Team: Crowther, Coyne, trialist, Goode, Brown, Folkes, O’Brien, St.Aimie, Arthur, Rose, Balanta
A vital three points for the young R’s in a game dominated by the brisk wind that blew across the pitch from corner to corner. With very little rain in recent weeks, the pitch was rather firm and it proved to be difficult for either team to get the ball down and pass, despite their best efforts. Rangers kicked off with the wind blowing over their right shoulders and were soon benefiting as a couple of long throws carried all the way to the penalty spot and beyond. A Billy Coyne free kick from the left flashed across the six-yard box but evaded everyone. Soon after that, the home side went close again as a looping header was tipped over the bar and the resulting corner was cleared.
Joe Gallen had made a few positional changes compared to recent weeks and two of these changes saw Coyne reverting to right back and Romone Rose pushed back up front. It was these two that combined for Rangers first goal on 16 minutes. Coyne threaded a splendid pass through the inside right channel for Rose to race onto and took a couple of touches before shooting across the keeper into the bottom corner. Rangers kept up the pressure and went close again when Lee Brown got free down the left and supplied a dangerous cross which James Folkes headed just over. Folkes had been switched to the right side to accommodate Rose’s return to the front line and it was good to see him playing after his injury scare two weeks ago.
Colchester were finding it difficult to get out of their own half but they did look dangerous once or twice as their number 9 made some good runs down the right hand side. Rangers doubled their lead on 22 minutes. In a lightning counter-attack, Reece Crowther’s wind assisted kick found Rose on the left and he powered forward before squaring to Angelo Balanta who beat two retreating players before slotting under the keeper from 15 yards. Brown then curled a 20 yard free kick towards the top corner but it was saved comfortably by the keeper. Rose was keeping the Colchester defenders busy with his non-stop running and closing down. He found his way into the referee’s notebook with one robust challenge too many. This didn’t curb his enthusiasm though and he was soon firing a tremendous effort just wide, striking the bouncing ball from all of 25 yards. As half time approached, Rangers stretched their lead. Chris Arthur wriggled free and fired in a dangerous cross from the left which was scrambled behind for a corner. From Coyne’s delivery, Matt O’Brien climbed the highest to power a header towards goal and the defender on the line could only help the ball into the roof of the net. Half Time: 3-0
After a quick turnaround, the 2nd half started and if anything the wind was getting stronger. Unsurprisingly, Colchester were now pinning Rangers back into their own half as the clearances failed to gain sufficient distance to ease the pressure. When the visitors pulled a goal back on 54 minutes with a free kick direct from near to the left hand touchline, it looked as though it could be a real battle for the R’s to hang onto the lead. As the pressure continued, Joe Gallen prepared a triple substitution, including a goalkeeper. But before the changes could be made, Crowther was called into action and responded with a tremendous save to keep Rangers two-goal lead intact. The changes saw Chris Goodchild replace Crowther in goal, Cyrus Vanterpool replaced Folkes on the right of midfield and Danny Maguire came on for the trialist centre back who had picked up a knock. Matt O’Brien dropped back to accommodate Maguire in the centre of midfield. These changes helped Rangers get back into the match as Goodchild’s booming kicks were able to reach the visitors half and in particular kept Vanterpool busy on the right hand side.
In the last 25 minutes, the flow of the match was much more even as Rangers endeavoured to keep their passing on the deck as much as possible. Colchester had a dangerous corner cleared at one end and then Chris Arthur had a strong run and shot just over at the other. The visitors went close again with a shot of their own which just cleared Goodchild’s crossbar before Maguire rolled a pass to Arthur down the left and two chances came and went within a few seconds. In the last 10 minutes, Rose played a similar pass to Arthur and his run created a chance for Brown but his shot went just over. Colchester had a header tipped over by Goodchild then Vanterpool set up Arthur with a good cross but the chance was wasted. In the final minutes, Rangers had a goal harshly chalked off for offside when Arthur’s low cross was poked home from 6 yards by Balanta. It was difficult to see how he could have been in front of the ball when the pass was made but fortunately, this decision had no effect on the result and the final whistle blew soon after.
So another three points in the quest for the league title, secured in difficult conditions. The lads battled well, none more so than Romone Rose and Matt O’Brien and as the game wore on, the wide men became more involved and started to create more and more opportunities. I think Joe Gallen will be pleased with his substitutions as the team were looking a bit vulnerable early in the 2nd half. Hopefully, there will be much calmer conditions at Harlington next Saturday morning. It was good to see the regulars, Alan Barnes, Robbie, Julia, jbee, Roger, Steve, Pat, Tom, Clive senior, Big Paul, Joe ’33rd minute’ English, plus Ian and another Gloucester R and the Parrett family lending their support. The years of football experience from the aforementioned group obviously haven’t gone to waste as we heard this informed view on the encouraging performance of the trialist, “You can tell he’s played before.” I wouldn’t want to embarrass the purveyor of this pearl of wisdom still further by revealing his identity but let’s just say that his name begins with a “j” and ends with a “b”