EVESHAM United’s Southern League Division One South & West play-off hopes are all but over after a disappointing 2-1 defeat at local rivals Bishops Cleeve on Tuesday.
In fairness the Villagers were good value for their victory against a below-par Robins who went into the game on the back of Saturday’s 5-0 win at lowly Burnham – their ninth victory in ten games and the seventh time this season they have scored five or more goals in a league game.
However, despite a points tally of 75 from 40 matches, Paul Collicutt’s side will not reach the play-offs unless they win both of their remaining games and Winchester City fail to take more than one point from their three remaining fixtures.
Other than a decent spell in the final 15 minutes, United never really got going on Tuesday and home keeper Matt Wieczorek was rarely tested throughout and only after Cleeve’s Shane Bumphrey had been sent off did United step up a gear in what was a must-win game for the Red & Whites.
The United fans who made up the majority of Cleeve’s biggest crowd of the season saw Bumphrey score twice before his dismissal, which was enough to exact revenge for a 2-0 defeat at the Jubilee Stadium last month.
Former Cleeve boss Collicutt relied on the same side that thumped Burnham, while Cleeve included a number of ex-United players in their line-up.
United looked the more threatening early doors with Wieczorek forced to make routine saves from Adam Mann and Karnell Chambers and Cleeve skipper Aaron Drake then made a brave block to deny Mann who had skilfully created space for himself in the box.
The Mitres were dangerous on the break as Ed Major scooped his shot over and Jack Watts used his pace to get around the back before pulling his shot wide.
Liam Harding volleyed the wrong side of a post for United but, with six minutes to go before half time, Steve Cleal’s men broke the deadlock when Cleeve won a free kick on the right and from Jack Horrell’s delivery Bumphrey sent a diving header beyond Kevin Sawyer.
Soon after the restart United fell further behind when Jordan Lymn’s low cross struck a United hand in the box and Bumphrey stepped up to make it 2-0 from the spot.
Sawyer then prevented Bumphrey from adding a third as he made a fine stop after the Cleeve striker was through on goal.
Cleeve suffered a blow when the impressive Bumphrey was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Linden Dovey on 79 minutes and United threw bodies forward in an attempt to salvage something from the game.
Their pressure was rewarded on 84 minutes when Carl Brown reduced the arrears by firing low into the bottom corner for his fourth goal in three games.
United pressed for an equaliser and sent Sawyer up for a succession of corners but, with Drake outstanding at the back, Cleeve defended for their lives to cling on for a memorable win.
IT WAS plain sailing for the Robins on Saturday as they were in cruise control from the moment Brown was hacked down in the box by Joseph Jarra, who was immediately shown red and leading scorer Mann made light work of sending Cesare Vernazza the wrong way from the spot.
In United’s next attack with seven minutes on the clock Brown superbly back-heeled Jacob Sloggett’s cross beyond the diving Vernazza.
Burnham continued to be pegged back in their own half and on 13 minutes conceded for a third time when Mann clinically put away his 31st goal of the season after Brown had cleverly dummied Chambers’ driven cross from the left.
The rest of the first half was dominated by the Red & Whites and a fourth goal duly arrived on the stroke of half time courtesy of Chambers’ deflected delivery which looped kindly to captain Matt Sysum at the back post and he confidently headed home his 12th goal of the campaign.
In the second half Clayton Green thundered a volley against the Burnham woodwork before Mann put the ball on a plate for Brown to stroke in United’s fifth from ten yards late on.
In stoppage time Mann squandered a golden opportunity to make it 6-0 and complete his hat-trick when, after being taken out by Miaal Glanak in the area, Vernazza guessed the right way to save the striker’s penalty.