Two second half strikes from Jake Little and Vito D’Avanzo helped Rangers Reserves claim a 2-1 win over Otley Town Reserves at Barr Field in a match that saw little finesse, but plenty of graft from both sides.
The game was barely minutes old when home keeper Mark Tasker was forced into his first save. Diving low, he collected a shot that was threatening to creep past him and into the corner of the net.
Aiming to break the deadlock, Rangers moved the ball upfield, but twice in quick succession the referee’s whistle signaled that a blue and white shirt had strayed into an offside position.
Taking the game to Rangers, Otley pressed high up the pitch and succeeded in frustrating Deighton when the home side did manage to wrestle possession back. Despite seeing plenty of the ball in the final third, the visitors were forced to shoot from distance and Tasker’s goal was rarely troubled directly.
A quick break for Rangers ended in a good covering tackle knocking the ball out for a corner. Despite a crisp in-swinging delivery, howls of frustration were heard as the ball traveled through the area untouched.
Rangers were forcing some of the play now, and breaking free of his marker, Phil Turner raced into the area where his pull back was excellently saved by the Otley custodian.
Otley‘s pressing game was paying dividends in the midfield and they fashioned several half attempts through good flank play. However, and like Rangers, it was the final ball that was poor and promising positions were frittered away.
Running onto Andy Maxted’s weighted pass, Turner again showed his pace in a foot race, however this time, the cross was picked off by the covering defender and cleared.
Winning a free-kick on the right wing, Otley hit a diagonal pass that was headed across the six-yard box, rising highest, an orange shirt got to the ball, but unable to get a proper connection, his header looped over the crossbar.
Rangers were guilty of allowing Otley too much time to pick a pass, however a lack of composure at the vital stage in the attack was often their saving grace and shots were either hurried or blocked by a stubborn rearguard that was well marshaled by John Large.
Maxted was often at the heart of any attacking play that Rangers produced, and another well weighted ball found Little, who ignored the offside shouts to steer the ball past the advancing keeper, and unfortunately the post as well!
A clever move saw Alex Wooler break free, attempting to lift the ball over the Otley keeper, who had come right to the edge of his area, the glovesman stayed upright and the shot rebounded off him and fell to the retreating defence to clear.
With Ranger’s midfield now in the game, Jack Cheetham was having the freedom to run at Otley’s backline and another piece of skill saw him beat his man. However, watching the play was the defender, who stepped in at the right moment to clear the cross.
The half ended with Otley nearly taking the lead. A good pass through the center of the pitch saw their striker presented with the chance to shoot, as he prepared to strike, a superbly timed sliding tackle by Mike Tasker robbed him of the ball.
The second half started in controversial fashion with Otley claiming that a foul had been committed just inside the area. Taking a different stance, Mr Crowther awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area, which was subsequently hit over the crossbar.
As in the first half, Rangers defence was proving difficult to break down and a good interception on the left by Kieron O’Brien, who was playing his first game since injury, was matched by a superb tackle by Simon Wright on the opposite side as Otley threatened to break clear.
Rangers snatched the lead in the 53rd minute, possible against the run of play! Beating his man with a turn of pace, Turner squared the ball perfectly into the path of Little, who calmly stroked it into the corner of the net via the keeper's foot.
With Rich Jenner, Maxted and Cheetham now controlling the midfield, Rangers found that extra confidence that a goal brings. Another attack down the right wing saw the Otley defender bring a superb save from his own keeper to stop his panicky clearance from ending up in the net.
O’Brien showed that he could attack as well as defend and a crisp sidestep allowed the former Ossett Albion man to deliver the ball into the area and pick out Maxted at the back-post. Unleashing a half volley, his shot crashed into the covering defender and spun out for a corner, which was easily cleared.
A double substitution saw both Vito D’Avanzo and Daley Johnson take to the pitch, but it needed a goal line clearance from the Rangers defence to deny Otley a certain equaliser, after a good downwards header from a corner.
D’Avanzo was making an impact with his movement, and it was his quick reactions that saw him extend Rangers’ lead in the 75th minute. Picking up on a half clearance from the Otley defence, he steered his shot round a defender and past the keeper into the net.
Despite having conceded twice, the Otley keeper was having a fine match and he produced another good save with his legs to deny Jenner a goal after he had diverted a free-kick towards the bottom corner.
Cheetham had a glorious opportunity to make it three when he nicked a wayward header away from a defender. Forced wide however, his shot from a difficult angle could only find the side netting and the winger turned away with his head in his hands.
As with Otley earlier on in the half, Mr Crowther infuriated Rangers when he waved away vociferous appeals for a penalty after Turner was felled in the area. It did look like the Otley player had connected with Turner first, but the official deemed that he had got the ball and awarded a corner instead.
Otley showed that they weren’t out of it when they pulled a goal back in the 85th minute to set up a tense finish. A free-kick wasn’t dealt with cleanly by Tasker in goal and pouncing on the rebound, the striker steered the ball past him and into the net.
With the minutes ticking down, the command from the home bench was simply, keep the ball in the corner and taking this on board, Turner managed to hold his opponent off long enough for Mr Crowther to signal the end of the game.
Report by Pete Arnett.
Team: Tasker. Mark, Wright, O’Brien, Jenner, Tasker. Mike, Large, Maxted, Cheetham, Turner, Little, Wooler
Subs (used): Johnson, D’Avanzo, Thelwell Subs (unused): Williams
Yellow Cards: None
Red Cards: None
Referee: Mr Justin Crowther
KDRFC Man of the Match (as chosen by John-Paul Williams) was Andy Maxted. A constant thorn in Otley’s side, Andy was the catalyst for lots of our attacking play and he didn’t give the visitor’s a moments rest.
Post-Match Reaction from Assistant Manager John-Paul Williams:
“It was definitely not a classic, but I thought Otley started very well and were very dominant. They put us under a lot of pressure and it showed that the midfield three were new and were learning how to play alongside each other. At half time, we had a word and they took it on-board. The team produced a lot of hard work and the fitness work that Ben (Lawrence) has put in with the lads is paying off and you could see that as Otley started to tire. The first goal lifted the entire team and then we controlled the game, in the end we could have had more than the two we got."
Video - Jake Little Goal v Otley Town Reserves
Video - Vito D'Avanzo Goal v Otley Town Reserves
Matchday gallery coming soon!