AFTER the ground had passed three pitch inspections, Evesham United were able to start the new year in style on Saturday with a 5-0 victory over Bishops Cleeve as they extended their winning Southern League Division One South & West sequence to eight matches.
The Robins produced a strong second half performance to ease past their bottom of the table visitors after volunteers and players had helped clear surface water off the Jubilee Stadium pitch.
After passing a 2pm inspection their hard work was rewarded with another dominant display which extended the Robins’ unbeaten run to nine games.
It was United’s third league double and remarkably the fifth time this season that Paul Collicutt’s side have netted five goals in a league game without reply.
Evesham were unchanged from the side that beat neighbours Stratford Town 2-1 at the Jubilee on Boxing Day, while the Mitres included five former United players in their starting line-up.
For the majority of the first half, Evesham were camped in the Cleeve half but were unable to find the back of the net despite creating a number of gilt-edged chances, the best of which fell to Carl Brown on the stroke of half time but the midfielder arriving late at the back post proceeded to prod Adam Mann’s cross wide of the target from point-blank range.
Earlier, Nick Stanley, Lance Smith twice and Mann had all gone within a whisker of giving Evesham the lead.
Evesham’s luck changed at the beginning of the second half as Stanley picked the ball up 20 yards out and curled a shot into the bottom corner to finally make the breakthrough.
Cleeve keeper Steve Benbow made successive saves, first to deny Mann and then again to gather from the impressive Stanley, but three goals in five minutes put United on the road to another deserved win.
On 72 minutes powerhouse Mann fired in a low drive past Benbow for 2-0 and moments later Mann raced through unchallenged and easily beat Benbow for goal number three.
It soon became 4-0 when Sean Wood’s cross was headed home by substitute Ashley Edenborough and Cleeve’s back line looked depleted and conceded again three minutes from time when Edenborough got on the scoresheet again with a clever back-heel after Marcus Jackson’s powerful run and cross down the right to round off another emphatic victory for the Red and Whites.
Evesham, who saw their scheduled New Year’s Day fixture at Wantage Town postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, were also victorious on Boxing Day as they won the local derby against fellow play-off hopefuls Stratford in front of their biggest league crowd (381) since moving to their Jubilee Stadium headquarters in 2012.
The Robins had defeated Stratford 2-0 at the DCS Stadium in August and, despite Tyrone Fagan pulling a goal back for the visitors in the closing stages, first half strikes by Brown and Mann had already put United on the road to a comfortable victory.
Evesham failed to take the lead early on when skipper Matt Sysum spurned an easy opportunity, blazing over after Town keeper Andy Kemp had spilled Stanley’s free kick on the greasy surface.
It was not long, however, before United deservedly took a 15th minute lead when Brown opened his account for the campaign with a tap-in at the back post after good work by Mann down the left.
The rest of the first half action took place in the Stratford half as the visitors huffed and puffed to little effect and a confident Evesham side showed no mercy ten minutes before the interval when the impressive Mann, who began a second month on loan from Gloucester City, surged past several defenders and unleashed an unstoppable shot that gave Kemp no chance for 2-0.
Evesham’s battling approach was mirrored again in the second half with Smith and Mann both going close and Kemp making an exceptional stop to prevent substitute Ollie Knowles adding a third.
The game then took a twist with 15 minutes to go when a rare misunderstanding at the back presented Fagan with a simple finish but a late rally from the visitors never materialised.
Indeed, Kevin Sawyer remained untroubled in the United goal and Stratford’s stuttering league form continued.
The fifth placed Robins, now just five points behind second placed Taunton Town with a game in hand, host sixth placed Yate Town on Saturday before heading to Cinderford Town on Tuesday.