Cleethorpes Town 4, Hall Road Rangers 1
Wednesday August 2
Bradley Football Development Centre
Match Report by Neil Winsor
HALL Road Rangers tasted defeat for the first time in their pre-season campaign after battling valiantly at a strong Cleethorpes Town side.
The NCEL Premier Division champions although at times were direct, showed the clinical edge required as two goals in the second half rounded off both team’s pre-season schedules and gave the scoreline a convincing look to it.
Hall Road stopper and former Cleethorpes man David Birch made a number of key saves in a first half that also saw his opposite number deny Josh Batty.
With both sides keen to avoid any last minute injuries ahead of their respective FA Cup ties at the weekend, the game was played in a competitive spirit as both sides named strong line-ups.
The hosts named eight of the starting line-up which featured in the FA Vase final in May, whilst Rangers boss Dave Ricardo was only without James Whittingham and Danny Chambers, whilst captain Phil Dobson started on the bench.
Dobson’s replacement David Birch who ironically joined the NCEL First Division champions from Cleethorpes was the busier of the two keepers early on.
Birch could do nothing though about the hosts opener on eleven minutes.
Cleethorpes striker Marc Cooper rose highest to nod home from close range after a right hand side corner.
Hall Road responded well though and immediately Josh Batty’s stinging long range effort had to be tipped round the post by a flying Liam Higton.
Birch kept Rangers in the game in the first half and pulled off a smart save low down after a mistake by James Piercy saw Andy Taylor race clear midway through the first half.
Hall Road began to get to grips against their more illustrious opponents after half an hour in their best attacking spell of the contest.
Chris Spinks corner was met by Piercy who’s powerful header was aimed straight at Higton.
Piercy was not to be denied seven minutes before the break though, when he again met a Spinks corner and appeared to get the best of his marker, by powering home his header to level.
In drizzling conditions the hosts zipped the ball around well showing their confidence.
They re-took the lead within a minute as Hall Road switched off defensively.
After tipping an original effort onto the crossbar whilst been faced one-on-one, the rebound did Birch no favours as Liam Davis smashed home past Sam Belcher and another Rangers defender at the near post to restore the hosts lead.
Rangers continued to battle away but the all-important next goal came for the hosts on 68 minutes in spectacular fashion.
Piercy only half cleared a dangerous looking cross from the left and as the ball dropped to Andy Taylor on the edge of the penalty area his half-volley flew into the top corner.
At this point Phil Dobson replaced Birch and the evergreen keeper palmed a long range free kick round the post before Cleethorpes gave the scoreline a dominant look to it two minutes from time.
The covering Josh Batty bundled down Taylor in the penalty area and with the resulting penalty expertly placed, in off the right hand post, sending Dobson the opposite way Hall Road although well beaten by the score will take plenty of positives from their final pre-season outing.