Winchester City 2 Evesham United 1
Southern League Division One South & West
THE ROBINS’ eight-match unbeaten league run came to an end in controversial circumstances at the Denplan City Ground on Saturday.
Poor officiating and inept finishing handed an ordinary Winchester side victory in a game United should have put to bed well before half time.
The contest changed dramatically in Winchester’s favour on 65 minutes when Charlie Smeeton’s scuffed shot was adjudged offside by an assistant’s flag but, after a bombardment of protests by Winchester, to United’s horror referee Mr Williams overturned his assistant’s decision and allowed the goal to stand to give the hosts – now second in the table – a 2-0 lead.
This knocked the stuffing out of United and, although leading scorer Adam Mann scored late on, Winchester held on to gain revenge for a 1-0 defeat at the Jubilee Stadium earlier in the season.
To complete a miserable afternoon for the Red & Whites, United finished the game with ten men after Clayton Green was shown a straight red card for retaliation on Leigh Mills in stoppage time.
United boss Paul Collicutt said afterwards: “We gave away a sloppy goal early doors but after that we bossed the game and created enough chances to have won comfortably.
“We didn’t take them and their keeper also made some important saves. I thought the officials had a bad day and unfortunately all the big decisions went against us.”
A player shortage again hampered United’s preparations as Jared Wilson, Nick Stanley, Ashley Williams and Liam Harding were all unavailable, leading to a call-up for reserve team leading scorer James Taylor on the substitutes bench.
On the back of the previous weekend’s thrashing of leaders Cinderford Town, the Robins made the worst possible start by allowing Adam Tomasso to fire the Citizens ahead with just three minutes on the clock.
United put the early setback behind them and went on to dominate the rest of the first half but missed a catalogue of chances and found City keeper Brendon Norris in sparkling form.
Striker Lance Smith was guilty of missing two one-on-ones with Norris and then the Winchester stopper was at full stretch to brilliantly keep out Mann and the hardworking Carl Brown.
More opportunities went begging as the fragile Winchester defence was unable to handle the pace and movement of Smith and Mann but the hosts somehow held out until half time.
Smith grazed the crossbar soon after the restart but then Smeeton struck to make it 2-0, triggering heated protests by United for the goal to be disallowed, which unsurprisingly fell on deaf ears.
United continued to press and thanks to Mann’s 11th goal of the season they pulled a goal back with three minutes left.
Green then got his marching orders before Smith – in the last action of the game – should have levelled, but pulled his shot wide of the target with only Norris to beat.
The defeat leaves Evesham ninth and nine points outside the play-off places as they prepare to host seventh placed Banbury United on Boxing Day (3pm).