Roman Neal returned from injury to score a hat-trick, but it wasn’t an easy victory and Manager Dan Marshall, although happy with the result, was far from pleased by the performance.
It was a stuttering start by both sides with neither able to get the ball under their control and tackles flying in freely. Eventually Mr Ferguson took charge and started to penalise challenges, and it was from a free-kick that Featherstone launched their first attack, but an overhit ball was shepherded out by Andy Maxted and Jonty Smith.
Rangers were under pressure again as their attack broke down and Featherstone moved quickly through the thirds, however, a superbly timed tackle by Jack Abbott won the ball back and Deighton changed play to the opposite side where Dave McKay, James Woodward and Daniel Slater all combined to try and set Josh Barden free, but he couldn’t reach the ball and it ran out of play.
With eight minutes on the clock, Rangers thought that they had scored when Adam Carter smashed home from close range, but Mr Ferguson thought otherwise and awarded a free-kick for offside.
Deighton were now in their stride and every attack looked dangerous with Joe Straker, Neal and Barden all causing trouble, but every time, some dogged defending rescued the hosts. Bursting through, Neal was forced to ball juggle to eventually control a long ball, but as he tried to shoot, he scuffed his shot and it careened into a defender, who managed to hook clear as it headed goal wards.
Rangers did open the scoring in the 14th minute after a corner was picked up by Abbott at the opposite side. Twisting and turning, he produced a pinpoint cross that an unmarked Neal headed past the keeper from six yards out.
A committed challenge on the edge of the Featherstone area saw both teams forced into an early change in the 16th minute, with Woodward having to make way for Jack Cheetham.
Rangers were enjoying the play and Carter nearly connected with an acrobatic kick, before Barden forced a clearance by Featherstone as Neal looked to head home his cross.
Moving down the right, the home side nearly caught Rangers on the break, but Luke Dubery pulled off a well-timed tackle to both stop them and move the ball to safety. Neal almost repeated the same for Deighton minutes later, but another good tackle stopped him and Straker hit the clearance over the crossbar,
It was two for Rangers in the 31st minute when Barden moved off his man, controlled Maxted’s deep cross and unleashed a piledriver past the keeper.
Featherstone’s keeper pulled off the first of a trio of saves as he leapt to push Carter’s looping header over the bar. From the resultant corner, he was at it again as he dived to his right to divert Neal’s shot clear. As Featherstone tried to break, Abbott was fouled on the corner of the area and Straker hit the free-kick towards the top corner, only for the keeper to dive full length to his left and produce another stunning save.
Chances were starting to materialise for both sides, and Smith was called to pluck a looping shot out of the air, before Maxted’s cross-cum-shot needed to be pushed to safety by the back-peddling Featherstone custodian.
With the break over, it was the hosts who turned up the heat with a surging run down the right that needed Dubery to pay close attention before the ball ran out of play.
Featherstone pulled a goal back in the 51st minute after a free kick was headed back across the area and was powered home before the covering tackle could intervene. The sheer annoyance of Smith could be plainly heard around the ground!
The hosts were straight back on the attack, but this time Rangers crowded Featherstone out and Smith gathered the ball at the edge of his area. Minutes later a deep cross travelled through the Rangers area unopposed before being smashed clear by Abbott.
Producing a decent move at last, Barden found Carter who fired the ball out to the right wing and sprinted to meet Maxted’s cross, but he could only head wide from an acute angle.
Featherstone nearly pulled level in the 62nd minute when a fierce drive from the edge of the area, after Rangers had failed to remove the danger, just cleared the crossbar by inches!
Usually so reliable in the second half, Rangers struggled to string play together and time after time, they lost the ball with a sloppy pass or bad control. However, a long ball from Slater released Neal, but a poor first touch took him away from goal and despite getting his shot away, it missed the target.
Smith was called into action with another superb save after another clumsy tackle at the edge of the area had given Featherstone a free-kick. Diving full length to his left, he palmed the ball away. Minutes later, he was beaten, but the ball ballooned off the crossbar and bounced high into the darkening sky.
Against the run of play, Rangers increased their lead in the 69th minute when Straker burst into the area, drawing the keeper out, he squared across to Neal, who picked his spot and slotted home past the covering defender.
Rangers were coming out of their stupor at last, and both Cheetham and Barden had shots that needed the keeper to intervene. However, Featherstone were still moving the ball crisper and it needed a good header by Abbott to knock the ball out of the path of the oncoming striker.
Another free-kick to the hosts nearly caused Rangers trouble, but spoiling their plan, Maxted raced from his position to head clear the up and over ball.
A calamity moment for the host’s keeper nearly paved the way for Rangers fourth goal when he dropped a cross and McKay beat him to the ball. Blocking his first shot, the ball fell to Neal whose cheeky backheel was stopped short of the goal. As the ball bounced around the area, it finally fell to Carter who shot over from twelve yards out.
With Rangers introducing both Charlie Yates and Joe Wilks for Barden and Straker, Rangers looked a bit more dangerous down the right, and Wilks was unlucky not to be able to reach a ball that beat him for pace, having left his marker behind.
It was four for Rangers when a clumsy tackle took Carter out as he rounded the first challenge. Placing the ball on the spot, Neal placed his kick to the keepers left and watched as the custodian dived the opposite way to complete his hat-trick in the 87th minute.
The game ended with Mr Ferguson flourishing the yellow card at Dubery after he had tangled with the keeper. Despite both players saying it was a fair challenge, the official disagreed and flashed the card at the annoyed defender.
Team: Smith, Abbott, Maxted, McKay, Dubery, Slater, Straker, Woodward, Carter, Barden, Neal
Subs: Cheetham (for Woodward 16), Yates (for Barden 72), Wilks (for Straker 76) Not Used: O’Brien
Yellow Cards: Rangers (Dubery – foul), Featherstone Colliery (None)
Red Cards: None
Referee: Mr James Ferguson
KDRFC Man of the Match (chosen by the management) was Luke Dubery. This was a very close decision between Luke and Roman, but his defensive work was one of the reasons why Rangers didn’t surrender their lead. Quality tackling and tracking back prevented Featherstone from breaching on many occasions.
Post-Match Reaction from Manager Dan Marshall.
I felt we controlled the first half and scored two well taken goals through Roman and Josh. We were looking for the lads to kick on in the second half but we started poorly, conceded a cheap goal and had to endure a period of pressure. Once Roman scored our third after a great run and assist from Joe Straker we were comfortable and managed the game out.
Roman Neal (1st Goal)
Josh Barden Goal
Roman Neal (2nd Goal)
Roman Neal (hat-trick goal)
Match Gallery - Over 100 photos to enjoy (click on photo to open link)