Slimbridge 3-2 Cirencester Town
Slimbridge pulled off one of the surprises of the season by defeating league leaders Cirencester Town at Thornhill Park and gained revenge for their six-goal drubbing at The Corinium Stadium earlier in the season, writes Tim Blake.
After falling behind to an early Shane Anson goal for the league leaders, a hat-trick from Edji Mbunga turned the game on its head, and a late goal from Tom Anderson could not prevent the visitors from falling to their first defeat since November last year, in a very entertaining encounter at Thornhill Park.
The result puts Slimbridge 10 points above the bottom four in the Southern League Division One South, and, with three wins from the last four games, was a massive step in ensuring Southern League Football will be staged at Thornhill Park again next season.
Although Mbunga’s hat trick obviously gathered the headlines, there were superb performances all over the pitch, and it was a delighted group of players and management who celebrated with the fans and club officials at the final whistle.
In a media interview prior to the game, Centurions Manager John Brough paid tribute to the Slimbridge ‘work ethic’ and said that he was expecting ‘a very tough game’ against a Swans side that had won two of their previous three league games, and that was exactly what transpired.
On the other side of the dugouts, Swans’ manager Tom Speers was understandably delighted with the result, he said: “I think we thoroughly deserved the three points, to be honest. To a man, we were superb. We went one-for-one all across the pitch, and we were superb, every single one of them on that pitch. We worked harder than them, we played in the right areas, we went long when we had to, and scored at the most important times – we’ve found a couple of times this season that we didn’t score when we were on top, and we definitely did that today. Especially with us going one-nil down, there is a couple of times this season when we’ve gone a goal down and then, bang bang, two-nil down, but to a man they were superb.”
The game sprung into life with just four minutes on the clock, with Ciren making the better start – former Swan Shayne Anson saw his initial effort well save by Slimbridge Keeper Lewis Adams, only for the ball to fall back to Anson, who looped a header back up over the keeper into the far corner and put the visitors ahead.
Slimbridge fought their way back into the game, and Myron Turner set up Marley Thomas for an effort easily saved by Ciren Keeper Alex Harris, before Thomas’ through ball saw Mbunga penalised for a harsh foul when closing in on goal.
As the game edged from end to end, the next chances fell to the visitors, with both Josh Grace-Parsons and Joseph Shepherd off target with efforts as the game approached the half-hour mark.
On 32 minutes, the Swans were level – Mbunga’s effort from a through ball was turned for a corner by a superb save from Harris, and eventually, the ball found itself back in the Ciren box. Mbunga’s initial effort was blocked, but he latched onto the rebound to bury the ball and bring the sides level.
The second half began with sustained pressure from the visitors, obviously spurred on by a half time team talk from their Manager – Jake Lee saw his header cleared off the Slimbridge line by Myron Turner with just two minutes on the clock, and Nick Hancock saw his ball across the box fall harmlessly with no-one to get on the end of it.
As with the first half, the Swans fought their way back into the game, and around the hour mark began to take control – after Thomas’s effort had been put behind for a Slimbridge corner, his subsequent cross on 64 minutes was met by Mbunga who headed his side into the lead.
Two minutes later, it was three – Thomas’ inventive backheel saw him play Mbunga into space, and Edji converted with an absolute peach of a strike to put the hosts two goals to the good.
Ciren continued to press, but without creating any particular opportunities – Levi Irving put another dangerous cross into the Swans box on 77 minutes, but again, there was no one to get on the end of it.
On 80 minutes, one of the crosses was finally converted with Tom Anderson nodding home to set up a nervy last few minutes for the hosts, but Slimbridge maintained their tempo and challenges and saw out the game after four stoppage-time minutes.
Slimbridge: Adams, Spark, Turner (Ogbeifun 57), Ford, Dennis, Lawrence, Yeo, Hands, Mbunga, McLean, Thomas (Flo 68)
Goals: Mbunga 32, 64, 66
Supporters’ Man Of The Match: Edji Mbunga
The Swans now travel to Lymington Town next Saturday (12th Feb, 3.00 pm). A coach is leaving Thornhill Park at 9.30 am, any supporters wishing to make the journey can meet at the ground beforehand, the fare is £10 per person.