Eccleshall 1 Robins 2

1st April 2006

The Robins came into the game after an amazing run of three consecutive goalless draws, desperate to get back on the winning trail and close the gap on the leading teams.
After several days of rain and a downpour at lunch time, the game was in doubt until a pitch inspection at two o’clock gave it the go-ahead. Thankfully a strong
wind and plenty of sunshine during the game helped to dry out the surface. A sparse crowd had gathered which included around fifteen travelling supporters who saw their team quickly into their stride.
Playing against the wind, the Robins put together some fine passing moves but couldn’t get on the end of any of the crosses into the box. The only chance of note during the first quarter of the game came when a rare Eccleshall attack ended with a forward blasting over from inside the area when he really ought to have done better. Despite the lack of goalmouth excitement, a fine contest was being fought out on the Harwood left where Dennis Hill was showing great ball control in the difficult conditions, and his direct opponent, Paul Griffeths, stuck to his task well and also found time to set up most of the attacks from the Eagles. On 25 minutes Harwood finally scored a goal for the first time since their last minute equaliser at Chadderton three weeks earlier. A diagonal high ball into the box was mis-judged by a home defender who could only direct it further into the danger zone, where captain Ryan Fisher leapt to bury a header back across the keeper and into the far right of the goal.
Buoyed by this, Harwood then began to take complete control but their shooting was far from accurate and they rarely troubled the keeper. On the one occasion he was called into action, he dived at the feet of Neville Nelson during a goalmouth scramble, to save a certain goal.
Eccleshall upped the pace in the ten minutes leading up to the break and they twice had good chances to draw level, but on each occasion, their forwards shot too high. Then just on half time another shot whistled just wide with Bobby Harris well beaten.
The second half began with the clouds re-appearing and a downpour of sleet, which thankfully stopped after a few minutes. With the wind behind them, the Harwood midfield started to dictate the game and Vasillis Theophanous was revelling in the mud down the centre of the pitch. On one fine run he charged down the middle like a Chieftan tank before being brought down in the ‘D’ on the edge of the box. Taking control of proceedings, he picked himself up and dusted himself down before curling an exquisite free kick into the bottom right hand corner of the net. At this point Eccleshall heads seemed to have dropped and they were left chasing shadows as Harwood began to rampage forward at will. Two minutes after the second goal, a great move across the pitch saw the ball moved from right to left and Yaqoob Khan played in Ed O’Neil who looked certain to score when 15 yards from goal with a clear sight of the keeper’s eyes. Sadly the shot didn’t match the build-up and his feeble effort went straight into Abel’s arms. Although still the better side, Harwood looked to have settled for 2-0 and despite the introduction of a tricky home substitute, the defence was rarely troubled. That was until 12 minutes from time when a long ball saw the Harwood defence flat-footed and Harris came dashing from his goal without a prayer of getting anywhere near the ball. Eccleshall captain Russell Demateo took full advantage to clip the ball past the stranded keeper for an easy goal.
That was the first goal to be conceded by the Robins for over 400 minutes. Refusing to be ruffled, the players continued to pass the ball around but the forwards seemed to have tired in the mud and Harwood never looked like adding to the score. Eccleshall attempted several long balls over the top but the Robins’ defence excelled and Harris was rarely called into action.
The three points kept the Reds in sight of the leading pack and with three home games in a row to come, there was the prospect of closing the gap. 2nd placed Winsford United were seven points clear of 6th in the table Harwood.
The victory was also Harwood’s ninth on the road compared with just three at the Interlink and their first ever win at Eccleshall.

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