In a game that could have gone either way, it was probably Rangers who were more satisfied with the final result then their Premier League counterparts.
Pressing from the off, Rangers came down the left wing through both Rob Holliday and Joe Wilks, but Headingley’s defence closed the space and forced the duo back.
It was Wilks who provided the first shot of the match when he let fly from the just outside the area, however his aim was at the keeper, who easily collected the ball.
Headingley bared their teeth a couple of minutes later when a neat passing session quickly moved them down the pitch, but the shot ricocheted off a red shirt and was plucked out of the air by Jonty Smith.
The match took on the typical role of a pre-season game and both teams were guilty of misplacing passes and it was one of these loose balls that allowed Josh Barden a sniff at goal when he attempted to lob the goalkeeper, who had wandered off his line, however the ball cleared the crossbar and landed in the surrounding hedge.
Barden was in action again in the eleventh minute when he got to Jonny Hadley’s teasing cross at the back-post, but with the angle against him, his header went over.
The Headingley keeper was called into action again a minute later when Barden beat the off-side trap and raced into the area, marshalled into shooting from a narrow angle, the shot-stopper blocked his effort with his legs to force the ball out for a corner.
Rangers were certainly the attacking force and forced three corners, but again, they found the visitor’s backline in resolute mood and finally the play was halted due to an injury to Headingley.
The next goalmouth action went to visitors as they pounced on a loose ball across Rangers’ backline. Reversing his pass, the Headingley forward found his strike partner, but his wild swing saw the ball spin to safety rather than trouble Smith.
The visitors mounted another attack and a lovely change of direction by the Headingley saw a gap open up, but just at the last moment, Hadley slid in and nudged the ball away from danger.
Headingley were starting to turn the screw and it took good tackles from both Jack Abbott and Jon Richards to stop the danger. The visitors did take the lead however in the 29th minute when Smith was unable to collect a free-kick under pressure and the ball was poked home. With Rangers protesting a foul on their custodian, the referee was having none of it and the goal stood.
Rangers tried to retaliate immediately and a foul on Barden allowed Andy Maxted to drive a free-kick into the area. With the ball bouncing around it was Richards who headed goalwards, but again, Headingley’s keeper showed safe hands.
A raft of substitutions for both sides saw Danny Grannon, James Woodward and Roman Neal introduced and Grannon was in the action straight away as he chested the ball down into Barden’s path. However, with Rangers pulling up thinking they were offside, the referee surprised both teams by allowing the play to continue, but the chance had gone.
As with the first half, misplaced passes threatened to be a difference maker and following a header by Grannon, a weak clearance was pounced upon by Wilks, whose first time shot went just wide of the goal.
A superb save by the Headingley sub keeper proved that it wasn’t going to be Barden’s night as the striker connected sweetly with Neal’s cross, but the keeper made himself big and pulled off a good save.
The visitors were struggling to keep the ball, but a wonderful pass across the pitch saw them switch play in the blink of an eye, but the Rangers’ defence marshalled the ball out for a goalkick.
The scores were level in the 58th minute when a long kick by Smith picked out Neal and he kept his body between the last defender and the ball. Picking out his spot, he powered his shot home, leaving the keeper no chance.
Both teams were starting to fashion chances as tiredness began to creep in. A gut-busting run by Headingley ended with them shooting over, whilst a dangerous move down the left was ended when Smith bravely dived at the attacker’s feet. At the other end, Grannon fired inches wide after a smart turn in the area.
A crisp passage of passing from the visitor’s allowed a quick counter that was only ended when the long legs of Josh Buckley stretched and knocked the ball out of play.
A good pass by Hadley found Trower, whose shot was well turned over by the keeper. Whipping in a deep corner, the keeper elected to punch clear, but the ball fell to Holliday, who passed sideways to Wilks. A late challenge on the edge of the box on Wilks gave Rangers a free-kick, which Maxted curled just wide.
Smith was being called into increased action and on more than one occasion, his side were indebted to his safe handling on crosses and his ability to come out and block shots.
With the minutes ticking down, Rangers thought that they had taken the lead when the keeper was unable to clear a back pass and Hadley nipped in and hooked the ball home. However, the referee slightly confused proceedings as his whistle indicated that play had been stopped for a previous infringement meaning the strike was ruled out and instead Rangers had a free-kick which was drilled against the wall.
It was the visitors who had the final two chances when Buckley was called into action to divert a wicked curling corner away from goal and moments later Michael McCartney was in the right place to take the ball off the onrushing attacker.
Report by Pete Arnett
Squad (all players used) - Smith, McCartney, Maxted, Abbott, Buckley J, Richards, Woodward, Cheetham, Neal, Barden, Hadley, Grannon, Trower, Wilks, Holliday
Post-Match comment -
"I was delighted with the application shown tonight. I thought that they were the stronger team overall for the first fifteen minutes, but we kept our shape well and we waited for the opportunity to play our game. As the game moved on, we had the best chances and we took the game to them. Great goal by Roman who showed some great intelligence with the strike. All in all, as we were playing a Premier Division side, we have to be pleased with the outcome."
Dan Marshall - First Team Manager
Roman Neal scores against Headingley AFC
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