A late flurry of goals proved not enough, and our five-game unbeaten run came to an end as a determined and well drilled Oxenhope side won by the odd goal in seven!
The game started with the visitors on the attack, but a blast from the referee’s whistle stopped any intentions that Oxenhope had of grabbing an early lead.
Rangers responded with some neat wing play, but the cross to Rob Holliday’s was overhit. Minutes later, Danny Grannon tried to bring a pass under control just outside the area, but the ball ran away from him and was cleared.
From the game’s first corner, following some good work by Holliday, Joe Wilks rose highest and powered his header downwards towards goal, but in the end, it nestled into the side netting.
A sign of things to come saw a delightful cross-field pass pick out Scott Nelson, but Rangers keeper Ed Lord, who was deputising for the absent Jonty Smith, was quickly off his line to punch the ball clear.
A slick through ball by Barden allowed Holliday to sprint clear, but his shot was cleared by the legs of keeper Richard Driver who stood his ground well.
Set pieces were proving dangerous for Deighton and another header from Wilks was stopped two foot from the line, before a scramble saw the ball unceremoniously hammered clear.
Both sides were playing on the counter and it needed a well-timed tackle by Josh Buckley to disposes the marauding Nelson, whilst down in the visitor’s area, a block by Owen Williamson cleared Wilks’s cross.
The 19th minute brought the first goal of the game and, not surprisingly, it came from a corner as Buckley stepped in front of Daniel Makinson and met the ball perfectly with his head to send it into the net.
As the saying goes, you are never more vulnerable then after you have just scored, and Deighton proved just that four minutes later when Lee Reilly smashed a shot past Lord and into the top corner.
The equaliser spurred Oxenhope on and it was the defence of Rangers who suddenly found the pressure on them. Jon Richards and Buckley had to produce several blocks to stop the visitors from getting clean shots away.
The 28th minute brought a moment of slight controversy when the ball bounced over Lord and was clearly handled by Reilly. Blowing for a handball, Mr Brayshaw acknowledged the infringement, but took no action against Reilly which left many blue shirted player shaking their heads in disbelief.
Tom Marshall produced some nice skill to charge down the left wing, but as he cut in the long legs of Dave McKay managed to divert the ball away, with only Lord behind him.
Chances came and went for both teams and Reilly’s header cleared Lord’s crossbar, whilst Holliday just failed to reach Barden’s curling cross and Grannon scuffed his shot after Barden had played him through.
Reilly was Rangers tormenter against in the 39th minute when he expertly controlled a long pass, rounded the approaching Lord and clipped the ball into the net.
There was a touch of good fortune for Oxenhope’s third goal in the 42nd minute when Lord was adjudged to have taken out an Oxenhope player inside the box. Stepping up, Reilly’s spot kick ricocheted back off the post and after a lunge by several players, Nelson got to the ball first and smashed it home.
Half-Time: Kirk Deighton Rangers 1 v 3 Oxenhope Recreation
The second half began with Rangers in determined fashion and Kieron O’Brien’s cross landed on top of the net with Grannon and Driver in cross proximity. Driver was in action again minutes later when McKay picked out Dan Slater and his curling cross was cut out from reaching Holliday as the custodian diverted the ball clear.
An intercepted Oxenhope free-kick saw Joe Straker feed Holliday down the left wing. Shimming past his marker, he drove his cross through the area, but no blue shirts had caught up with play and the ball bounced out for a throw in.
Baring their teeth again, Oxenhope forced Rangers backward and both Richards and Buckley had to rely on pass backs to Lord to ease the pressure.
Nelson claimed his brace on the hour mark and effectively killed the game off when he reached another dangerous cross-field pass and deftly lifted the ball over Lord and into the net. In truth, an excellent goal from an excellent move!
With nothing to lose, Dan Marshall threw on Will Bates and Joe Turley for Straker and Richards on 68 minutes.
Oxenhope’s defence were closing down well and the trio of Daniel Scott, Mark Bentham and Makinson were controlling Rangers attacks well with Barden, Slater and Grannon all reduced too long shots that Driver dealt with.
Rangers build up play was very impressive with some neat little triangles being formed, but no matter what was thrown at him, Driver was able to repel.
Oxenhope thought that they had won another penalty in the 73rd minute when one of their players went down under a challenge in the area, however Mr Brayshaw was unmoved, and it was the orange shirts who were shaking their heads as the referee awarded a corner instead.
The final throw of the dice saw Charlie Yates, who had only landed from a business trip in the USA an hour before the game, replace O’Brien in the 75th minute.
With Oxenhope looking the more likely to add to their tally, it was Rangers who scored next after Luke Scott had tripped Yates after the striker had cut past him. Taking on the responsibility, Yates fired the ball right down the middle past Driver who had dived out of the way.
The game wasn’t finished yet and a golden chance fell to Bates, but a good save by Driver with his legs denied him after he had latched onto Barden’s pass and sprinted into the box.
It was 4-3 and a nervous couple of minutes for all when Barden produced a stunning free-kick from just outside the area that left Driver no chance as it curled round the wall and into the net.
The comeback was nearly complete with what was almost the last kick of the game, when another Barden freekick went agonisingly just wide with Bates, McKay and Wilks all trying to get the final touch!
Final Score: Kirk Deighton Rangers 3 v 4 Oxenhope Recreation
Report by Pete Arnett
Team: Lord, McKay, O’Brien (Yates 75), Buckley, Richards (Turley 68), Straker (Bates (68), Slater, Barden, Wilks, Grannon, Holliday. Unused Sub: Wood
Goals: Buckley (19), Yates (82 p), Barden (88)
Yellow Cards: Rangers (Yates – unsporting conduct) Oxenhope (Scott, D. – unsporting conduct)
Red Cards: Rangers (none) Oxenhope (none)
Referee: Mr Josh Brayshaw
Kirk Deighton Rangers Man Of The Match (chosen by Dan Marshall) was Josh Barden. A superb display of forward play, clever passing and an unstoppable free-kick!