A battling one-nil win on a very difficult pitch at Paulton Rovers on Monday afternoon earned Bristol Manor Farm maximum points from their two games over the Easter Weekend and tightened their grip on that all-important third place in the race for play-off football in May.
The central midfield pairing of Jay Adams and Jack Durrant both came off the pitch at the final whistle looking like coal-men after a long shift down the pit. To say the going was soft out there would be an understatement and it is a great credit to both teams that they managed to play some football despite the farmyard conditions underfoot.
The only goal of the game came in the twelfth minute when Jordan Metters took a short pass from the lively Troy Simpson before drilling it low and hard into the corner. Diving goalkeeper Andrew Hannah had got a hand to the ball but Metters strike had too much on it for the Paulton gloves-man and the Manor Farm fans behind the goal celebrated wildly as the ball went over the line.
Paulton had chances to get back into the game but a header flew over the bar six minutes after Metters’ opener and Farm keeper Ashley Clarke dived well to double-fist clear a well-hit long range effort after 23 minutes.
Almost immediately Metters was put through again up the other end and his well-placed shot looked odds-on to double Farm’s tally but Hannah dived well himself to parry the effort away to safety.
Rovers settled the quicker at the start of the second half and the Farm goal was put under pressure as the home side threatened to find an equaliser. With an hour played Ashley Clarke once again produced a fine save when he turned behind a fierce shot for a corner.
The Manor Farm back four however showed great resilience and organisation through this period and it was a particularly pleasing rearguard display for right back Stuart Tovey – generously handed the captain’s armband today on his return to Winterfield Road.
But it was in the midfield skirmish that today’s battle was truly won and mudlarks Adams and Durrant now wrested the game back off Paulton and pressed home Manor Farm’s second half downhill advantage with a series of blocks, tackles and front-foot passing that pushed Paulton further and further back into the quagmire.
Striker Dean Stamp went close with a 73rd minute header from one of a series of Kye Holly corners but goalkeeper Hannah was well placed to safely gather the ball in.
With ten minutes left to play centre half Steve Kingdon almost made it 3 goals in 3 games but his header following another corner was off target and wide.
Young Farm substitute Rex Mannings earned his side an 88th minute free kick in a good position on the left and Kye Holly wrong-footed nearly everyone when he drilled his shot to the near post but once again Hannah did well to dive low and prevent the score from doubling.
Five minutes of added time were not enough for Paulton to gain the equaliser they sought and it must have seemed to them like a daunting task as they strove uphill with Durrant, Adams, Kingdon, Mills, Holly,Turner, Robbins, Tovey and Clarke all muddied and stood in their way.
The win puts Manor Farm to within five points of Salisbury in the second automatic promotion spot and although the Wiltshire pre-season title favourites still have a game in hand over Lee Lashenko’s men, Steve Claridge’s side still have to come to The Creek – on the final day of the season and following fixtures against other play-off contenders. If Bristol Manor Farm can continue their fine winning form, that last-day fixture could still yet prove to be a winner-takes-all fixture. The winners automatically promoted (behind Taunton Town as worthy champions) and the losers pressed into further play-off action in May… “Premier League?” Who needs it..?
STAR MAN (Jack Durrant, Bristol Manor Farm)
|2nd April 2018||15:00 PM||Southern League West||2017/18|
|4 Bloomfield Rise, Paulton, Bristol BS39 7RF, UK|
|Club||1st Half||2nd Half||Goals|
|Bristol Manor Farm||1||0||1|