PAUL Simpson scored twice before half-time for the Northamptonshire Combination to put the side within touching distance of claiming the inaugural Four Leagues crown, denying their opponents that privilege in the process.
The win, the Representative Side’s third on the spin under the new management team of Rob Dunion and Gordon Kyle, represents a remarkable turn of fortune for the side who were seemingly set for the wooden spoon a few short months ago.
The air of expectation that has followed the side in recent weeks was almost shattered within the opening moments of the match as an early Bedfordshire League attack struck the side netting.
The warning shot spurred the hosts into action with a neat passing move spoiled only by a weak finish. Paul Simpson had the first meaningful effort for the hosts, picking up a through-ball before being denied by a brave stop from the visitors’ keeper.
The Bedfordshire League side had the ball in the net five minutes later, but the strike was ruled out for offside. Immediately the hosts launched a counter-attack, and although there was a touch of fortune about Glen Turner’s goal, it was nothing if not deserved. With Craig Cassidy’s initial effort being blocked, the defence tried to clear the ball, only for it to hit Turner square in the chest. Despite the unexpected rebound, Turner reacted quickly as the ball fell to his feet and fired home.
Further pressure from the hosts soon told as Simpson was hauled down by the Bedfordshire League ‘keeper, yet the spot-kick was wasted by Marcus Edge who inexplicably side-footed over the bar.
The visitors were unable to capitalise on their good fortune. The hosts had an appeal for a second penalty turned down on the half-hour mark, but this simply proved the catalyst to try to put the game beyond the Bedfordshire League side.
On 44 minutes, Simpson tapped home from Cassidy’s clever cut-back, and doubled his tally and put the hosts three goals up a minute later, lobbing the goalkeeper after Turner’s shot took a rebound.
The second-half was a much quieter affair with the game over as a contest, and the hosts content to contain their opponents. The management side took the opportunity to give the substitutes a run out as their opponents began to tire visibly.
With 20 minutes left Edge made amends for his penalty foul-up with the fourth. The visitors’ goalkeeper found himself out of position in no man’s land, but Edge still had work to do, rounding the remaining defenders before sealing the win with the simplest of finishes.
In the dying minutes, the Bedfordshire League side were unlucky not to get a consolation.
Post-match Rob Dunion was upbeat, saying that he was “disappointed not to have scored more goals” particularly given the host’s physical dominance.
“The side have taken a while to gel, but they are getting on well now. The effort is there for all to see and was on show out there tonight.”
“The Bedfordshire League side could have got back into it after we missed that penalty, but I’m pleased with the way we responded to it.”
Ian Huckle, publicity officer