With Gary Meakin unavailable - get well soon Parker - Club captain Wes Daly took charge of Beaconsfield Town’s opening fixture of the new season, away at Dorchester Town. Last season’s visit brought about a change in away fortunes for The Rams which saw them go on to secure their Southern Premier League status with some degree of comfort. On this occasion Beaconsfield endured a frustrating afternoon falling by the narrowest margin to a wind assisted wonder strike.
The opening, and only, goal came on ten minutes and was the first incident of note as both teams struggled to come to terms with the windswept rain lashed conditions.
There didn’t appear to be too much danger as home favourite Tom Blair collected a Reece Yorke clearing header on the left edge of the box. Faced by defenders the striker turned and headed away from the danger area seemingly shaping to cross or pick out a forward running midfield colleague. As he drew level with the corner of the 18 yard box, on the half turn he hit a curling right foot effort, shaped perfectly to pick up the pace and direction of the wind, which arced into the top corner past the despairing dive of Andrew McCorkell.
After the goal the first half resumed its early pattern, neither team able to assert any control or mount sustained pressure. The home side enjoyed territorial advantage largely bestowed by the wind and carried more threat with Blair linking well with Thomas Bath and Antonio Diaz but The Rams dealt comfortably with them whilst creating little by way of attacking menace or sustained possession.
It was the 19th minute before they played a glove on The Magpies, Jon-Jo Bates and Brendan Matthew combing well on the edge of the box, after good work to win the ball from Jordan Ajanlekoko. JJ’s goal bound effort was deflected wide by home skipper Dan Strugnell. From the resulting corner AJ rose well at the far post but could not keep his header down.
On 27 minutes Louis Fazakerly was forced to leave the field with a hamstring strain and Alex Nolan was introduced and for the remainder of the half the home side were in the ascendancy - the rain gave way to sunshine but the wind remained and The Magpies were again able to exploit it to territorial advantage without completely dominating. McCorkell made a smart save at his near post from Blair, thwarted, as much by the narrow angle as the keeper, after a typical muscular run had taken him past Nolan to the by-line.
The home side forced a number of corners without the quality delivery needed, whilst The Rams continued to splutter. Attacking threat, such as it was, amounting to a Luke Heneghan shot, well wide after good work from Luke Neville had fed Brendan Matthew, and Jon-Jo bates almost getting the better of home keeper Shane Murphy who narrowly beat the busy striker to a deflected through ball that held up on the breeze.
From the resulting clearance Blair shaped to slide past Alex Nolan but the full backs tackle prevented a repeat of the previous run - sadly it didn’t involve the ball and resulted in Nolan receiving the game’s first caution. From the free kick Diaz curled an effort goal-wards that McCorkell tipped over. The resulting corner was cleared behind for a second which Beaconsfield struggled to clear before it fell to Callum Rose 16 yards out. His fierce volley was brilliantly saved above his head by McCorkell.
As the interval approached the hosts were worth their lead but it was clear there was enough in conditions to suggest it was anybody game.
Whatever Wes Daly said at half time seemed to prove the point. The Rams began on the front foot with David Manu driving to the by-line before sending in a cross which the home side struggled to clear - as they attempted to play out Brendan Matthew robbed Billy Lowes in midfield, drove on goal and fired a 20 yard effort narrowly wide. Now it was Beaconsfield taking full advantage of the assistance of the elements and the home side looking disjointed and under pressure.
On 50 minutes Beaconsfield seemed to be back in the game as Jon-Jo Bates beat the advancing Murphy to a Matthews pass. He toed the ball round him before the keepers lunging dive sent him sprawling to the ground. Almost everyone in the ground was convinced it was a penalty. Almost everyone that is but referee Mr Clench. The Bristol official not only disagreed, he differed to the point where he felt that Bate’s avoiding being clattered by the sprawling keeper, and jumping over him, constituted simulation and warranted a booking. Insult to injury frankly.
Moments later Mayo Balogun, increasingly prominent on the left, cut in and fired in a low shot from the edge of the box which Murphy did well to save as it arrowed towards the bottom corner. The rebound fell kindly, if slowly, for the advancing Brendan Matthew and the lack of pace allowed Murphy to recover enough to make himself big and divert the striker’s effort wide for a corner.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic. Either side of the hour mark the home side had chances to nick a second. First, Diaz pulled a shot wide when well-placed and then Thomas Bath made a terrible hash of a golden opportunity. One on one with McCorkell, after being played in direct from a throw in as The Rams defence snoozed, the lanky striker spooned his effort high and woefully wide.
Wes Daly rang the changes introducing Dean Morgan up front and Beaconsfield continued to press for the equaliser. Jon-Jo Bates worked tirelessly pressing and winning back possession drawing free kicks and creating pressure.
As the half wore on The Magpies looked increasingly happy to sit on their lead and massed in two banks of four to repel The Rams.Daly shifted the formation to three at the back introducing James McCluskey to try and pry open the defence but despite dominating possession and territory the final ball or shot lacked the quality needed to pierce the home rear guard. The Rams continued to press but as the game entered the comedy time wasting phase, which Mr Clench considered worthy only of four minutes added, it was apparent that they could probably play until dark without forcing the equaliser.
A frustrating afternoon for The Rams who will feel they deserved at least a point for their efforts but no time to dwell on refereeing ‘what might have beens’ as they prepare to welcome local rivals Chesham United to Holloways Park on Tuesday night.
Come On You Rams!