Team: Deane, Brown (Ben), Sanderson, Walker, Parmenter, O’Donnell, Bewick, Sutherland, Gibbons, Henry-Francis, Sharif.
The match was switched to Harlington because the Northampton pitches were water-logged. That said, there had also been plenty of rain locally overnight and for the previous few days too and I half-expected the game to be cancelled when I arrived. There were a few forced changes as we’d heard that Michael Doughty, Bruno Andrade and Michael Harriman had travelled up to Blackburn with the 1st team squad, well done to them. Although the conditions were obviously heavy, the pitch didn’t seem too bad in the circumstances.
Mo Sharif stung the keeper’s hands with a powerful shot belted straight at him and he soon followed this up with a better effort when he spun in the box, hit the ball low and hard and the keeper managed to get a hand to it, but it then spun away and kissed the post. Frankie Sutherland was spraying some good passes around and he tried his luck with a shot that was still dipping as it went over the bar. The R’s went close again after a scramble in the 6-yard area, the ball again hit the post and a Northampton defender managed to clear it to safety. Although Rangers were having the best of it, the visitors had a good opportunity to take the lead when a Northampton player evaded a challenge, continued his run route-one, saw his shot blocked which resulted in a big scramble before being cleared.
After about 30 minutes or so, the R’s counter-attacked and Mo Sharif lost possession, but Marcel Henry-Francis was on hand to fire the ball low and hard into the corner of the net from 20 yards. 1-0 and well deserved. The Northampton keeper was having a good game and in front of him the defence was well organised. A good cross in from Mo Sharif was headed out for a corner. The ball into the box resulted in an excellent save from the keeper at the far post from close range. Mo Sharif was also having a very good game and he twisted and turned his way through and his shot came off a defender which then forced the keeper into a sort of double action save. On the referee’s whistle we gingerly made our way to our next vantage point.
Not surprisingly, the pitch was cutting up and thankfully further rain just about held off. Somehow a good ball in from Jordan Gibbons evaded three well positioned R’s players. Mo Sharif slipped as he swung at the ball, but he just couldn’t get enough on it to trouble the keeper. The Cobblers put together a dangerous move and as they tried to get a shot on target, Stephen O’Donnell bravely made a vital challenge, but unfortunately he was injured in the process. He eventually went off and Jamie Sendles-White came on with Ben Brown moving over to the centre. Jordan Gibbons was doing very well down the right flank and his next cross into the box was met by Mo Sharif, whose diving header went just past the post.
A well deserved win for the R’s against a Northampton side that defended much better than their previous visit to Harlington. It remained very dark overhead and although heavy rain always threatened, it was thankfully, kept at bay. Also turning out for the Saturday Morning Crew were Robbie Bennett, Roger Stokes, Clive Kingham and Sean.