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League Cups the world over are not enjoying the best of press. The Southern League Challenge Cup is no exception. With five minutes thought, for anyone with an understanding of the current financial pressures on grassroots football, it’s not difficult to see why.
Mid-week games, little in the way of a prize and every round’s progress increasing the possibility of an unwanted long and expensive week-night trip to Truro or Taunton. The early localised rounds offer a jeopardy free opportunity to rest and recuperate the squad. They also oﬀer a chance for managers to look at their peripheral and younger players to gauge their readiness and oﬀer them valuable experience of competition at the higher level.
So it was that Gary Meakin’s team at North Leigh on Tuesday saw ten changes with Alex Lafleur the only survivor from the battling win at Truro on Saturday. His bench also reflected the club’s approach to elite development of young footballers as it consisted entirely of under 18 and academy players.
Their hosts on the night currently sit atop the Southern League Division One Central and are unbeaten in the League having garnered 16 points from their opening six fixtures.
On the face of it, on a steeply sloping pitch made slick by persistent early drizzle, all the elements were in place for an upset.
North Leigh though could not live up to their giant killer billing on the night and Beaconsfield progressed fairly comfortably by virtue of goals in either half from Jeﬀerson Louis.
His first was due in no small part to Scott Davies who picked up possession after the home defence failed to clear a 25th minute corner, despite ample opportunity. Davies drove to the edge of the six-yard box before delivering a perfect low cross which the evergreen striker gleefully converted at the far post.
The second was similar with the big striker getting on the end of another low ball but this time the finish was a delicious Cruyff style flick. Louis allowing the ball to run between his legs before finessing a finish with the inside of his right heel allowing the pace of the dri- ven cross to carry the ball across Kie Plumley and into the corner.
It was no more than The Rams deserved on a night when they absorbed the hosts early slope assisted pressure, enjoyed spells of controlled possession and generally imposed themselves on enthusiastic energetic opponents, held them at arms length and pro- gressed with a minimum of alarms and no further injuries or suspensions.
Luke Neville and Jordan AJ will have benefitted from the 90 minutes in their legs and lungs as they return from injury. So too Basram Pashaj returning from two significant and serious injuries, who showed that he has lost none of his elusive running and close control.
Scott Davies in the heart of the midfield epitomised everything that was good about the performance linking with Kensley Maloney, restored to midfield after his outing as an emergency right back on Saturday, and clearly relishing the opportunity.
There was time as well to give First Team minutes to youngsters Kayne Connor, Deante Gibson and Jed Layman
All in all a highly satisfactory evening for The Rams albeit in a competition no one really wants to win.
Next up the biggest game of the season so far as The Rams travel to Havant & Waterlooville for an Emirates FA Cup second qualifying round tie.
Subs not used
12 Sam Thurston
14. Nabil Salum
Manager: Gary Meakin
Manager: Eddie Odhiambo