Southern Premier League Southern Division
Saturday 16th February 2019
Rams Man of the Match - Jordan AJ Ajanlekoko
Taunton fans are living the non-league dream. A record-breaking promotion season sweeping all before them last term and leading their new division virtually from the opening weekend this season. Credit then to Rams Chairman Chris Coyle and manager Gary Meakin, that those same fans were gracious enough to admit that the team they have assembled gave The Peacocks their two toughest tests, “The best team we’ve played this season”! were narrow victories over Beaconsfield Town - also promoted last year but in a different league when budgets, facilities and support are discussed.
Football is played on the pitch though and Beaconsfield’s mix of enthusiastic youth and seasoned midfield and defensive experience continue to more than hold their own with the division’s top teams.
Denied Ravan Constables services through suspension at the 11th hour and Bajram Pashaj following his serious arm injury in the previous home game Gary Meakin gave debuts to on loan Hayes and Yeading keeper Jack Smith and new signing Thomas Gogo, recruited from struggling Staines.
Both made encouraging starts to their Rams careers in a highly competitive first half which, although enthralling for the 133 who turned up to witness it, was long on commitment, spirit and effort but lacked the spark of quality to give either side the edge.
Matthew had the best effort for the Rams dragging a snapshot wide on 12 minutes after a good combination with the ever industrious Jon-Jo Bates. Moments later Callum Webb played in Louis Stead down the right and his low cross was met by Matthew at the near post but he could not keep the effort down and did not trouble Lloyd Irish in the visitors goal.
For the visitors Ollie Chamberlain and Andrew Neal were lively on either flank, Skipper Matt Wright was a muscular target at the point of attack and Dan Sullivan was at the heart of everything good going forward but the Rams defence stood firm and despite a flurry of corners and pressure midway through the half Jack Smith had few alarms and no direct shot to save before half time.
Half time 0-0
The second half started in a similar vein, with an early corner for the visitors headed over by Ed Palmer.
The game burst into life in the 49th minute when Beaconsfield opened the scoring. Receiving the ball in the centre of midfield Jon-Jo Bates worked his way to the right and laid the ball back to Louis Stead who struck a trademark whipped cross to the far post where Brendan Matthew rose unchallenged to direct a powerful header into the bottom corner giving Irish no chance.
League leaders Taunton responded as you would expect. They increased the pressure and made it difficult for the home side to retain possession or play their way out. Their efforts, though, were mostly huff and puff, lacking real quality where it really mattered.
Beaconsfield’s problems were largely of their own making as they resorted to front to back play, asking Matthew and Bates to fight for scraps from the muscular combination of Ed Palmer and Matt Buse at the heart of the Taunton defence. Unsurprisingly, willing as they were, The Rams front two weren’t getting much change from anything above waist high and when they did get any joy on the ground they were subject to quick and robust, mostly fairish, challenge. Try as they might Beaconsfield could not retain possession or get out of their own half. For the most part though they restricted the visitors to corners and long throws which ended in clearances or efforts off target. Neal and Wright both wasting promising positions with wild finishes.
The equaliser, when it came, in the 62nd minute, was no surprise based on the run of play but probably owed as much to the official’s interpretation of laws as to good play from the visitors. A ballooned cross climbed to height before dropping with snow on it on the edge of the six yard box. Smith elected to punch. Always difficult when the trajectory of the ball is so steep. He made reasonable contact before being clattered by Ollie Chamberlain who got there as quick as he could but still ended up arriving shortly after the ball.
The ball looped to the edge of the box where it fell to Sullivan who dragged a right foot shot which appeared to flick off the boot of an advancing Reece Yorke as it flew past Chamberlain, stood in an offside position, directly in Smith’s line of vision, and nestled in the bottom corner. Between them the officials found no fault with either the initial challenge which was debatable or the subsequent interfering with play, arguably less so?
Despite vehement protests from the home side, Mr Evans was unmoved and the goal was allowed to stand 1-1 .
With the visitors now firmly in the ascendancy, something needed to change. Gary Meakin introduced all three subs, Charlie Losasso replacing Bates, Wes Daly for Dan Brown and Marvin Morgan for Thomas Gogo, who had faded a little after a promising beginning to his Rams career.
The angular awkward guile of Morgan immediately gave the visitors back four something new to think about and Beaconsfield responded with renewed vigour prompted by Daly who added his usual ring craft in the middle of the park retaining possession, winning free kicks and probing at every opportunity .
That said Chamberlain almost gave the visitors the lead before the subs had time to make an impact, latching on to a Reece Yorke slip on half way he saw Smith off his line and launched a Beckhamesque 45 yard chip which had the young keeper struggling to cover as it dipped on to the top of the bar and away to safety.
Moments later the home-sides renewed effort almost put them ahead. Morgan was fouled on the right. From the free kick Mayo Balogun swung in a deep cross which Morgan met at the far post. His downward header lacked the power of Matthew’s earlier effort but produced a scrambling save from Irish, who was unable to hold it. As Jordan Anjanlekoko advanced on the rebound the keeper stuck out a leg and shovelled the ball away from goal making the angle impossible and AJ’s effort found only the side netting.
In their next attack Balogun drove in a teasing low cross which evaded everyone and a lunging Brendan Matthew narrowly failed to convert at the far post.
As is often the way the key moment of the game on 85 minutes was a combination of the brilliant and the daft. Receiving the ball near half way Morgan was corralled by Ryan Brett who edged him towards the byline, rather than routinely belting the ball into touch to regroup Brett picked the big strikers pocket and smuggled possession away to James Dodd and then ran on to a return pass and headed up the wing. His run was halted by a Morgan challenge which could best be described as, ‘a forwards tackle’, that owed as much to his frustration at being dispossessed as to any lack of tackling acumen. It was a poor foul to concede in a dangerous position, against a team whose principle threat all afternoon came from set pieces.
The initial free kick was cleared as far as Sullivan, in space 20 yards out, his shot struck the left-hand upright, spun up off the face of the bar before falling to Wright who contrived to hit the other post from less than a yard but his blushes were saved as the second or may be third rebound was hammered home by Palmer.
Beaconsfield were not finished and, as Taunton engaged in blatant time wasting, were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out to the left of centre. Charlie Losasso’s curling effort sailed up and over the wall and dipped towards the bottom corner but was met by a full length save from Irish which secured the three points for his team.
The result was arguably harsh for Beaconsfield who will feel their performance was at least worthy of a point but Champions win games like this and Taunton will take some stopping as the season draws to the business end.
1. Jack Smith
2. Callum Webb
3. Mayowa Balogun
4. Reece Yorke
5. Luke Neville ©
6. Daniel Brown [Sub 14 Wes Daly 70]
7. Louis Stead
8. Jordan AJ Ajanlekokko
9. Brendan Matthew
10. Jon-Jo Bates [Sub 16 Charlie Losasso 65]
11. Thomas Gogo [Sub 17 Marvin Morgan 70]
Subs Not Used:
12: Jerome Ecclestone
15: Aaron Minhas
Manager: Gary Meakin
1. Lloyd Irish
2. Shane White
3. Lewis Hall
4. Ben Adelsbury [Sub James Dodd 65]
5. Ed Palmer
6. Matt Buse
7. Ollie Chamberlain
8. Ryan Brett
9. Matt Wright© [ Sub 12: Craig Veal 86 ]
10. Dan Sullivan
Subs Not Used:
14: Josh Nelmes
16: Keith Emmerson
Manager: Rob Dray
Ref: Mr Robert Evans
Assistants: Mr Daniel - Jacobs Mr Ionnis Christodolou