Slimbridge 0 Highworth Town 0
Slimbridge and Highworth played out an entertaining scoreless draw, writes Tim Blake.
With the Swans having the edge of the play, but being unable to convert their chances into goals. The result sees the Swans remain in 13th place and consolidate their position above the increasingly interesting relegation dogfight taking place at the bottom end of the Southern League – South Division.
Slimbridge made the better start of the two teams, and had all the early chances – Will Hawes was just off target with an effort with three minutes on the clock, Luke Smith played in Ben McLean who saw his effort blocked, and Hawes provided an opportunity for Marley Thomas, who saw his effort saved by Highworth Keeper Luke Kuczynski, all within the first ten minutes of play.
It took until the 19th minute before the hosts had their first effort on goal, but Dan Comer’s effort was too high and didn’t trouble Lewis Adams in the Slimbridge goal.
Don Ogbeifun was having a very effective game in the Slimbridge midfield, and was beginning to make some very dangerous runs at the Highworth backline – On 29 minutes he went close when allowed too much space, and after Hawes and Thomas had combined again for another good opportunity, Ogbeifun’s run in a similar vein to his first saw Kuczynski made a good stop.
All the chances were coming to the away side, and Thomas and McLean both went close before Jack Spark and Hawes again had efforts blocked as the teams went into the break level.
The second half repeated the pattern of the first, with Slimbridge bossing possession, but being unable to convert the chances they were creating – a good break from Myron Turner saw Hawes have another effort blocked, and then Nathan Dennis and Ogbeifun saw efforts blocked by a resolute Highworth defence who were working very hard to try and limit the Swans’ efforts.
Dennis saw another header saved before Hawes had probably the chance of the match just before the hour, but as he shaped to drill the ball past Kuczynski, it hit a bobble on the pitch and resulted and resulted in a horrible miskick.
Two minutes later, Hawes was again unlucky, when his turn and shot saw the ball cannon back into play off the Highworth Bar and was then cleared.
Still, all the chances were falling to the Swans – Dennis forced another stop from Kuczynski, Hawes was over with a headed effort, and Ben Hands saw his own header from Thomas’ cross just too high.
With ten minutes remaining, Slimbridge made a double substitution with DJ Preddie and Romaine Campbell replacing Thomas and Hawes, who was struggling after picking up a knock.
With eight minutes remaining, Highworth saw a goal ruled out for offside, with the flag being raised long before the ball entered the Swans’ net, and then Mani Roper was well off target for the hosts.
In the third minute of stoppage time, Slimbridge could have nicked it, when Preddie saw his header clawed off the line by Kuczynski, but referee Neil Pratt, who had an exceptional afternoon in charge of the game, deemed the ball to have been cleared for a corner., and the opportunity was lost.
Afterwards, Manager Tom Speers praised his side, but was left rueing the missed chances: “I’m frustrated that we didn’t win, we were the better team, we controlled the match throughout, especially in those 20 minutes after half time – we just needed to score and be a bit more ruthless.
“I can’t remember Lewis making a save apart from a couple of catches, and they only really came into the game in the last couple of minutes, when probably we got a bit nervy about not losing the game.
“The boys played well, we did everything well, it was a 90% game, it was just that last 10% where we came up short – we hit the bar, Will was really unlucky, and things just didn’t fall our way – I can’t really fault the lads, it was a good performance, but we are left going away a little frustrated.”
The Swans have a free Saturday next weekend, but are back in action on April 12th, when Sholing, who lost their realistic shot at a Play Off place today after losing to Bristol Manor Farm, make the long trip to Thornhill Park (7.45pm).
The Reserve side travel to Longlevens Development next Saturday (9th, 3.00pm), while the Under 18s host Cinderford Town Under 18s at Thornhill Park on Tuesday (5th, 7.30pm).
Slimbridge: Adams, Novakovic, McLean, Ford, Dennis, Spark, Turner, Ogbeifun, Hawes (Campbell 81), Smith (Hands 64), Thomas (Preddie 81)
Supporters’ Man of the Match: Don Ogbeifun