FOOTBALL: Cirencester Town one point away from Calor Southern League title
Leigh Henry hooks home the second Cirencester Town goal. Picture: Gary Learmouth (Red Piranha Photography)
Calor Div One South & West.
Cirencester Town 2.
Shortwood Town 1 .
CIRENCESTER TOWN are within 90 minutes of a famous Calor Southern League title success after coming through a bruising encounter with play-off-chasing Shortwood United at the Corinium Stadium on Easter Monday.
The game started in bright sunshine but finished in torrential rain, thunder and lightning and was a full-blooded encounter throughout in which the referee Tim Wood’s reluctance to deliver any yellow cards until late on probably kept a lid on emotions.
Ciren stood up well to the physicality of the experienced Wood line-up with stand-in captain Leigh Henry being particularly strong in the Ciren back four, energetic Joe Shepherd covering miles and giving as good as he got in midfield and Steve Davies, whose dead ball delivery was uniformly excellent, being the pick of the hosts’ front three.
Town, with a medal of some colour now assured, need just a draw in the final game on Saturday at Yate, who have nothing to play for.
But Ciren will be keen to extend their winning to seven games and grab the championship in style – especially as they delivered one of their most tepid home performances when losing to the Bristol side in the reverse fixture back in December.
With Shortwood right in Ciren’s faces from the off on Monday, it was 23 minutes before the home side had fashioned their first attack on goal, an Aidan Bennett volley being deflected wide for a corner.
Three minutes later Ciren were ahead. Sam Avery, who gave Lee Smith no space all game, made his one mistake when in combination with Jake Parrott they managed to upend the Ciren striker when he was outsider of three to get to a ball heading for the byline.
Smith powered the penalty straight down the middle of the goal as Tom King dived to his right.
Ciren at last began to cause some problems after the goal and in the 56th minute they were 2-0 up.
Another excellent driven Davies free kick was won at the far post by Ellis Dunton, whose header across goal was in turn nodded down towards the penalty spot where Leigh Henry hooked a volley past King.
Ciren then began to sit far too deep inviting Shortwood pressure and the away side began to gain some momentum.
Prolific striker Duncan Culley had been a handful in the opening half but Henry and Pritchett kept him commendably quiet in the second period, but it was his vicious free kick which brought a superb save from Glyn Garner in the 74th minute.
Ciren then had three chances to kill the game off: on 77 minutes a home-side break saw Bennett go for glory and blaze over when Smith was lurking for a tap-in, in the 84th minute Shepherd skimmed the bar with an absolute screamer and then on 86 minutes Smith got the better of Avery and played in sub Jody Bevan. With his son Rhys the mascot for the day and this being his last home game of an honourable career, it was all set up for the fairy-tale finish, but the unsentimental King save the Bevan strike well with his legs.
With weather not seen at the Corinium since Noah was a lad, a tense finale was assured when sub Kevin Slack escaped into the left side of the box and finished unerringly past Garner in the 88th minute.
There were five minutes of added time and Ciren were under the cosh ‘til the final whistle but all 11 players defended for their lives and managed to see out time.
Cirencester Town: Garner, Hooper (Wells, 75), Dunton, Pritchett, Liddiard, Henry (capt), Shepherd, Mortimer-Jones, Bennett, (Bevan, 80), Davies, Smith.
Unused sub: Bromley.