from Vinny Greco. A goal may have changed the game and Leighton's best player Lewis McBride went close with a shot that hit the post and former Athletic player and home skipper Martin Griggs was just wide with a spectacular over head kick.
But gradually the home attacks fizzled out and we stretched our lead on the hour from a corner, just as some wise words from this writer said "we never score from corners". Sam Joliffe proved me wrong as he headed home a Lee Stobbs set piece for his 15 goal of the season to keep him just ahead of Chris Vardy who is on 14. Score 0-3.
That should have been that but within a minute a rare defensive error presented Leighton with an opportunity that Lorrel Smith gladly took with a cool finish. Score 1-3.
There was a glimmer of hope for Leighton and they did produce a decent cross or two that went unclaimed but we never looked like conceding any more goals and what clear chances that were created fell to us.
Chris Stapleton struck a free kick wide and later scuffed a shot at the keeper from a good position. Newcomer Jack Read fired a fine effort just over from 25 yards and Jamie Warne's shot beat the keeper but missed the target as we ran out comfortable winners in the end. FT Score 1-3.
Super performance and we showed great character to bounce back so quickly after our midweek defeat. We were clearly helped by having some key players back and with some others also due to return soon and with the squad boosted by the arrival of two good new signings in Seb Smith and Jack Read we will hopefully be in a strong position for the final run in to the season.
The win pushed us up one place to sixth but if we win our games in hand (extremely tough but doable) we could go as high as third. But we have two tough fixtures coming up with title contenders Hertford Town the visitors on Tuesday night then on Saturday we travel to Welwyn Garden City who are on the same points but are one place below us on goal difference having played two more games.
LT: 1 Jack Sillitoe 2 Connor McMillan 3 Lou is Norton (15 Adwale Odutow 86) 4 Vinny Greco (14 Aaron Richards 68) 5 Alex Condon 6 Hateley Mercer 7 Martin Griggs (Capt) 8 Lewis McBride 9 Lorrel Smith 10 Ben Gallant (12 Aaron McKee 73) 11 Dom Marsala. Sub not used: 16 Sam Tamakloe
TA: 1 Jack Hopwood 2 Luke Dunstan 3 Chris Mason 4 Ryan Sturges (14 Ben Alcock 76) 5 Dan Steadman (Capt) (15 Jamie Warne 64) 6 Seb Smith 7 Lee Stobbs 8 Sam Joliffe 9 Chris Vardy 10 George Carbery (12 Jack Read 76) 11 Chris Stapleton. Subs not used: 16 Stuart Stedman.
LT: Lorrel Smith (61)
TA: Chris Vardy (35), Chris Stapleton (36 ), Sam Joliffe (60)