FOOTBALL: Top two sides, Cirencester and Paulton, share the points in thriller
Calor Southern League Div 1 South & West
Cirencester Town 2
Paulton Rovers 2
CIRENCESTER and Paulton, two teams who seem sure to be involved in any prizegiving at the end of the season, played out a terrific 2-2 draw at the Corinium Stadium on Tuesday night.
The point extended Ciren’s lead at the top to four while Paulton have now moved into the runner-up slot.
The game started at a high tempo, with the hosts’ James Mortimer-Jones scoring a wondrous 20-yard volley in just 23 seconds and the pace barely relented throughout.
Both sides had their periods of ascendancy and while Ciren’s Glyn Garner was the busier of the two keepers, the home side did hit the woodwork twice – through Brad Hooper and Lee Smith – so a draw was probably a fair result.
With Ciren playmaker Jamie Edge absent, a lot of responsibility fell on the shoulders of Mortimer-Jones and Sean Wood in midfield and they both stepped up to the plate with excellent games, enjoying a great scrap with the combative Dean Evans from the outset.
Ellis Dunton, restored to centre back after his one-match ban, and Leigh Henry had their hands full with the pace and power of Nick McCootie, particularly in the first half, but they kept the big striker relatively quiet after the break, so it was honours even.
Ciren’s prolific scorer Smith had one of those frustrating games when things did not pan out for him, but he was denied by one brilliant one-on-one stop by Kyle Phillips, unlucky to see a late first-half shot come back of the post and it was his cross that set up Ciren’s second goal.
After Cirencester’s blistering start, it took Paulton just ten minutes to level – in fortunate circumstances. Henry attempted to head a difficult chest-high ball clear on the edge of the box and McCootie got the rub of the green in a ricochet to set him free on goal, after which he finished coolly past Garner.
There was an element of good fortune, too, about the second Ciren goal in that they won a soft handball decision a yard inside their own half during the build-up. The 71st minute Ben Prictor free kick was initially cleared to Smith, who picked out strike partner Steve Davies running in at the far post – or was it an attempted curler by Smith for the top corner?
Davies could have sealed the win three minutes later when the ball came to him lightning fast as he was charging into the box and, off balance, he could only prod it wide.
It was his last involvement before he was subbed in the 79th minute having picked up an earlier knock.
His replacement, Jacob Davidge, is one of the most promising graduates from the Development Team, but before he could adjust to the frantic pace of the game, a stray pass across the front of the Paulton box set up a counter attack.
The much heralded Ben Lacey, who had had a quiet evening, took this moment to hit the pass of the game, threading the ball through to Darren Jefferies, who drew Garner and then placed it past him on 81 minutes.
Garner made one more key save from Evans but Ciren finished strongly, too, with Smith, now operating on the wide right, firing a fierce shot off target in the 88th minute.
Honours shared and a candidate for game of the season.
Cirencester Town: Garner, Anson (capt), Prictor, Mortimer-Jones, Dunton, Henry, Hooper, Wood, Bennett, Davies (Davidge, 79), Smith.
Unused subs: Bevan, Bromley, Jack Smith, Pitts.