Pickering Town 1, Hall Road Rangers 1

Saturday October 28

Mill Lane

Toolstation NCEL Premier Division

By Neil Winsor

Photographs supplied by Lee Myers

“IT is how you fair against the teams around you that define your season” is a quote used at all levels of football, however a point for Hall Road Rangers at title hopefuls Pickering Town yesterday afternoon, showed once again that Rangers have all the credentials to be competitive at this level.

They rode their luck on occasion granted, but showed they were up for the battle and despite falling behind just three minutes into the second half, they got their reward for sticking to the task, and showing great resiliency.

So when leading scorer Chris Spinks guided Fraser Hansen’s effort, spearing past Pikes debutant goalkeeper Charlie Andrew, deep into added time, it was no more then they deserved.

In a game with seven bookings, the action on the pitch was, for the most part, played in the competitive spirit you would come to expect from a NCEL Premier Division fixture, and despite the number of cautions, was far from a ‘dirty’ game.

Hall Road were fresh off their FA Vase win at Ashington last weekend, and the knock sustained on Thursday night at training for Tom Bennett failed to keep him out of the side, as he once again took the captain’s armband and led from the front with a tiresome work-rate and simplicity whilst in possession.

PHOTO: Rangers captain Tom Bennett slips past Lewis Taylor in a non-stop action display

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Louis Bruce showed his versatility by coming back into the side at left-back in the place of James Whittingham, completing his full sweep of positions amongst Rangers back four this season.

As also expected, the hosts enjoyed the majority of possession in the first period, but like at Ashington last weekend, Rangers work-rate ensured Pickering’s sometimes pedestrian tempo was ineffective much to the chagrin and frustration of the home support.

The hosts could maybe put this down to having to re-shuffle their pack early on as they lost full-back Russ Parker to injury with just three minutes played.

They registered their first effort on goal a minute later, the diminutive figure of Lewis Taylor drifted in a corner which found the head of George Bissett who nodded wide of the post.

Taylor again threatened as he slid in from the left however Rangers stopper James Hitchcock positioned himself well to gather the shot.

Hall Road showed great discipline defensively, and although taking their time to settle into the game as an attacking force, Bennett and Josh Batty combined nicely, only to see Batty’s glancing header saved well by Andrew at the midway point of the first half.

Hitchcock was called into action with his first real save of the afternoon, Alex Davidson carried the ball inside from the left, and after looking up, his curling effort arrowing towards the far post was tipped away well by the recent capture.

PHOTO: Hall Road keeper James Hitchcock made a number of fine saves to keep his side in the game

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The former Bridlington keeper was again called into action again before the break as a lapse in concentration by Sam Belcher saw Ryan Blott through on goal.

After notching four goals in the midweek 9-2 thrashing of Harrogate Railway, Blott looked odds-on add to his free-scoring week, however Hitchcock denied him well low down, and Belcher recovered well to complete the clearance taking a kick to the foot in the process in Pickering’s best chance of the half.

There was a delay in play as Josh Batty collided nastily with Charlie Andrew challenging for a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area, before a huge talking point before the break.

In an off the ball incident, Rangers midfielder Conner Harman was stamped on, and despite the referee Chris Keightley in a seemingly excellent position he somehow booked the Rangers birthday boy, celebrating his 22nd birthday on the day, for his protests.

Half-time – Pickering Town 0, Hall Road Rangers 0

For the first five minutes of the second half Hall Road failed to get out of the blocks as their hosts looked to up the tempo and they were caught napping three minutes after the restart.

A surging run out of defence by Bissett saw him carry the ball 30 yards before slipping the ball in behind the Rangers defence on the left angle.

The resulting cross narrowly evaded Hitchcock, and the sliding effort by Danny Gray rebounded off the unfortunate keeper and Gray needed no further invitation as he slotted home from inside the six yard box.

Despite trying to play on, Rangers were forced into bringing off Josh Batty minutes later, due to the earlier knock he sustained and he was replaced by Sam O’Malley.

Pickering began to look dangerous in the opening spell of the second half but the game felt as though it still had life for the visitors, despite Hitchcock having to save at his near post with his legs.

A number of corners were swept away by Hall Road as they kept themselves in the game.

Danny Norton and Fraser Hansen were livewires on either flank, whilst the introduction of Sam O’Malley, had given Rangers another option with his strength and ability to hold the ball up, whilst Chris Spinks worked tirelessly up front.

Norton had a half-shout at a penalty appeal turned away, as he was bodychecked after slithering into the penalty area with 62 minutes on the clock, a penalty on this occasion though in truth may have been unfair on the hosts.

PHOTO: Fraser Hansen, with Danny Norton were excellent in their wide roles for Hall Road yesterday

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Bill Gill and his assistant Andy Watts turned to their substitutes and replaced Harman with Jack Binns, and then Jake Vernon made way for Benn Lewis.

As the clock ticked down though it seemed as Rangers missed their best chance on 87 minutes.

Norton was again the catalyst on the right hand side, and as he slipped the ball into Bennett with the goal at his mercy, a fantastic last ditched tackle kept ‘The Pikes’ lead intact.

Hall Road continued to plug away though, and got their equaliser three minutes into the four given for added time at the end.

Hansen, against his former club fired an effort goalwards from the left edge, but it was Spinks who was in the right place at the right time to guide the ball past Andrew and spark fantastic celebrations to gift a well earned point to nudge Rangers upto 12th in the table, earning a respectable 20 points from their opening 15 games of the season.

Full-time – Pickering Town 1 (Danny Gray 48), Hall Road Rangers 1, (Chris Spinks 90+3)

PHOTO: Chris Spinks prepares to be mobbed after netting the equaliser which earned Rangers a point

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Rangers: 1. James Hitchcock, 2. Danny Norton, 3. Louis Bruce, 4. Sam Belcher, 5. James Piercy, 6. Conner Harman (for Binns 68), 7. Tom Bennett (capt), 8. Jake Vernon (for Lewis 72), 9. Josh Batty (for O’Malley 47), 10. Chris Spinks, 11. Fraser Hansen

The bench: 12. Jack Binns, 14. Sam O’Malley, 15. Benn Lewis, 16. James Whittingham

The opposition: 1. Charlie Andrew, 2. Russ Parker (For Denton, 3), 3. Joe Danby, 4. Lewis Taylor, 5. George Bissett, 6. Niall Tilsley (capt), 7. Ged Dalton (for Freer 58), 8. Eddie Birch, 9. Ryan Blott, 10. Danny Gray, 11. Alex Davidson (for Terrell 84)

The bench: 12. Sam Denton, 14. Callum Terrell, 15. Brad Freer, 16. Denny Ingram, (GK) Harry Andrews

View from the dug-out – By Bill Gill

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“Today went exactly as we had planned and apart from their goal, just after half time we never planned on that and that’s why we didn’t take all three points today.

Tactically we set up and approached the game with a system we trusted.

We also made substitutions at the correct time in the right positions to effect the outcome of the game, and at one-nil down I saw another level to our game.

The lads from one to sixteen ran through walls for each other, battled in 1v1s and showed great desire and hunger to demonstrate they are true contenders in this league on their day.

It reminded me of away performances at Handsworth Parramore, Hemsworth MW, and the vase game last weekend.

I’m very proud of the boys today.

To get a point at Pickering is a great result as many managers will tell you, but what the score didn’t tell you, is that we also had chances to win, and their goal came from our mistake.

We give full credit to Pickering and their manager Paul Marshall, they look favourites to win the league, they have the strength and depth as well as bags of experience.

I wish them all the best we now look forward to a home game against Worksop next week