With Manager Dan Marshall away, it was first team coach Ben Lawrence who took the reins for this penultimate pre-season match against a strong Steeton AFC side.
Daniel Slater and Jake Young were named in the squad for the first time, and it was a welcome return for Danny Grannon who had missed the Tadcaster match through injury.
Unlike Tuesday night, Rangers started full of vigour and had the North West Counties side on the back foot. A quick move saw space open for Josh Barden and his shot wasn’t too far off target.
A good turn and run saw James Woodward attempt to float the ball into Joe Wilks’ path, but tracking the play was Steeton’s centre back, who leapt high to head the danger clear.
Some confident passing by the visitors saw Rangers penned into their own half for a short period, but despite seeing plenty of the ball, the green shirts were unable to fashion a shooting chance.
As had been the case against Tadcaster, Joe Straker was at heart of many of Deighton’s moves and it was his link up with Wilks that allowed the latter to play in Roman Neal. Twisting and turning in the area, Neal got his shot away, but the legs of keeper Stevens-Neale blocked the goal.
With 11 minutes on the clock, Rangers won the ball in midfield and Wilks broke clear. Picking his spot, the striker drilled the ball into the bottom left corner from just outside the area.
Turning up the pressure, a long kick by Stevens-Neale was headed clear by Josh Buckley and it was Rangers that needed to defend in numbers as the visitors won a brace of corners, culminating in the crossbar coming to the rescue after a headed clearance by Barden fell to a waiting Steeton player, and his hooked shot cannoned off the woodwork to safety.
A superb through ball saw Gary Driscoll race clear of Rangers’ defence, but with Jonty Smith narrowing the angle, the striker could only poke the ball wide.
It was all level after 18 minutes, and it was a cracker of a goal! Collecting the ball about thirty yards out, Aaron Hollindrake unleashed a thunderbolt that swerved past Smith and into the top corner.
Despite seeing plenty of the ball, neither team were able to make it count and chances fell to Woodward and Driscoll, but they were unable to convert at the crucial stage.
A blistering two minutes around the half hour mark saw Steeton take control of the game. On the back foot, Rangers were unable to prevent a high ball reaching Hollindrake and he steered his shot past Smith. Soon after it was 3-1 when Driscoll fired in another shot from outside the area that left Smith with little chance, despite the custodian getting a hand to it.
Rangers kept on plugging away and Wilks danced his way through Steeton’s backline. Looking to square the ball to Barden, an interception by the returning defender robbed the forward of the chance to shorten the arrears. Soon after, a looping effort from Joe Turley just cleared the crossbar with Stevens-Neale backpedaling.
The second half saw the introduction of Grannon, Young, Andy Maxted and Sam Straker and straight away it was Rangers who were on the attack and a foul on Wilks allowed Maxted to put the ball into the box, however his kick was too close to Stevens-Neale.
Soon after Maxted put in another teasing cross that picked out Wilks at the far post, however his attempted volley didn’t connect, and the ball spun out of the area.
Rangers were getting plenty of joy down the right flank and Young hooked in a cross that Grannon headed just wide of the near post.
As the old saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” and another pinpoint cross, this time by Sam Straker, in the 52nd minute picked out Wilks and this time, his volley flew past Stevens-Neale and into the net.
The blue shirts surged forward and a shot by Wilks crashed into the midriff of a Steeton defender, seizing on the rebound, Wilks tried again, but this time a good save by Stevens-Neale tipped the ball away.
Some lovely one touch passing by Steeton saw them re-establish their two-goal lead in the 59th minute, when a move down the right was converted by Andy Lee from close range.
Maxted and Wilks combined again in the 64th minute and a cushioned header saw the later play the ball into Grannon’s path, but the tall striker couldn’t connect cleanly and the chance was gone.
Steeton were looking threatening every time they broke and it needed a good save by Smith to push the ball clear from Driscoll, who at the second attempt found Hollindrake, but he could only head wide.
Slater was introduced into the game in the 70th minute and found himself in the action straight away as his cross was plucked out of the air by Stevens-Neale, and then his shot from distance cleared the crossbar.
It was game on again in the 75th minute when Rangers produced some lovely football on the edge of the area before Maxted swung in another quality cross that Grannon headed home from four yards out.
It seemed that the equalising goal was only a matter of time, and as Sam Straker broke Steeton’s offside trap and sprinted clear, a superb piece of goalkeeping by Stevens-Neale saw him race out of his area and nick the ball away from the winger.
Rangers were trying hard and shots from Wilks and Young nearly saw parity restored, but Steeton, through a good passing and pressing game, were starting to reassert dominance in midfield and with the game coming to an end, it was a cheeky lob that nearly deceived Smith, but it was too high and landed in the bushes behind the goal.
Report by Pete Arnett.
All at Kirk Deighton Rangers would like to wish Steeton AFC all the best for their new adventure in the North West Counties League.
Squad (all players used) :- Smith, Buckley C, Buckley J, Richards, McKay, Straker J, Neal, Woodward, Turley, Wilks, Barden, Young, Grannon, Maxted, Straker S, Slater
Post Match Reaction :-
We said at half time that if we had just shown that little bit more composure, then we probably would have been coming in at 2-2 rather than 3-1 down. We knew that it was going to be a high-quality game and Steeton were always going to be a massive test. I asked the lads to get at their fullbacks more in the second half and create chances and we did that, I thought that the lads in the second half were fantastic and you could see the energy and the combinations between midfield and forwards was just great to see. All in all, very pleased. We can look back at this, and the Carlton game, and think that we have done ourselves proud against two quality teams.
Ben Lawrence (First Team Coach)
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