First's shock league leaders
The first team picked up three vital points on Saturday and inflicted a first league defeat of the season on leaders Westfield.
Having already knocked Westfield out of the Premier Challenge Cup the lads were full of confidence, but knew their opponents would be much changed from that cup encounter, and so it proved as Westfield fielded four changes from the cup game, including keeper Gary Ross and both of the league top scorers in Karle Carder-Andrews and Max Blackmore.
For us, their was one change to our last outing with Darren Salmon handing a debut to keeper Michael Eacott, in for the injured Ollie Ellaway.
Westfield started brightly, and in the opening minute Aaron Watson saw his low shot well saved by Eacott, although the flag had gone up for offside. The game was hugely competitive with both sides strong in the challenge, but in the early stages it was Westfield who were having the better of things.
It was somewhat against the run of play that we took the lead on 13 minutes. Matt Steer was caught in possession by Matty Auletta, who bore down on goal, took his shot early and beat Ross away to his right to give SCR the lead.
James Taylor was lucky to escape a booking for a poorly timed challenge on Carder-Andrews, before Westfields Adam Bellmaine did find his way into the book for a foul on Owen Davies. Difficult to criticise officials, but both probably should have been yellow, leading to much understable frustration on the Westfield bench.
Having taken the lead we settled more into the game, and on 20 minutes a decent strike by Matt Farrell went wide of the left hand post. The visitors were forced into a change on 23 minutes, when James Mariner went down injured after a challenge on Jean-Luc Kinsaba, and was replaced by Josh Gallimore.
The game was now a tight midfield battle with very few chances at either end, and defences on top. We were forced into a change on 40 minutes, when Taylor landed awkwardly and was forced off, to be replaced by Jeff Addo-Dankwa. Half time came with us holding a 1-0 lead.
We made our second change two minutes into the second half, when Matt Ferdinando was replaced by Craig Nelson. Cooper-Smith bought a comfortable gather out of Ross on 50 minutes, and the visitors levelled things up two minutes later. A foul by Addo-Dankwa gave Westfield a free kick in a dangerous position, from the delivery Aaron Bogle did superbly to prevent Blackmore from getting his head on the ball, but the respite was only temporary as from the corner Carder-Andrews was gifted the freedom of the area, and planted the ball beyond Eacott for 1-1.
Eacott did superbly to block a low Hicham Adbellah cross-shot as it seemed destined to reach Blackmore, then from the break Auletta did well on the right and his half cleared cross found Asa Rixon-Nicholls, who saw his shot cannon away off the left hand post. Two minutes later, and Auletta was at in again, but this time his cross found Cooper-Smith, and his effort was turned onto the post by Ross.
Blackmore went close on 64 minutes, but we managed to block the ball behind for a corner, and from that we were grateful to a well positioned Nelson, who hooked Adbellah's low shot off the line, to keep the scores level.
Nelson found his way into the book on 66 minutes for a foul, and Farrell joined him for a foul of Kyle Bailey. Five minutes later and Westfield replaced Bellmaine with Graeme Purdy as they looked to put us under more pressure, and pick up the three points.
We retook the lead with fifteen minutes remaining, Farrell intercepted a pass out of the backline, and played a delightful ball into Rixon-Nicholls, who got just enough on it to lift it over Ross and beyond the anguished lunge of the Westfield defender, to give SCR a 2-1 lead.
Cooper-Smith then crashed one beyond Ross, but onto the bar, as we looked to clinch the win. Westfield started to up the pressure again, and from a long throw into our box, Eacott somehow blocked Purdys close range effort behind for a corner, and then made a good diving catch from the Steer header.
Liam Holden replaced the tiring man of the match Rixon-Nicholls in the 85th minute, and the visitors were reduced to ten on 87 minutes. A ball over the top by Cooper-Smith found Kinsaba, who was clattered into by Ross just outside the area, earning the keeper a red card (his second in successive games against SCR). From the free kick Cooper-Smith failed to trouble stand in keeper Dale Burnham.
Into stoppage time and we conceeded a needless free kick on the edge of the area, Carder-Andrews effort beat the wall, but not the flying Eacott who turned it behind for a corner, which we cleared and the three points were secured.
Well done to the lads on an excellent performance, and JT we are all thinking of you pal.