Moreton-in-Marsh is an ancient market town in the Northern Cotswolds. The town's football team, Moreton Rangers, play their home games just to the East of the town centre, on London Road. The ground sits back off the road and is accessed via a service road which doubles as a parking area when the small stadium car park is full. The ground is accessed through a single turnstile. All of the facilities are on the car park side of the ground, housed in a single structure which incorporates the club house, the players and officials areas and a small covered standing area. The clubhouse has windows all along the pitchside which allows anyone who wishes to watch the game from the warmth. There are no further covered spectator area around the rest of the ground. Dugouts are opposite the main stand.
The last two winners of Division Two West were meeting for the second time this season. The first meeting, back in September, ended with Rangers travelling home with all three points after a 3-1 win.
Newent, who won Division 2 two seasons ago, were coming into the game still without a league win and precariously placed just two points above basement boys New College Swindon. Rangers, who were promoted in the Summer, were just below mid-table after five wins and three draws from their opening 12 games.
It took both sides a little while to get used to the conditions. The pitch, although very much playable, was definitely soggy with an uneven surface not suitable to any kind of passing game. However, as the teams did start to find their feet it was Newent who not only mastered the conditions first but also looked to be the more confident side despite their lowly position and lack of a win all season. Although neither keeper was unduly stretched in the opening 15 minutes or so, it was the away side who looked the more likely to cause a problem.
That threat came to fruition in the 22nd minute after so excellent down the work from the Daffs number 11 who sent over a driven cross along the six yard line for Morgan Davies to turn the ball into the net. 0-1 and no more than Newent deserved.
Their joy did not last too long though as the home side set about trying to get back on level terms. Only two minutes had passed when a Moreton attack saw the ball strike a yellow hand in the box. The referee pointed to the spot without hesitation and not too much complaint from the Newent defenders. Moreton's number 9 stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way to equalise. 1-1
Conceding the goal did not seem to phase the Newent team. They continued to look the more dangerous of the sides forcing Moreton's keeper into action on a number of occasions. How the away side didn't go in at the break with an advantage is anyone's guess, especially after a raid in the 41st minute where only a very good save and some last ditch, bodies on the line, defending kept the ball out of the home net.
HT Moreton Rangers 1 Newent Town 1. Newent were the better side but couldn't turn their superiority into goals.
The game was now being played predominantly in the Newent half of the pitch but Rangers were still not managing to pose any great threat to the Newent goal.
With 15 minutes remaining Newent made the home side pay for not taking advantage of their possession. The ball fell to Jordan Cooper on the right-hand edge of the Moreton penalty area and his first-time strike seemed to catch the home keeper off guard and out of position as the ball went into the far corner of his net. 1-2
After the goal Moreton stepped up their efforts once again but still could not find a cutting edge. Newent still carried a threat on the break and had a couple of chances to kill the game off completely.
A shorter than normal match blog this week due to time constraints. Names and team sheets will be added when/if I can get hold of them. Meanwhile, Happy New Year to all.
FT Moreton Rangers 1 Newent Town 2. A much improved home performance in the second half but, on the overall balance, a well deserved three points for Newent who pick up their first league win of the season and leapfrog Bourton Rovers, who lost 2-1 at Clanfield, into 14th spot.
Ground Number: 224