Reporter: Jacob Reid
Manager Jones named a completely reshuffled squad for this friendly match against Pitsford Grammar School, however maintained his preferred formation of 4-3-3.
The game started in scrappy fashion; both sides struggling to string chains of passes together, and a series of blocks and tackles were executed by both sides. The first chance of the game went Moulton’s way, where a corner somehow rebounded its way to Captain Bill Warren, who could only manage a tame volley straight at the Pitsford goalkeeper.
Midfielders Alex Haycock and Harry Oakenfull proved to be a handful for the visitors; Haycock demonstrating his natural flair in the middle of the park, whilst Oakenfull bolstered the team with great strength and battling qualities. A searching through ball from Warren found the lightning feet of Kieran Stockwell, but to the misfortune of Moulton, nobody in a maroon shirt could latch on to the Moulton Winger’s cross.
Pitsford began to ebb their way into the game, and on the quarter of an hour mark broke the deadlock. A piece of irresistible skill from the opposing winger completely wrong-footed Moulton Centre-Back Cameron Stockwell, and the players’ low drilled shot found its way into the far bottom corner.
However, this lead was short-lived, and Moulton clawed back an equaliser. After a series of unsuccessful corners, one finally paid dividends. A brilliantly whipped in cross from Haycock could only be cleared to Warren just inside the box, and the Moulton number 7 rifled home, albeit with a deflection on the way.
Arguably against the run of play, it was Pitsford who then got their noses in front. A controversial refereeing decision from rookie Ross Evans-Smith gifted the away side a penalty; despite the challenge appearing to be outside the box. Nonetheless, Pitsford wasted no time in disputing the decision, and the opposing striker tucked it away coolly, despite Moulton goalkeeper Ben Turner getting a hand to it.
Just before the break, some nice interchanges on the right side between Oliver Birk and Rafail Hyseni allowed the marauding Haycock to burst into the box, only to have his powerful effort tipped onto the crossbar by Pitsford’s goalkeeper. A Jonesy half-time team talk was needed.
Moulton came out of the blocks early in the second half. Moulton sentinel Harry Oakenfull found substitute Ryan Coxhill with a pinpoint accurate through ball, and his electric burst saw him evade the helpless Pitsford defence, but his subsequent shot was tipped onto the post by the opposing goalkeeper.
Moulton continued to knock on Pitsford’s door; the next wave of attack being a great drive from full-back Luke Gardner, whose firm low cross could not be met by a Moulton man. However deservedly, 10 minutes into the half, Moulton got their equaliser. After slow and steady build-up play, midfielder Oakenfull took matters into his own hands, taking on 2 opposing players before unleashing a thumping effort into the top corner of the Pitsford goal from some distance.
Just minutes later, Moulton snatched the lead; 2 substitutes combining in the form of Lloyd, whose through ball found the charging Coxhill, who took it into his stride and arrowed his effort into the far bottom corner. Nothing more than Moulton deserved.
However, the home side then appeared to switch off. A long clearance from Pitsford skimmed off hapless defender Stockwell’s head; allowing the Pitsford frontman to bear down on goal and volley into the bottom corner. A wake-up call for Moulton.
The home side then responded just 5 minutes later with a really well worked goal. Substitute Coxhill yet again showed his quality; dancing into the Pitsford box before pulling the ball back to danger man Haycock, who took a touch to steady himself before hitting a low shot which deflected over the goalkeeper and into the net, making it 4-3 in Moulton’s favour.
A period of flatness ensued; Moulton doggedly battling to maintain and increase their lead, whilst Pitsford continued to block and clear whatever the home side threw at them. However, 10 minutes from time, out of nothing, Pitsford nabbed another equaliser. After some steady build-up play, the subsequent low-drilled cross flew past a number of bodies in the box before a Pitsford man stole in at the back post to stroke it past the flailing Turner.
For the remainder of the game, Moulton bombarded the visiting side; chance after chance after chance. Forward drives from Jayden Orritt exposed the gaps in the Pitsford defence, and crosses continued to be pumped into the box. In the dying embers of the game, Moulton had a chance to steal the win at the death. Yet another quality delivery into the box from Stockwell ridiculed the Pitsford backline; the ball eventually rebounding to Charlie Lloyd, who from 2 yards out, had his effort saved miraculously by the away side’s goalkeeper. It didn’t look to be Moulton’s day.
However, with just seconds to play, Moulton found their winner. Rafail Hyseni burst into the box and his inch-perfect cross was met by the hungry John Fuller, who brushed the ball on the volley into the bottom corner. Jubilant and passionate celebrations ensued, and even the referee could not contain his emotions.
In a closely-contested match, Moulton’s dogged and determined performance reaped the benefits in the end; the game finishing 5-4. Despite leaving it to the final seconds, it was a deserved win for the men in maroon, and manager Jones will be left satisfied with the way his much-changed team played.
Team: Turner, Birk, Stockwell, Orritt, Gardner, Oakenfull, Warren (C), Haycock, Stockwell, Fuller, Hyseni
Substitutes: Dickens, Lloyd, Coxhill
MOTM: Harry Oakenfull