Gloucester 2-2 AFC Telford United – Report

Set against the backdrop of their ongoing search for a new manager, the Bucks showed further evidence of improvement under interim manager Dennis Greene; however, they also showed that some of their self-destructive tendencies remain, and it took a stunning injury-time equaliser from Kai Williams to claim a point.

Kai WIlliams Cross.
Kai WIlliams Cross.

The Bucks at one stage looked set to collect all three points for a victory but conceded an equaliser, had Theo Streete dismissed and then fell behind in the dying stages before salvaging some reward, writes Richard Worton.

There’s a saying that it’s better to be lucky than good, and at the moment it’s not easy to decide whether Bucks boss Greene can easily be put into either category. His eagerness to be positive arguably almost cost the Bucks in this encounter; his double substitution, bringing on Williams and Kyle Bennett with just over 20 minutes remaining, almost backfired when Streete was given a straight red card two minutes later.

Rather than part-time conjurer Greene producing a rabbit from the hat, it was Williams who did so, scoring his first goal for the club memorably.

The point they left with was the least, but probably no more than the Bucks deserved. They matched Gloucester for endeavour in a match largely lacking in quality, at last got some good fortune but also displayed that annoying tendency to make life difficult for themselves.

Greene made one change to his starting line-up from last week’s victory over Farsley Celtic. Midfielder Dom McHale earned a starting berth after his goalscoring introduction from the substitute’s bench, and Williams was the man to make way. That left Jason Oswell as more of a lone front-runner once more, but his teammates were generally eager in their willingness to supplement the attack when the opportunity arose.

In Gloucester, the Bucks faced opponents to whom they matched up well, and not just on the field. The Tigers are also towards the wrong end of the Vanarama National League North table, and also have an interim manager, Lee Mansell replacing Paul Groves when the latter was sacked 4 weeks ago. The lack of real quality was evident early on, although the Bucks made the better start on the artificial surface at New Meadow Park.

The Tigers took what the Bucks offered early on and then went about finding their shooting range, without much success. The first meaningful threat on goal came when the hosts' Matt McClure was allowed to run in the final third and got a low shot away that beat the dive of Russ Griffiths bit passed wide of his left post.

Shortly afterwards, giant defender Ben Nugent fired a shot over from the edge of the penalty area, dropping off at a corner and collecting the Bucks’ half-clearance.

Nugent was more often battling physically with Oswell at the other end of the field, with both sides winning corners but exhibiting a lack of purpose and finesse, chances being at a premium.

It took until 26 minutes before Griffiths was called into serious action; the Bucks keeper has been in good form so far this season and leapt to his left to get a palm onto Jordan Young’s fiercely struck free-kick from 25 yards, the ball arrowing towards the top corner.

Both sides continued to win corners but couldn’t find the deliveries to make the most of the situation. Griffiths was busier than opposite number Jake Cole, catching safely when Nugent against caused some anxiety from a corner kick and a testing ball from the left dropped just under his crossbar.

On 37 minutes the Bucks didn’t make the most of a quick counter-attack; Elliott Durrell created the break, controlling the ball as he turned in midfield and sending Cameron Antwi away into room on the right; the situation opened up, inviting Antwi to shoot, but he instead tried to find Oswell to his left, and City intercepted before he could collect and pull the trigger.

Dan Leadbitter fired another long-range effort from a free-kick over the cross-bar for City and Oswell shot wide of the upright for Telford as half-time approached, but it wasn’t to remain goalless. One minute before the break, the Bucks broke through.

The goal was partly of City’s own doing; they surrendered possession in midfield cheaply and McHale was able to advance and shoot, bringing a good save at full stretch from Cole. The ball stayed in play and when City’s attempts to clear presented the ball to Bucks captain Adam Walker, his misdirected shot ran to Oswell, positioned centrally, who slotted the ball home from 8-10 yards out.

The Bucks could barely be said to have deserved the lead, but given the poor luck that’s befallen them at times, they would perhaps argue their hard work had earned them some good fortune.

Given that boost, they started the second half positively, McHale’s arcing run and cross from the right just too far ahead of Oswell at the near post. Greene introduced debutant loan signing Liam Ravenhill for Antwi after 50 minutes, whilst Oswell shrugged off what initially appeared a nasty knock to remain in the game a few minutes later.

On 56 minutes, the tide turned; the Bucks would have been well aware of the threat posed by McClure, who scored with his head in this fixture last season, but they weren’t switched on to the danger and when a cross reached the prolific striker a few yards out, the outcome wasn’t in doubt, McClure heading into the net.

Five minutes later, Fabien Robert struck the top of the crossbar with an effort from outside the box, and the Bucks were creaking a little as the Tigers confidence grew and they began to move the ball well.

Greene perhaps felt his team needed more help to hold onto the ball up front, countering the home side by trying to go on the attack. Williams and Bennett came on, but would barely be warmed up to the pace of the game when Streete was dismissed, a straight red card.

The situation looked innocuous but when one of City’s players went to ground, referee Darren Rogers seemed in little doubt as to what he’d seen, later confirming that Streete was sent off for raising both hands to the face of an opponent in pushing him away. The Bucks appealed vainly, but the punishment for Streete’s rash action wasn’t to be reversed.

Greene’s side didn’t go into their shell, and Williams, in particular, had some joy; playing wide on the left, he went past his man on more than one occasion, but his crosses weren’t finding their intended targets.

A draw appeared to be the likeliest outcome, but on 89 minutes, a combination of lax defending and a moment of rare quality from the extravagantly-named City substitute Leon Chambers-Parillion seemed to have settled matters. The tall attacking midfielder, on loan to the Tigers, took advantage of being gifted space to advance into the penalty area, and his shot across Griffiths rebounded off the inside of the keeper’s right post, rebounded and appeared to even strike the opposite post before nestling into the net.

The home fans were ready to celebrate their side’s first league victory for two months, and only their second win of the campaign, but Williams had other ideas.

Deep into five minutes of added time, he collected Walker’s pass and instead of going outside his man, he cut in from the left and fired a curling effort high over Cole and into the far top corner from just inside the penalty area; the ball rippled the net, and Williams collected a booking for his celebrations as manager Greene punched the air and ran onto the field in exultation.

Surely that was enough drama for one afternoon? Not quite. In the time that remained, City found the impetus for one more attack and when the ball dropped almost perfectly for the Tigers’ Jordon Thompson, it seemed almost certain he would score; however, someone in Bucks’ navy blue got in the way of his shot from inside the box, and the ball deflected over the bar for a corner that the Bucks then saw to safety,

The game had swayed back and forth, but ultimately the outcome was about right. Greene’s ongoing audition for the managerial role permanently now moves on to two home games, with Guiseley due at the New Buck’s Head on Tuesday evening.

Referee: Darren Rogers.

Assistants: Alan Berrow, Joshua Hackett.

Attendance: 952.

Telford: Griffiths, Berkoe, White, Streete, Lilly, Antwi (Ravenhill 50), Sparrow (Bennett 69), Walker (c), Oswell, Durrell, McHale (Williams 69).

Subs not used: Roberts, Bood.

Scorers: Oswell (44), Williams (90+5).

Cautioned: Berkoe, Williams, Durrell.

Dismissed: Streete.

Gloucester City: Cole, Thompson, Leadbitter, Nugent, Galvin, Robert, Dawson (c), Tomlinson (Mensah 83), McClure (Chambers-Parillion 80), Young, Hulbert (Sheaf 90+4).

Subs not used: Armstrong, O’Sullivan.

Scorers: McClure (56), Chambers-Parillion (89).

Cautioned: Thompson, Robert.

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