Match Report - Oxford City - Away
Bentley 2, Bedford
After the disappointment of the FA Cup exit seven days earlier, it was back to league action for the Dolphins as they travelled to Oxford City for a critical six pointer at the bottom end of the table. Steve Devlin returned for Poole Town although a pulled hamstring after just eight minutes saw the influential midfielder hobble from the pitch and a worrying wait on how long he will be out for. Jez Bedford was unlucky to start on the bench but thankfully for Poole, it was he who replaced Devlin and then proceeded to put on a man-of-the-match performance.
The first half, for Poole was, quite simply, dreadful. The problems that have plagued them most of this season were apparent again. The defence looked shaky at best and the Dolphins simply could not get the ball. On the few occasions they had possession the ball was given away far too cheaply time and again, either through misplaced passes or long balls into the channels that both Bentley and Bedford chased down with determination but were never going to win.
Early warning signs for Poole as a right sided cross was headed onto the roof of Hutching’s net after just five minutes. Ten minutes later and a similar cross was met with an unmarked header which went wide. It was all one way traffic and it did seem as if it was a matter of time before the Poole defence was breached. Sure enough, on twenty minutes a header from a corner was parried by Hutchings (making his 250 league appearance) and Patterson had an easy tap in from the rebound.
Poole’s first attempt of the match saw Bedford hit a shot from the edge of the box but the keeper comfortably caught the ball. Still Oxford retained far more possession and, in truth, should have been out of sight by half time. The fact that they failed to add to their tally came back to haunt them just before the break when Bedford twisted and turned out wide right and with only Bentley in the box he produced the cross of the match to pick out the Poole marksman and his header back across the keeper was never going to miss. So despite being second best for about 40 minutes of the first half and Oxford hitting the bar in the final minute, Poole managed to troop off all square. Determination and spirit never in question.
Half time: 1-1
The beginning of the first half didn’t look too much different with a header flashing wide from a corner for Oxford at the restart. The key to this match was Bentley’s equaliser just before the break. City now started pushing forward looking to regain the lead and this began to open some gaps for Poole to exploit in the second period. Poole played much better anyway and the defensive display was much more assured in the second half. Spetch and Whisken were winning far more headers and there was some great, determined blocks on some of the Oxford efforts.
Poole survived the pressure however and on 66 minutes fortunes changed. Bentley raced clear from the halfway line one on one with keeper. As the striker tried to go round the keeper he was clearly brought down – a stonewall penalty that the referee decided not to give. Poole kept up the pressure however, and Neale (on for Dickson just before half time and had a great match thereafter) set up Harfield for a shot which deflected into the path of Bentley and he finished from close range.
Poole now looked a different team and ten minutes later they doubled their lead. A brilliant counter attack saw three Poole players bearing down on just two defenders. Bedford slid in Matt Neale and when it looked like he would shoot himself, he instead squared the ball back and Bedford did the rest.
It was vital now that Poole didn’t concede otherwise they would have been under siege towards the end. Poole held on well, killing the game off and when Patterson finished after a shot had cannoned back off the left hand post on 93 minutes, it was too little too late for the home side.
A much better second half performance and three invaluable points away from home lifted Poole out of the bottom three. This was doubly important given that the team now have a two week gap before going to Havant & Waterlooville on 21st October.
There is still much work to be done and the Dolphins may not have turned the corner yet. But at least the corner is now in sight.