Oadby Town ended a run of eight games without a win through Carlton Beardmore’s injury time winner against second-placed Eynesbury, with both teams ending the game with 10 men in a tense affair at Freeway Park.
Sam Burton opened the scoring from the penalty spot for Oadby before Tom Coles headed in an equaliser before the interval. In the 92nd minute, Beardmore clinched the three points with a composed finish before unnecessary handbags saw Burton and Eynesbury’s Hayden Bream both dismissed for second yellow cards.
Following a minute’s silence in memory of Jeremy Biggs, ‘Mr UCL,’ who suddenly passed away this week, the home side started well and looked to play positive football from the outset, with some neat passing exchanges often down the left with full-back Lewis McLean and midfielder Callum Steer heavily involved. But despite their bright start, it was the visitors who had the first chance of the game, when forward Jordan Brown fired just wide after a powerful run by debutant Josh Egbuson with 10 minutes on the clock.
Oadby’s first chance came after 20 minutes when the tireless Harry Alcock slipped through Jordan Pick, but his tame effort was easily saved by Eynesbury’s goalkeeper James Greygoose. Greygoose was again called into action three minutes later when Sam Burton, who turned well on the halfway line, fed Alcock, whose right footed effort was spectacularly saved by the flying ‘keeper; a tremendous stop. Pick then went close again soon after as Oadby continued to mount pressure on the visitors.
This pressure soon paid off when Oadby won a corner with 32 minutes on the clock. After a good delivery and a header cleared off the line, the ball fell to Carlton Beardmore who was tripped and Luke Scott pointed to the spot. Burton stepped up confidently, dispatching his penalty high into the top corner, sending Greygoose the wrong way and giving the hosts a deserved lead.
On the stroke of half time, though, Eynesbury drew level. After Charlie Andrews in the Oadby net diverted the ball behind, Bream’s corner from the Eynesbury right was headed emphatically into the top corner by defender Coles, who rose high above the unprepared and somewhat disorganised Oadby defence to square things up, arguably against the run of play.
After the break, Eynesbury grew into the game more and mustered up a host of half-chances, aided by the introduction of new signing Brandon Taverner who occupied the central striker role, as a shuffle around saw right-back Matt Bannister withdrawn and Craig Smith dropping into the vacated defensive role.
Burton almost scored his second of the game on the hour mark when he ran across the box before unleashing a venomous, low drive which whistled beyond the far post of Greygoose’s goal. Five minutes later, Burton found himself in the referee’s book after a routine foul was followed by more verbal responses from the winger.
As the game progressed into the final quarter, Eynesbury had more of the chances, with Rhys Thorpe and Jordan Brown both going close, the latter’s shot smothered by Andrews. These chances fell either side of Bream’s yellow card for a reckless challenge on Callum Armsden centrally 25 yards from goal, but Burton’s free-kick was wasted.
With seven minutes of normal time remaining, Oadby centre-half Kieran Henfrey was first to react and cleared the loose ball off the line after Andrews had spilled Thorpe’s deflected effort from the edge of the area, preventing a certain goal with Eynesbury forwards closing in.
Eynesbury thought they had won it two minutes later when Taverner made good progress down the left before putting in a fantastic cross to Brown who was free at the back post to fire in, but the assistant referee’s flag cut the away side’s celebrations short.
Instead, though, it was Oadby who grabbed a late winner as they successfully dealt with an Eynesbury corner, before the ball was picked up by late substitute Lamar Parkes, who replaced the excellent, hard-working Alcock and drove at the Eynesbury back line before passing to Burton. Oadby suddenly had Burton and Beardmore flying at one Eynesbury defender and Burton’s neat through ball played Beardmore in. It looked as though he had tried too much when he took it round Greygoose but managed to slot home from a tight angle in the 92nd minute, cuing ecstatic celebrations from Oadby players, coaching staff and supporters alike.
With only a couple of minutes of stoppage time remaining, Eynesbury knew they had to attack from the restart and a silly foul was conceded by the Oadby midfield. Burton picked up the ball to delay the free-kick, to the annoyance of the Eynesbury players, leading to pushing from both Burton and Bream as players from both sides congregated and tempers flared. Referee Scott isolated Burton and Bream and showed them both second yellow cards and duly sent them off with moments to go.
Despite the lapse in focus and concentration from Burton at the very end, Oadby held on for a much-needed, hard-fought victory over a team looking good for potential promotion. The Poachers looked hungry and determined throughout, led by the Jamie Vardy-esque pressure and hustling from striker Harry Alcock, Oadby’s man of the match, and on the balance of play just shaved the visitors and deserved the victory.
The result means that Oadby move onto 16 points from their 20 games thus far this season, whilst Eynesbury remain on the 43 points, from one game fewer, sitting them in second place behind league leaders Peterborough Sports. The attendance of 89 was admirable considering the bitterly bracing conditions, and the majority could go home content following a dogged performance and just a fourth league win of the season for the Poachers.
One final word must go to Jeremy Biggs, though, as one of the poignant figures in the United Counties League and as a much-loved individual who will be sorely missed by this particular footballing community.