Calor League Div One South & West
Cirencester Town 2
Bishops Cleeve 0
CIRENCESTER TOWN took another step towards securing their play-off place with three points against a Bishops Cleeve side which played with 10 men for the last hour.
It was never pretty but that will not concern manager Brian Hughes who has seen his side reverse a recent slump in form with back-to-back wins in the space of five days and two clean sheets.
The course of the game was determined by two refereeing decisions in the first half.
Firstly, Adam Bayliss gave Cleeve’s Jack Oldham’s two yellow cards within three minutes shortly before the half-hour mark. And then he handed the hosts a penalty in the 41st minute which broke the deadlock.
In the 27th minute, the tiny Oldham clattered into a challenge which left both Joe Shepherd and Brad Hooper on the deck. It was therefore very ill advised to go into another strong tackle so soon afterwards. But, in truth, both challenges were down to over-exuberance rather than malice.
At that point neither side had come close to fashioning a chance but the outcome was shaped when Lee Smith was felled on the edge of the area while heading away from goal, and the prolific striker gratefully accepted the ref’s gift to make it 1-0.
Three minutes later a firm Steve Davies corner to the back post was headed back into the danger zone by Mark Pritchett (sporting a bandage for a head wound) and Joe Shepherd reacted fastest to stab the ball home.
Cirencester did what was necessary to protect their two-goal advantage in the second half with the back four as usual in rock solid form and midfield general James Mortimer-Jones tidying up in front of them.
To Cleeve’s credit they kept trying and never gave the impression of being a man down.
Apparently playing well within themselves, it took Ciren until the 65th minute to create their next chance, an Aidan Bennett volley being tipped around the post by on-loan Cheltenham Town youth team goalie Harvey Rivers, with Mark Pritchett heading the subsequent corner over the bar from a good position.
Two minutes later Cleeve had their one real chance to make a game of it, when sub David Waters cut inside from the left flank and arrowed a drive towards the top corner until Garner stretched to make a terrific save. The resulting Lewis Binns corner then deceived everyone, curling off the bar and away to safety.
Ciren at last came alive in the closing minutes and should have finished off their local rivals, particularly when Rivers made a point-blank save from a Bennett header in the 90th minute.
The ensuing exchanges inside the six-yard box saw Ciren fail to put away another couple of chances before Cleeve captain Matt Williams headed a final opportunity off the line.
Cirencester now trail leaders Merthyr by five points but have their own five-point cushion over third-placed Swindon Supermarine.
Shortwood United, who sit in the fifth and final play-off spot, 11 points adrift of Cirencester, entertain Brian Hughes’s team on Tuesday night in what is a key run-in game for both sides.
Cirencester Town: Garner, Hooper (Bumphrey, 61), Dunton, Pritchett, Liddiard, Henry (capt), Shepherd (Wood, 88), Mortimer-Jones, Bennett, Davies (Bevan, 88), Smith.
Unused sub: Bromley.