Calor League Div One South & West.
Cirencester Town 2.
Cinderford Town 0.
CIRENCESTER TOWN made it four wins in a row as they joined Merthyr Town at the top of the table with a victory in the local derby over Cinderford Town.
Ciren have shown scintillating away form with recent victories at play-off rivals Paulton and Shortwood, but this win was a carbon copy of their recent lacklustre home success against Bishop’s Cleeve.
Same scoreline (2-0); same level of performance (poor in the first half, marginally better in the second); same key goal (Joe Shepherd finishing off a Mark Pritchett knock-down); same feeling that Ciren were saving themselves a little having got to 2-0. Even the visitors had a man sent off on each occasion.
The nature of Ciren’s home and away displays has led some fans to hope for an away tie in the plays-offs as was the case in their latest promotion-winning year. That’s very unlikely to happen now as Ciren have secured their play-off place. Indeed, despite the leaders Merthyr having a game in hand, their concession of two late goals against Yate on Saturday showed the title is still very much up for grabs.
Meanwhile, at the Corinium Stadium, while you do not always see scintillating attacking football, you know what to expect from a thoroughly uncompromising and committed back five.
And centre back Mark Pritchett is increasingly becoming a nuisance from set pieces in the opposition box.
In addition, Joe Shepherd has now made it three goals in as many games from midfield and Aidan Bennett is another home grown talent who is arguably the find of the season in his new role as central striker – never giving the Cinderford defence a moment’s peace and bagging a well deserved goal. Credit, too, for Matt Liddiard whose switch from midfield to right back in place of injured captain Shayne Anson has been seamless. Saturday’s game itself, especially in the first half, was utterly forgettable, the one bit of quality producing the first Ciren goal.
Steve Davies drove rather than flighted a dangerous free kick in from the right, that man Pritchett rose to nod it down and Shepherd clipped it past Alex Harris in the Foresters goal.
It was 2-0 four minutes into the second half, although there was an element of good fortune for the hosts. Foresters No.4 Warren Archer was pole-axed inside the area when taking a Lee Smith drive full in the face and while the visiting captain was lying in stunned heap, play continued and Ciren created a further chance with Bennett swivelling neatly to finish.
Subsequently, Harris made a great save from a Liddiard drive while Smith missed two decent chances to extend the lead.
At the other end, George Lloyd blazed the ball wildly over the bar with just Glyn Garner to beat and the combative Keiran Thomas prompted a fine fingertip save from Garner with five minutes remaining.
At the subsequent corner, the usual jostling stepped up a level when substitute Sam Hunt, who had been on the field less than three minutes, pushed James Mortimer-Jones to the ground and inevitably had to walk.
That incident apart, manager John Brough will have been most encouraged by the commitment of his new side who never let Ciren settle and kept trying until the end. But it was another three points for the title chasers and another clean sheet.
While perhaps most heartening of all, influential midfielder Ben Wells came off the bench for 10 minutes of first team action, his first since suffering a serious knee injury in pre-season nine months ago.
Cirencester Town: Garner, Hooper, Dunton, Pritchett, Liddiard, Henry (capt), Shepherd (Wells, 81), Mortimer-Jones, Bennett, Davies (Bevan, 77), Smith. Unused subs: Wood, Bromley.
The big two’s title run in: Tuesday, April 15 – Taunton v Merthyr; Saturday, April 19 – Mangotsfield v Cirencester and Swindon Supermarine v Merthyr; Monday, April 21 – Cirencester v Shortwood and Merthyr v Evesham; Saturday, April 26 – Thatcham v Merthyr and Yate v Cirencester.