Coach Rangers 1 Bradley 0

Monday 10th August 2009
Coach Rangers 1 Bradley 0
Summer League
At: Hulland Ward Playing Field, Ashes Road
Kick-off: 7-00 pm
No admission or programme
Attendance: 35 (headcount)
Weather: sunny then cloudy
Duration: first half: 40:00; second half: 40:15

Champions Bradley and second-place challengers Coach Rangers are the two Summer League sides I’ve seen play most frequently this season and they served up a superb League Cup Final last month which Coach won 3-1.

So despite the game being switched away from Ashbourne Rec, which I still need to visit, the mouthwatering prospect of seeing these two go head-to-head again proved too strong to resist.

The Rec is out of action following recent flooding so I was appreciate of ‘Scottie’, the Coach Rangers Assistant Manager, for the email at lunchtime that told me that the place to head for was Hulland Ward Playing Field. With FC Hulland not contesting this season’s Summer League, the ground was one I’d not had the pleasure of previously visiting.

Hulland Ward is a village about five miles east of Ashbourne along the A517 towards Belper. After a bit of driving around, I found the ground which can be more easily reached by turning off the main road between the Nags Head and Hulland Ward Garage into Firs Road then second left into Ashes Road. The ground was on the right.

From the car park, the pitch (orientated south-east–north-west) ran widthways towards the left. It was a level surface which judging by the slope from the car park towards the pitch, clearly had been levelled at some point. It was unroped with no spectator accommodation, though banking along the near touchline provided an elevated vantage point. Recent rain had left the playing surface a bit on the soft side.

With runners-up spot still very much up for grabs, Coach (50 points from 22 games) were just two points behind Doveridge, the team in possession of second spot, and just one point behind third placed Osmaston. Crucially, Coach had three games in hand on these two sides. The two teams immediately below Coach – Holly Bush United and Alton – both have games in hand as well so could have a say over the next couple of weeks in who finishes as runner-up.

As I witnessed at Hilton last Thursday, Bradley (71 points from 25 games) have already secured the 2009 Summer League title and now their aim was to complete the league season with an unbeaten record. After this clash with Coach, they have two games left – away to Biggin and the return home fixture against Coach.

Just as they did in last month’s League Cup Final, Coach and Bradley served up another superb advert for the Summer League.

“Change sides, Bradley kick,” announced the referee after the toss, meaning the visitors were forced to defend into the prominent low sun in the west.

Bradley (wearing their familiar grey shirts, black socks and either black or black and white hoped socks), attacking from right to left in relation to my slightly elevated vantage point on the near side, created the first chance. Karl Grocott’s deep left-wing cross was met at the far post by Wayne Archer who sliced a first-time volley wide.

Jez Oborn cut in from the right for the visitors to the edge of the Coach area and drilled a low shot which keeper Sean Jones comfortably gathered up. Oborn again went close with a far-post head.

Defender Adrian ‘Dobbo’ Roberts found some space on the right and hit a ferocious 25-yard right-foot volley which flew just over the bar to the sound of ‘ooohs’ from the Coach contingent on the far side.

Roberts tried his luck again in the 16th minute and this time scored a spectacular goal which ultimately settled this game in favour of Coach Rangers. Again out on the right 30 yards out, he hit a rising right footer which this time flew over the Bradley keeper Ollie Maudling into the top-left corner of the net.

I’d previously seen Bradley play four times this season and in three of the games they had to come from behind to secure a victory. I wondered if the Champions would do so again to maintain their 13-month unbeaten league record. Then again, Coach Rangers had won each of the three previous games I’d seen them play, including the League Cup Final win over Bradley.

Coach Rangers (wearing pink shirts, black shorts and black socks) created another good chance in the 23rd minute. Paul Godfrey played a free-kick forward into the area where Simon Wint sent a close-range header straight at Maudling.

“Plenty of time lads,” was the encouraging shout from one Bradley player to his teammates and they almost restored parity just before the half-hour mark. Jez Oborn got on the end of Scott Smith’s free-kick and forced a fine diving save out of Jones at the expense of a corner.

As the interval approached, Jones was again called into action to scoop Smith’s low shot around the left-hand post.

Bradley went close again just before the break. Grocott fed the overlapping Jay Tremlow on the left who whipped a cross across the face of goal. Jez Oborn got forward but couldn’t apply the vital touch.

The second half started with Bradley getting deep into Coach territory. Grocott chased a long ball only to be denied a shooting chance Martin Taylor’s saving tackle. The visitors appealed for a penalty in the 52nd minute for a challenge on Grocott but the referee waived play on. Archer delivered a corner from the left which Steve Coates powered over the bar. As Bradley continued to threaten, Jones made a brave save at the feet of Smith.

After Godfrey sent a free-kick against the Bradley wall, the visitors again tested the resolute defending and concentration from Coach. Grocott was tripped by John Dumpleton near the left corner of the Coach area and, just like Godfrey a few minutes before, Smith hit the resulting free-kick against the wall.

I spotted some of the Summer League’s ‘great and good’ in the crowd including Secretary John Brailsford and referee Jim Conway. There was no doubt this was a tense affair with Coach working hard as a unit to prevent Bradley getting the equaliser they needed to maintain the proud unbeaten record. The men in pink may lack the consistency Bradley show over a full league season but can undoubtedly raise their game for the ‘big’ occasion, which this game undoubtedly was.

Having survived a spell of pressure, Coach were able to get forward and look for a second goal. Wint, faced by two defenders, volley wide from 25 yards out, then Craig Frith battled on the edge of the area to set up a shooting chance for James Carter who aimed straight at Maudling. There were more ‘ooohs’ from the Coach bench when Godfrey shaved the top of the Bradley bar with a rising 35-yard left-foot drive.

Maudling kept his side in the hunt for a point with an excellent save in the 74th minute. Diving to his left, the young keeper kept out a long-range effort from Carter and gathered the loose ball at the second attempt.

Bradley’s star striker Jez Oborn was kept unusually quiet by the Coach defence and he was replaced for the final few minutes by Richard Coates.

Wint almost put the outcome beyond doubt in the closing stages with a close-range header from Craig Frith’s pull back that missed the right-hand post by inches.

Bradley had one last chance. Just about everyone apart from Maudling was inside the Coach area when a free-kick was pumped forward. Bouncing inside the area, the ball fell to Clem Mellor who volleyed just over the bar.

These three points keep up the pressure on the other two sides chasing runners-up spot – Doveridge and Osmaston – and maintain the gap over Holly Bush United and Alton who faced each other this evening at Alton.

Even though they have lost their unbeaten league record, Bradley still have a cup final to look forward to. On Saturday they face Biggin in the Wayne Tarbard Memorial Trophy Final at Rose & Crown.

Coach Rangers (pink/black/black): 13. Sean Jones, 14. Adrian Robers, 4. Martin Taylor, 6. Richard Smith, 11. Paul Godfrey, 12. Craig Firth, 16. James Carter, 15. Dec Bacon, 3. Dan Frith, 9. Callum Woolley (capt), 10. Simon Wint. Subs: Ian McConichie, Danny Moon, John Dumpleton (all not used).

Bradley (grey /black/black): 1. Ollie Maudling, 16. Clem Mellor, 2. Simon Oborn, 6. Mike Twemlow, 14. Nick Stubbs, 4. Scott Smith (capt), 3. Jay Tremlow, 5. Steve Coates, 12. Wayne Archer, 10. Karl Grocott, 8. Jez Oborn. Subs: 7. Glyn Sellers (for Steve Coates, 66), 11. Stuart Coates (for Stubbs, 72), 15. Richard Coates (for Oborn, 77), 9. Richard Gage (not used).

Referee: A Smith.

1-0 Adrian Roberts (16)

Coach: none.
Bradley: none.