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Promotion rivals share the spoils

Faithfold A took another step towards the title, without even playing, as promotion rivals Oakwood B and Raiders B were forced to share the spoils after a six-goal thriller.

    Given the conditions, both teams deserve credit for playing as well as they did. Snow fell all game and on the 3G pitch the surface became very slippery and unpredictable.

    In truth, the first half was mostly forgettable. Oakwood had most of the ball and threatened to get in behind Raiders a few times but it was Raiders that took a fortunate lead late in the half. Some good slick passing freed up Rob Blackman down the right and his looping cross was somewhat mishit but and floated into the far corner of the goal.

    There was renewed focus from both sides at the start of the second half and Raiders soaked up 10 minutes of pressure before starting to be a bit more attacking. Just after the hour mark David Dinkin continued his good form, volleying in superbly at the near post from a Matt Leader corner. 

    The second goal seemed to spring Oakwood into life and in a 60-second frenzy they found themselves level. The first goal game on 70 minutes, a good cross from the left was headed in low past Ben Law.

    The second followed almost straight from the restart. The Raiders defenders could only watch on as the Oakwood forward collected an accurate long pass and rounded Law to slot in for 2-2.

    Despite momentum being with Oakwood it was Raiders who had the best of the remainder of the game and with just 10 minutes left to play an inch-perfect pass from Blackman played in Jake Gilbert who finished with confidence as he bore down on the goalkeeper.

    The drama wasn't over and although Oakwood deserved to be level again it came in controversial circumstances. Brandon Sassoon was pushed over whilst trying to shield the ball out for a goal-kick and rather than a free-kick for Raiders, an Oakwood corner was awarded. From the resulting corner Oakwood fired in a leveller whilst Raiders players surrounded the referee adamant the ball had been controlled by the Oakwood player's hands.

    Both sides had late chances to win it but this cracking game ended 3-3. Simon Davies, Daniel Seligman and Max Clynes responded for the Oaks.

    NLR joint-manager Doron Salmon told JC Sport: "This game was everything we anticipated it would be. Despite Jason's absence from the sidelines, his team were well prepared, up for a battle and tough opposition.

    "Although there was some controversy surrounding the late equaliser I couldn't begrudge Oakwood the draw, a Raiders win wouldn't have been a fair reflection on the game.

    "This doesn't feel like two points dropped particularly because we lost a few players in the 24 hours before the game.

    "The players worked very hard for a point against a good and likeable team who we face again in a couple of weeks."

    Oakwood boss Jason Stein told JC Sport: "“Firstly, thanks to Dan Kristall who stepped in admirably for me on no notice after I work commitments got the better of me. Not bad to be able to call in the reigning Premier Division winning manager to assist. His quality showed at the end when, by the sounds of things, he almost physically dragged centre back Max Clynes into the box to head home the equaliser. Why he wasn’t up there already is beyond me!

    “I wasn’t there, obviously, but to lose our goalkeeper Ben Lewis to a broken finger in the warm-up was obviously a disaster that set us back. And then to be 2-0 down with 20 minutes to go and not lose is a pretty good effort I’d say. Think Raiders will be gutted not to have won from there and then to have led 3-2 as well.

    “By all accounts we played well but once again we were our worst enemy. Missing loads of chances and giving away soft goals. It’s got to get better. Every week we are going out and giving ourselves too much to do. We look forward to playing them again in two weeks.” 

    RAIDERS: Ben Law, Rob Blackman, Matt Leader, Brandon Sassoon, Elad Hertshten, Anthony Goodmaker, Ricky Lawrence, Elliott Espinoza, Simon Buchler, Jake Gilbert, David Dinkin

    SCORERS: Blackman, Dinkin, Gilbert

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