The Big Local Stadium is situated just to the North-West of Cheltenham town centre. Despite being smack bang in the middle of an urban area, once inside the stadium, you get the feeling that you are in the countryside (except for the trains thundering past close to one side of the ground). The approach is via St Peters Close which leads directly into a reasonably sized car park. There is a also some parking available on the grassed area between the car park and the stadium. Entry is via a small path from the car park that leads around the back of the stadium to a gate in the corner.
At the start of play Saracens were placed in seventh, below Clanfield only on goal difference but having played three more games. Moreton were down in fifteenth but, points-wise, well clear of danger. Current form pointed to a home win. Saracens having taken 17 points from the last 30 available, Rangers with just 6 points in the same period. This season's reverse fixture at London Road was only played less than a month ago, on the 31st of Janaury. On that evening Saracens returned to Cheltenham with all three points after a resounding 4-1 victory. Paul Holmes with a brace, James Barnes-Wills and Edward Major were on target for Cheltenham. Moreton's reply came from George Kirby.
Previous history also favoured Cheltenham. Last season they completed the double over Rangers. In October goals from Harry Duncan and Kai Mahon gave Saracens a 2-0 home victory. At the start of May, two from David Waters saw Saracens earn a 2-1 away win despite having John Evans sent off.
Moreton have seen quite a few changes over the past few days. Manager Glenn Brotherton left last Friday and this game will be Gary Barnett's first game at the helm. There are also changes on the pitch, with only a handful of the starting line-up at Kidlington 10 days ago beginning the ganme tonight.
The game got off to a scrappy start from which it would never fully recover. Neither was capable of keeping possession for more than a few passes at a time and neither goalkeeper was called upon in the opening fifteen minutes.
The first real half-chance fell to Saracens when a Bailey Evanson cross was met by Paul Holmes but the striker put his header wide of the mark. Three minutes later Moreton were the first to win a corner. It was fizzed in towards the near post where Sam Penfold got a powerful header away, whcih also flashed wide of the mark. This corbner signalled a short period of Moreton pressure where they forced another three corners in quick succession. However, in keeping with the pattern of the game, they could not gte a decent effort on target. They did manage this just before the half-hour mark when Jamie Goodwin volleyed an effort straight into the arms of Jon Dix. Then, on 33 minutes, George Kirby broke free of the home defence but blazed his effort high and wide without troubling Dix.
As we approached half-time with neither keeper having had to get his gloves dirty, we saw the best opportunity of the half two minutes into added time. The ball fell loose in the Moreton box where Ed Major managed to swivel and get off a good volley which beat Aiden Shelton in the Rangers goal. Unfortunately for the home side, it didn't beat the far post, rattling the woodwork and rebounding to safety.
HT Cheltenham Saracens 0 Moreton Rangers 0. Not the greatest half of football by any means. Very little to choose between the teams. Major's late effort was the closest either had come to scoring but overall the visitors had probably just about edged it.
With just over 20 minutes remaining Kai Mahon sent a free-kick into the Moreton penalty area but Paul Holmes was just off target with his header again. Moreton responded with an effort of their own, Matty Johnson bursting through from midfield, eveding a couple of challenges before unleashing a shot that went wide of Dix's right-hand upright. That was the last time that Rangers troubled the home defence as Saracens began to push them back in search of a winning goal. With 10 minutes remainaing Mahon played a lovely ball through for substitute James Barnes-Wills to run onto. However, a superb last ditch tackle from the Sam Penfold was enough to put the striker off, forcing his shot wide of the mark. Mahon then had a chance from a free-kick on theedge of the box but, again, put his effort just wide of the post with Shelton scrambling across his goal. The Moreteon stopper was called into action again a minute later, saving brilliantly from Ed Major. It was one-wayt traffic now as Saracens threw everything at a resolute Moreton defence. Into stoppage time, Holmes agin planted a difficult headed opportunity just wide before Major got in again on the right, firing a low ball across the face of the goal with no striker able to get a touch. The final effort came in the 93rd minute when a long throw fell to Jamie Midwinter but he blasted over the top from the edge of the box.
Great resistance from Moreton towards the end. Their defence held firm under relentless pressure for the final 10 minutes.
FT Cheltenham Saracens 0 Moreton Rangers 0. Cheltenham jump a place to sixth but only have a point lead on Clanfield who now have three games in hand. Moreton are now a point clear of 16th placed Newent Town and six shy of Bourton Rovers who have played two more than Rangers.
Moreton at home to second-bottom Littleton on Saturday. The reverse fixture saw Moreton pick up a valuable 2-0 away win with goals from Callum Briggs and Jamie Goodwin. Both sides were reduced to 10 men when Mitch Butterworth for Littleton and Sam Penfold saw red. There were five othe ryellows in what soulnds like a feisty encounter. Cheltenham don't play until next Tuesday when they travel to fourth-placed Abingdon United. United won 2-1 at the Big Local earlier in the season John Mills and James East scoring to cancel out Stuart Midwinter's strike for Saracens.
Chletenham Saracens: Dix, Stalley, Evanson, Richmond, Hoskins, Hitchman, Midwinter, Newell, Holmes, Major(c), Mahan. Subs: Stokes, Evans, Barnes-Wills, Ibidapo, Honeyford
Moreton Rangers: Shelton, Smart, Newbould, Wagstaff, Penfold, Shipman, Irons, Goodwin, Burford, Johnson, Kirby. Subs: Singh, Ballinger, Beddoes, Smith
Ground Number: 350