Barwell 3-1 AFC Telford United - Report
Nestling in South Leicestershire, the description ‘sleepy’ could have been invented for the town of Barwell; however, it was Kevin Wilkin’s side who received a rude awakening from hosts who took advantage of some defending that could also be described as ‘sleepy’ to earn a deserved victory.
One of the most notable events in the history of the town was a meteorite that buried itself in the Leicestershire countryside on Christmas Eve 1965, and whilst the sky didn’t fall in on the Bucks with this defeat, they came down to earth with a resounding thump following last week’s 7-0 victory.
Despite a period of superiority in the first half, the Bucks were probably left feeling as stunned as the Barwell residents were all those years ago to be going in at half-time behind by two goals. They did cut the deficit early in the second half when Montel Gibson maintained his goal-per-game record for the season; however, a third goal for the Canaries halted any revival and allowed Ian King’s side to stifle the contest.
Defender Nathan Fox’s hamstring injury meant that Wilkin was forced into one change to the side that tore Nuneaton apart seven days earlier. Brad Bood was handed his first start of the season but didn’t enjoy the best of days, being partially culpable for Barwell’s first and second goals.
The early stages of the game were scrappy. Both sides tried to establish superiority on Barwell’s 3G playing surface, and it was all rather frantic. After barely a minute, Byron Moore lost his footing in a challenge and seemed to overstretch; after a few minutes where his continued participation appeared to be touch and go, he successfully ran it off.
Barwell had the game’s first goal attempt; a cross from their right was allowed to travel to the far post and left-side midfielder Deen Master steered a header on the first bounce past Brandon Hall’s left post.
One of the notable aspects of last weekend’s victory for the Bucks was how their youthful zest exposed an ageing and ponderous Nuneaton side. Barwell are a closer match and their desire to harry the Bucks out of possession gave Wilkin’s side a new challenge, but they started to take control.
Home keeper Harry Griffiths was far the busier, although something that many of the Bucks’ goal attempts had in common was that they were all aimed too close to the Barwell no.1. He comfortably stopped a Ricardo Dinanga shot and looked assured in holding defender Orrin Pendley’s rising shot from 30 yards.
With 15 minutes on the clock and the Bucks beginning to go through the gears, Gibson fired a shot against Griffiths’ goalpost but must have thought his luck was in as the ball rebounded to him. Griffiths showed terrific agility to quickly regain his feet and save Gibson’s second effort.
The feeling began to grow that the Bucks might be made to pay for not pressing home their superiority with a goal. A stoppage in play was necessary when forward Tom Cursons did little to avoid a collision with goalkeeper Hall, and from the restart, the momentum began to move away from the Bucks and towards the Canaries.
Twariq Yusuf did put in one run and cross that was aimed too close to Griffiths, and then Cursons won Barwell’s first corner, off Pendley, an opportunity the hosts couldn’t make more of.
On the half-hour, Barwell struck, and it was a player that Wilkin knows well who gave them the lead. Forward Dan Holman had an unremarkable spell at Brackley Town under Wilkin but has an EFL pedigree and a proven scoring record. He drifted in and out of this game but when he drifted in from
the right flank past Bood and a couple of unconvincing attempts to stop him, the space opened and Holman dispatched a fine left-footed finish across Hall and into the far corner to Hall’s right.
It was the lead Barwell’s attacking play hadn’t truly deserved but was perhaps a reward for their resilience during the earlier spell of Bucks pressure and barely three minutes later, they struck again.
This time, a ball into the box from the left side dropped into space created by players moving towards the ball and not following its flight. The one player who did do that was Barwell skipper Brady Hickey and the fair-haired no.10, a capable performer and regular scorer, met the ball on the full, finishing with his instep high into the net across Hall. The goalkeeper’s stunned expression and body language to his teammates spoke volumes.
The Bucks tried to reply, and after Ellis Myles’ determined burst down the right wing, Yusuf had a shooting chance but again directed his effort too close to Griffiths.
Cursons was booked for preventing the Bucks from taking a quick free kick, as the away side tried to pull at least one goal back before the interval. Dinanga and Ty Webster, one of last weekend’s standout performers, both fired shots onto and over the roof of the Indoor Bowling Centre which backs onto the ground. Dinanga was then guilty of snatching at an effort instead of relaxing; found by a pass that put him a few yards beyond the defence, and with only Griffiths to beat, Dinanga struck a shot all along the ground and straight at the Barwell keeper.
Half Time: Barwell 2-0 AFC Telford United
The Bucks needed to score the game’s next goal to give themselves a chance and some attacking impetus. Barwell’s Beck-Ray Enoru, who looks to have lots of raw promise, had fired a shot over Hall’s bar in the opening minutes, but in the 52nd minute, the Bucks were hauled back into the game by a superb Gibson strike.
Myles’ right-wing cross took a deflection en route to Gibson, but the forward read the ball’s change of direction and found a couple of yards on two defenders to strike a searing, low first-time shot from 20 yards past Griffiths’ right hand, tucking the ball into the corner.
‘Game on’, or so you’d imagine, but the Bucks revival stalled before it ever really began. They weren’t helped when Dinanga was sent crashing by a crude challenge from defender Ruben Freeman. Dinanga tried to continue but had to be replaced by George Forsyth, and Barwell boss King replaced Freeman with MJ Kamara, seemingly in response to the defender’s booking and perhaps feeling he’d be vulnerable to taking a second yellow card.
The stoppage to replace Dinanga and the restart was to prove damaging. From a Barwell free kick into the box, the Bucks were slow to react, allowed the ball to bounce, and as they floundered at sixes and sevens, Cursons took advantage to steer a shot across Hall and in from the left of the box.
It almost got worse. Enoru’s touch took him beyond Bucks captain Fraser Kerr in the box, but he fired his shot narrowly wide of Hall’s far post as Wilkin’s side almost buckled. Wilkin responded by replacing Bood with Jared Hodgkiss, the former Hereford captain making his competitive debut for the Bucks.
Gibson dipped a shot wide from 25 yards as Barwell slowed the game down and broke it up with more substitutions, and Wilkin added Tré Mitford into the mix as his side sought a lifeline.
In an additional nine minutes at the end of the game, Mitford drilled a free kick wide from 25 yards, but that was as close as the Bucks came to registering a second goal.
It remains early days in the Southern Premier Central, and as dispiriting as this defeat may have felt following last weekend’s jamboree, Wilkin has consistently stated that there will be bumps in the road. Whilst that’s true, what Wilkin can’t legislate for is his siding willfully steering themselves into potholes as they did here.
AFC Telford United: Hall, Myles, Bood (Hodgkiss 70), Piggott, Kerr, Pendley, Dinanga (Forsyth 65), Yusuf, Gibson, Webster (Mitford 82), Moore.
Substitutes : Jones, McQuilkin.
Scorer : Gibson (52).
Barwell: Griffiths, Flanagan, Freeman (Kamara 62), Edwards, Rowley, Ward, Enoru (Kerr 80), Holman, Cursons (Davidson-Miller 77), Hickey (c), Master.
Substitutes: Ngwa, Brown-Hill.
Scorers: Holman (30), Hickey (33), Cursons (66).