Four points improve Loddon United’s Anglian Combination record
Anglian Combination Premier Division outfit Loddon United strengthened their mid-table position with victory over Spixworth, before earning an excellent 3-3 draw at Kirkley & Pakefield Reserves in midweek.
Loddon United 1, Spixworth 0: In this enthralling encounter, Loddon somehow pinched all three points through resolute defending and a touch of pure class up front on Saturday.
It was fairly even in the early stages; Loddon were trying to play and Spixworth relied heavily on their keeper's massive kicks and looked particularly dangerous on the break. One such saw Loddon's back line beaten, Stebbings rounded but fortunately the flag was raised.
Both sides had chances as the first half finished goalless – although the hosts' were much the better – but the second half saw Spixworth up the tempo and Loddon struggled to match it.
Loddon had another let off after losing possession, thanks to one of several welcome offside flags.
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United had a decent spell but 20 minutes into the half they survived another scare. Durrant was beaten but the visiting forward sliced his shot against the post and then the same player got through again only to see his shot deflected for a corner.
With then tide turning against Loddon, manager Nick Read brought on Sayer for Smith, moved Collins to the middle, Halls to the right and Ayre up front.
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And what an inspired move it proved to be. Ayre battled to get his head to a high ball and found Halls; he controlled sweetly, took on his marker and beat him with ease, cut inside on to his left foot and curled an unstoppable shot around the helpless keeper and into the far top corner.
It was an exquisite finish worthy of winning any game.
This prompted Spixworth to step up their efforts. A goalmouth scramble saw Stebbings make a great save and then Sayer dived to deflect the follow-up over the bar. Pasque cleared the corner, Halls charged down a shot.
After another attack, Andersen had the audacity to coolly chest the ball down to his keeper on the goal line. At one point, Spixworth had three forwards in the six-yard box vying for the same ball; with the goal at their mercy they kicked each other and gave Loddon a goal-kick.
Durrant seemed to get on the end of everything Spixworth could throw into the box, Pasque lost possession but chased back 60 yards to retrieve, which pretty much summed up the spirit of the team; and with that Loddon held on for a great win.
Defensively as a group, again superb, and Stebbings made some great stops, but Musker McIntyre MOM goes to Chris Hall for the shear class of his finish.
• Loddon: Stebbings; Weston, M Ayre, Durrant (capt), R Andersen; Collins, Smith, Pasque, R Read; G Summons, Halls. Subs: Sayer, N Read.
• Kirkley & Pakefield Reserves 3, Loddon United 3 The rain held off for Tuesday evening kick-off as Kirkley threatened to overrun Loddon in the early stages.
On eight minutes, Pasque lost possession and both Weston and Andersen failed in their respective tackles to allow Kirkley to open the scoring early.
Loddon struggled to cope with the home team's pace and movement, but on 20 minutes Andersen had a forage forward, took on the home defence and drew a free-kick 25 yards out. Hall stepped up and with great technique, curled the ball into the top corner with the keeper fully stretched.
Just before half-time a Kirkley runner sliced through the Loddon defence, drew Stebbings and squared to give the overlapping right back an easy finish.
Loddon looked more composed in the second half and on 53 minutes a long ball by Kirkley's keeper fell to Sayer, who tried to clear but only found a forward. He drove into the box and Andersen's tackle was deemed a foul and the penalty was converted to make it 3-1.
But United had not given up on this game. On 75 minutes Andersen picked up a loose clearance and fed Pasque, who unleashed an unstoppable 30-yard strike into the top corner.
Loddon had their tails up and Kirkley showed nerves. Yet again Andersen provided a telling cross. Summons did well to challenge and get his head to the ball, which fell to Smith and with one touch he set his sights and from eight yards volleyed sweetly to put Loddon level.
Loddon went looking for a winner; Baylis came on to rest Ayre, Hall had his shirt pulled in the box, then tested the keeper, Kirkley went close from a free-kick and the spoils were deservedly shared.
For a top notch second-half display where he covered most of the pitch, delivered telling passes and scored the pick of the three quality goals, Musker McIntyre MOM goes to Matt Pasque.
• Loddon: Stebbings; Weston, Sayer, Durrant (capt), R Andersen; Collins, Pasque, G Summons, R Read; Hall, M Ayre. Subs: Hancock, Smith, Baylis.