Today's blog will follow a slightly different format to normal. It's less than 2 months since my last visit to Blisworth (Corby Pressed), so there is little point in describing their ground again. There is, however, still a good reason to put a little background into the blog before getting into the meat of the match.
Anyone who read last month's Northants Combination run-in article (The Right Combination) will already be aware that the Premier League title race had already boiled down to two teams, Blisworth and Roade. Since that article Blisworth have played three league games, Roade have played two. However, they key fact in all of this is that whilst Roade won both of their games, Blisworth won two but then slippe dup at Earls Barton United last weekend, a game that BotP covered (The Pendulum Swings). The consequences of these results meant that going into today's game, Roade still held a seven point lead but Blisworth now only had one game in hand. With few games left to play, this put an extra emphasis on Blisworth getting a positive result from today's game. Add to that the fact that there is less than 3 miles between the two grounds and you have the makings of a classic six-pointer. One thing in favour of the home side was the fact that they won at Roade in November with goal from Marc Dowling and Kieren Westbury seeing them to a 2-1 victory. Dale Lewis scored for Roade in a game that also saw Lee Abrams pick up a red card.
Just as last week for Blisworth, it was clearly going to be a game affected by the wind. However, this week they were going to have the conditions in their favour during the second half rather than the first. Surely, all they needed to do was see out the first 45 minutes without any damage? Unfortunately for Blisworth, that plan took a big hit as early as the third minute. Roade won a free kick out on the right midway into the Blisworth half. The ball was delivered deep towards the far post and as the visitor's Number 5 stooped to get a head on it a Blisworth defender tried to hook the ball clear but only succeeded in giving the Roade player a nasty looking boot to the head. The referee pointed to the spot immediately and, after a fairly lengthy delay for the Roade player to get treatment, Jonathon Joyce stepped up to smash the penalty home. 0-1.
Blisworth tried to hit back straight away and had two shots blocked by last ditch defending. Kieren Westbury then got himself into the book for a late lunge on a Roade player. It was more of a mis-timed tackle than anything malicious but, because he slid into it, the referee had no real option than to produce a yellow. This was to prove a significant incident later in the game.
Although Blisworth had had those two shots blocked straight after going a goal down, they were finding it difficult to muster any real momentum, partially due to the wind and partially because they seemed to be a little lack-lustre compared to the way I have seen the play previously. Odd in the circumstances but maybe we need to credit Roade for not allowing their hosts to settle into the game?
On 17 minutes Roade edged even further in front and it was a goal taken in some style. A cross from the left was hit deep towards the back post where Dale Lewis struck a brilliant volley, on the run, controlling the strike to stroke the ball past Tayal in the home goal. 0-2.
It took a few more minutes but, as the clock started ticking towards the half hour mark, Blisworth finally started to get more into the game. On 26 minutes they were a little unlucky when a snapshot came back off the bar but on 33 minutes they did manage to hit back. A ball was played diagonally through the Roade defence where Shaun Wilkes was lurking to slot the ball home. 1-2 and definitely game on.
Suddenly Blisworth looked more up for it and the visitors keeper had to be at his best, going down low to his right, to keep out a stinging drive from Number 9.
The game was far more even now but just before the half-time whistle, Blisworth did have Tayal to thank for keeping them in it when the keeper produced two fine saves in succession.
HT Blisworth 1 Roade 2. A great start from the visitors which seemed to catch Blisworth on the hop. However, the goal back puts a different light on the second period. With the conditions now in their favour, there was some expectancy that Blisworth would pile on the pressure in the second period.
In the 67th minute, however, following what was an infrequent Roade attack, they won a corner on the right hand side. The ball was whipped in dangerously and there was Luke McDonald climbing above everyone to head home. 1-3 and cue wild celebrations amongst the players and large travelling support. Once again, Blisworth tried to hit back straight away and were a little unlucky when Wilkes drove a low effort across the face of the goal.
With Blisworth now desperately chasing the game and the challenges heating up, they were forced to take off their influential playmaker Kieren Westbury, despite the protestations of some home supporters. The early yellow card combined with his combative style was clearly going to pose too much risk of a second yellow for them to risk it. The last thing they needed was to go down to 10 players.
With 18 minutes left to play McDonald, fired up by his goal, tried his luck from from the edge of the area with a dipping shot that came back off the Blis bar. A few minutes later, in what was now a breathless second period, Blisworth's Number 14 saw his goal bound headed cleared off the line. The home side had certainly had the chances but just couldn't get another goal.
Finally, on 80 minutes, Roade delivered the killer blow and the move of the game. Stringing together six or seven first time passes, they cut the home defence apart before the final pass found an unmarked George Wingrove on the far post to stroke the ball home. 1-4
There was still time for Blisworth's late substitute, Number 18, to crash a fabulous volley against the bar from 20 yards with his first touch but the hosts were destined not to get any more goals on the afternoon.
FT Blisworth 1 Roade 4. The very honourable tweet from Blisworth after the game stating that Roade made sure of the title with a 4-1 win today, pretty much summed things up. Although Roade aren't mathematically guaranteed the title, there would have to be a major miracle for them not to take it. Ten points clear with their nearest rivals capable of gaining a possible 15 points, they just need a couple more results to make it 100% certain. On the plus side for Blisworth, they never gave the game up and it was a far closer result than the final score line suggested. There was also a huge crowd by Step 7 standards.
Blisworth (squad): Dowling, Duffy, Gartland, Griffin(c), Herbert, Lyons, Morgan, Redding, Tayal, Westbury, Wilkes. Subs: Belfon, Grimley, Watson
Roade (squad): Betts, Faulkner, Healey, Hogben, Joyce, Lawton, Lewis, McDonald, Mcadoo, Smith, Wingrove. Subs: Abrams, Hall, Roberts
Ground Number: Re-visit