Loddon United ease Anglian Combination relegation fears with win at Hempnall
After the long winter lay-off Loddon United managed to continue their improved Anglian Combination form with an excellent 2-1 derby win at Premier Division strugglers Hempnall.
The win eased United's own relegation worries, leaving them six points clear of Wymondham Town who are second from bottom – two points behind Loddon's weekend hosts.
Manager Nick Read elected to pair Gary Summons and Matt Ayre up front, with Ling and Clarke in the wider positions. Parkin partnered Rick Summons in the middle.
Hempnall showed little resistance to Loddon's strong start. An early cross from Andersen was cleared as far as Rick Summons but his left foot shot showed signs of rust. On six minutes, Andersen took a free-kick from the right that the keeper mistimed, and his punch fell to Gary Summons – his snap shot prodded home by a stretching Tom Baylis from close in to give Loddon an early lead.
Hempnall offered a few breaks with one stooping header wide, but Loddon's back four looked comfortable.
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Hancock and Ling combined down the right with Gary Summons earning a corner from the cross. From the corner Baylis took a push in the back which, had it been anywhere else on the park, would have been a free-kick.
Loddon continued to press and played some neat football. Ayre headed straight to the keeper from a corner, while superb play by Andersen saw him cover at the back and set Ling away. His driven cross beat the keeper but also the far post.
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After half an hour Hempnall started to ease their way into the game and a snap shot went just wide. Then from a throw, Rick Summons in attempting to clear connected with a Hempnall forward – enough to see a penalty was awarded.
However, Robinson at full stretch made a fabulous save at the base of his left post.
Moments later, Clarke set up Gary Summons to fire over from six yards. Quick thinking again by Clarke, saw him take a quick free-kick to set Ling away but the keeper gathered.
The game was now end to end as Robinson went long and Gary Summons bravely challenged the home keeper to no avail.
Just before the break, Durrant was almost caught in possession but managed to find Ayre and his delicate chip picked out Gary Summons who beat the keeper to send Loddon into the break 2-0 to the good.
Hempnall certainly looked a stronger outfit in the second half, and it was an even contest in the early stages. Great defending again by Hancock chesting down a cross to Robinson and Durrant covered a slip by Baylis. A great cross by Andersen just evaded Gary Summons and Hempnall also had a header just wide.
Parkin was the first to see a yellow card after pulling back an opponent, but Hancock again dealt with the free kick with ease. Parkin then had to concede a corner, a Hempnall header beat Robinson but Ling was on the line to clear well; the warning signs were there, but it was Loddon who had the next clear chance on 65 minutes. A Hancock throw was met by Ayre, it fell to Gary Summons who touched to Baylis who shot wide.
With about 20 minutes to go Ayre was given a rest, Collins came on to the right and Ling moved up front. The latter was the next to get a card with a late challenge. Parkin won the ball in midfield and found Andersen. Great play by him again made space and he found Hancock via the Ref., and Hancock's cross picked out Gary Summons and in turn, Collins. A super cross by him found Clarke at the far post but he could not capitalise on a golden opportunity. Hempnall broke quickly, but Collins chased back 60 yards to get in a challenge and win back the ball for his team. Ling was then put through but the home keeper won the 50:50. In the next foray, he played in Collins and another great cross picked out Clarke. Neat skill again by him, but tired legs, meant his off-balance shot was weak. This was his last action; he got a well earned rest and Jones came on.
With about 5 minutes remaining, a Hempnall corner was converted after a scramble to jangle the Loddon nerves. 1 - 2
A shirt pull by Andersen produced another yellow and from the free kick good pressure by Robinson forced a close range header wide; but earned Robinson a few bruises. Hempnall went route one trying to find the equaliser, but the spine of Loddon's midfield and defence was too strong and the visitors hung on to a precious three points.
Continuation of this team ethic and work rate of this calibre will ensure survival of Premier division status.
Great displays all around the field, especially the back five. But rather than single out one of those, Musker McIntyre MOM goes to Parkin for a solid all round display in the middle of the park both with and without the ball.
• Loddon: Robinson A; Hancock, Baylis, Durrant, Andersen R; Ling, Parkin, Summons R, Clarke; Summons G, Ayre M. Subs: Collins, Jones.