In a repeat of last season, the Reserves went into the final match knowing that only a win would be good enough to secure promotion, however despite a brave fight, a second half penalty was enough to hand Salts FC Reserves the win, the points and the title whilst Otley Town’s Reserves 3-1 win over East End Park Reserves condemned us to finish in fourth place for the second campaign in a row!
The match started as dull as the weather as both teams struggled to gain any supremacy with neither one wanting to make a mistake. As a result, play was stilted with long balls being the order of the day, which both defences comfortably dealt with.
It was Salts who fashioned the first attempt when Rangers couldn’t clear a bouncing ball and skipping around his marker, the striker shot goalwards. However, Jonty Smith was able to parry the attempt and smoother it at the second attempt.
It took until the tenth minute for Rangers to register their first shot, when Rob Holliday’s low effort, following some good interplay with Dan Flynn, was scooped up by the custodian.
Bursting forward, Salts threaded a pass right through the heart of Deighton’s defence, but stretching out a long leg, John Large managed to push the ball clear.
An early substitution due to injury forced Salts to change personnel, but this didn’t appear to slow them down and it took another stretching tackle, this time by Mike Tasker, to deny a goalscoring chance.
Holliday was being Rangers main outlet and quick feet allowed him to swing in a cross that had the keeper at full reach to pluck it out of the air. Minutes later, a crossfield ball by Holliday set Brad Spencer running towards goal, but the keeper got their first and dived at the winger’s feet.
Upping the pressure, a Salts free-kick went just wide of the back post, before Flynn needed to intercept a dangerous ball down the middle of the pitch.
Rangers were struggling to produce flowing football, but a chipped pass by Chris Plews released Spencer, but his cross was overhit and landed behind the goal.
With 25 minutes on the clock, Salts struck and a superb shot from the corner of the area, after four quick passes took the ball from one end of the pitch to another, dipped over Smith and into the back of the net.
Despite Rangers trying to find a reply, they were reduced to long shots and both Rich Jenner and Holliday could only watch as their attempts flew wide or into the keeper’s hands.
For no reason, Salts suddenly became sloppy in possession and the game swung into Rangers favour. Spencer twisted and turned on the right wing and managed to get his cross away, but the keeper collected low at his near post.
It was all even in the 36th minute after some sustained Deighton pressure. A curling corner was met by Tasker about eight yards out, and his header buried high into the net.
Rangers nearly seized the advantage three minutes later when Spencer’s in-swinging corner caused problems, but between the keeper and his defence, they managed to clear their ranks.
Salts were awarded a free-kick on the stroke of half-time and a superb delivery picked out a player at the near post, but his header flashed wide of the post.
Half Time: Kirk Deighton Rangers Reserves 1 v 1 Salts FC Reserves
The second half kicked off with Rangers on the attack, but Jake Little couldn’t get the ball to sit up for him to hit cleanly and a defender cleared.
Playing with more authority, Rangers were the dominant force and Spencer picked out Plews, whose pass freed Craig Hall. Trying to roll the ball into Little’s path, a desperate lunge by a Salts defender deflected the ball clear, but it was a lovely move that exposed the visitors.
Salts reminded Deighton that they were still dangerous when a corner flew through the area and needed a vital touch by Holliday to take it away from a yellow shirted player.
With the game starting to even itself out again, Holliday burst through the Salts backline, but couldn’t find space to shoot and then good movement by the visitors saw them swing in a deep cross from the right that needed Smith to punch clear.
Salts took the lead from the spot in the 63rd minute, but it was the build-up to the spot kick which angered Deighton. A ball down the touchline looked like it had gone out in favour of the visitors, but the official allowed play to continue and as a cross came over, the ball appeared to strike a raised hand as both a Deighton and Salts player challenged. Waving the game on again, Mr Khan pointed to the spot after Large tangled with the opposition in the area. Taking a short run-up, the Salts player sent the ball down the middle and over Smith’s outstretched hand into the back of the net.
The goal visibly deflated Rangers and it took about ten minutes for them to pick up the pace again, but even a triple change of Sam Straker, John-Paul Williams and Ross Park for Holliday, Spencer and Flynn couldn’t bring any real chances and it was Salts who nearly added a third when a corner was bundled towards the back post, but was scrambled clear with feet to spare.
Rangers had a penalty shout turned down in the 80th minute when Daley Johnson appeared to be tripped in the area, but taking a long look at it, Mr Khan waved play on.
With precious minutes ticking away, Straker forced a corner which Plews played in deep. Heading clear, Salts let the ball fall to Johnson, but his shot was straight at the keeper who clutched the ball to his chest.
Rangers threw everyone forward for the last corner of the match, and it was Smith who nearly caused trouble with a diving header, but the ball smashed into a defenders shoulder and was cleared.
Well done Salts on their title win. We will dust ourselves down, ready for the Hulme Cup Final on Tuesday against Harrogate Railway Athletic Reserves at Manse Lane, KO 7:30pm.
Report by Pete Arnett
Team: Smith, Hall, Flynn (Park 79), Large, Tasker, Jenner, Johnson, Plews, Spencer (Williams 79) Little, Holliday (Straker 71) Unused: McCartney, D’Avanzo
Goals: Tasker (36)
Yellow Cards: Rangers – Jenner (Foul) Salts – 1 player (foul)
Red Cards: Rangers – none. Salts FC Res – None
Referee: Mr Tahir Khan
Kirk Deighton Rangers Man of the Match (Chosen by Kris Macdonald) A good display in the heart of defence, consisting of multiple tackles, headers and interventions saw Mike Tasker awarded this one. He also showed his attacking heading prowess with a powerful goal to bring the two sides level.