Headers from both Will Bates and Danny Grannon saw Rangers come from behind to take all three points against Rothwell FC and maintain their unbeaten start to 2019.
A swap of personnel saw Jon Richards return to the defence, Luke Dubery pushed into midfield and Bates make his first start since joining the club.
With two minutes played, Rangers were appealing for a penalty when Joe Wilks’s shot crashed into the hand of a Rothwell defender, but Mr McGeorge ruled that it was impossible for the defender to move out of the way and play continued.
Rothwell tried to power their way through the middle, but a tackle by Dave McKay poked the ball clear before the rushed follow up shot flew wide of its target.
The post came to Rothwell’s rescue when Holliday latched onto Grannon’s flick and broke free of the defence. Choosing to shoot from just outside the area, he stroked the ball past the keeper, but against the outside of the upright.
With the home side driving forward several times, Rangers found their backline under increasing pressure, but a good tackle from Wilks, coupled with solid headers from McKay and Richards and offside decisions meant that the game remained goalless.
A Rangers counter attack saw Grannon release Bates on the wing. Slipping the ball into Barden’s path, the striker twisted into the area and shot from a tight angle, however a covering defender got the block in and from the resultant corner, Richards and Dubery jumped highest, but the latter couldn’t control his header and the ball went over.
As the half progressed, Rangers had begun to control the play more and a couple of superb passes from Bates nearly paid dividends, but solid defending from Rothwell meant that the blue shirts couldn’t get near the goal.
Another shout for a penalty was turned down after Bates, who had surged into the area, was tackled from behind by the returning defender. Just like before, Mr McGeorge had a good look at it before deciding that the defender had won plenty of the ball first.
With chances starting to mount up for Rangers, including a lovely curling cross by Barden that just evaded Grannon’s outstretched leg, it came against the run of play when Rothwell took the lead in the 34th minute. A stright run through the middle saw the original shot parried by Jonty Smith, but the ball fell kindly to a Rothwell player and he lifted it over the grounded custodian and into the net.
Rangers almost replied straight away when Bates, picking up Barden’s pass, shot with the outside of his foot, but the Rothwell keeper got down well to push the ball out for a corner.
With their tails up, Rothwell came forward again, but reading the danger well, Kieron O’Brien stole in from the blind side to intercept a cross field pass and take it away from the striker.
With mere seconds of the half remaining, Rangers restored parity when Holliday found Wilks on the right wing and he manufactured an inch perfect cross to the back post where Bates produced a downwards header that squeezed between the keeper and post into the back of the net.
Half time: Rothwell 1 v 1 Kirk Deighton Rangers
Putting pressure on the keeper from the kick-off, Bates forced a hurried clearance that fell to Straker, but his shot floated just wide with the glovesman out of position.
Smith was called into action early on when he had to dive to his right to push a fierce drive wide after Deighton’s defence had afforded the Rothwell’s forward line too much space. The resultant corner saw Rothwell nearly score, but the well struck volley went just wide.
Rothwell were catching Rangers out on the counter and after a Barden free-kick had been cleared, it took a punch from Smith to remove the danger as the home team poured forwards.
A series of tackles resulted in a free-kick for Rangers and a Rothwell player receiving a booking and a long lecture from Mr McGeorge. When play restarted, O’Brien picked out the unmarked Grannon and he headed the ball home in the 55th minute.
Taking the game to their hosts Rangers nearly produced a third goal when Bates knocked the ball to Grannon on the wing, slipping it back to Dubery, he floated in a cross to the near post where Bates saw his header just clear the crossbar.
It took a brave save from the Rothwell custodian at the feet of Grannon to deny the striker another goal after he burst through the defence to meet Barden’s up and over pass. Seconds later Joe Turley was introduced for Will Bates, and the striker left the pitch to a decent round of applause from the Rangers spectators.
A long and precise throw by Smith unleashed Turley on the right wing and another super cross nearly picked out Grannon, but he couldn’t reach the ball. The same combination almost brought reaped rewards in the 68th minute when Turley tried to play in Grannon, but the ball ran to the keeper.
Not for the first time, the woodwork came to Rothwell’s aid when O’Brien unleashed a ferocious free-kick from 30 yards that crashed against the crossbar and looped into the sky before being cleared.
The chances were piling up for Rangers, and a jinking run by Holliday was only ended by a superbly timed tackle and then Dubery was left shaking his head after he shot over from Turley’s pullback.
Rothwell forced themselves back into the play when Josh Buckley, who had been subbed on for Richards, had to produce a trio of headers and a superb block to clear the danger as it came into the area. With hardly any time to catch your breath, a shot from distance from the home side fizzed past Smith’s post following a corner.
With the game in the final minute, a block by Smith saw the ball roll slowly towards the goal, however, O’Brien reached it first and was able to hook clear a foot before the line. From the corner, and with the Rothwell keeper in the Rangers area, Deighton broke through Holliday, but as the midfielder ran the length of the pitch and looked to slot the ball into an empty net, the referee blew for full time robbing him of a deserved goal!
Report by Pete Arnett
Rangers: Smith, Wilks, O’Brien, Richards (Buckley.J, 71), McKay, Straker.J, Dubery, Holliday, Barden, Bates (Turley, 62), Grannon. Subs not used: Wood, Woodward
Goals: Bates (44), Grannon (55)
Bookings: Dubery (foul) Rothwell – 2 players (fouls)
Red Cards: None
Referee: Mr Alex McGeorge
KDRFC Man of the Match (as chosen by Dan Marshall): An assist, a goalline clearance and a superbly struck freekick that crashed into the crossbar, added to an all-round superb defensive performance saw Kieron O’Brien handed this accolade.