Evesham United 5 Larkhall Athletic 2
Southern League Division One South & West
THE ROBINS’ play-off hopes continued to gather momentum as Adam Mann netted a hat-trick in Saturday’s demolition of last season’s play-off conquerors Larkhall Athletic.
It was a third win in eight days for Paul Collicutt’s men who are now six matches unbeaten after Mann took his tally to 19 goals for the season.
Larkhall, who won October’s Plain Ham meeting between the sides 3-0 and beat United in last season’s play-off semi-finals, never looked like causing another upset and were thankful to goalkeeper Lewis Noice for keeping the hosts’ score down to five with a number of blinding saves.
Collicutt kept faith with the same starting 11 which had beaten high-flying Swindon Supermarine in midweek as Cheltenham Town youngster Karnell Chambers again had to make do with a place on the substitutes bench.
Noice prevented United from making a dream start when he palmed behind Matt Sysum’s goalbound header inside the opening 60 seconds, but it was not long before Mann beat Noice with a low drive into the far corner to hand United an 11th-minute lead.
Lance Smith sent an overhead kick just over and then Mann just failed to connect with Smith’s delivery across the face of an unguarded goal as the hosts’ assault continued.
However, after enjoying a spell of pressure, Larkhall levelled on 29 minutes through a Jamie Lyons spot kick after Will Wellon had impeded Dean Griffiths in the box.
Back came United though and in the last action of the first half Ashley Williams, who had an outstanding game in the middle of the park, met Sean Wood’s corner to direct a header beyond Noice to give the Red & Whites a 2-1 interval lead.
Things got better six minutes after the restart for United when a mix-up at the back allowed Lewis Binns to make it 3-1 from the edge of the box.
Noice somehow made point-blank saves to keep out Smith and Mann before Wood shaved the woodwork as the Robins pressed for a fourth goal.
The predatory Mann got it when he turned in Clayton Green’s low cross past Noice on 79 minutes.
The visitors pulled another goal back just before the end through Josh Egan but it was Mann who had the final say in stoppage time when he converted Binns’ cross at the near post to complete a comprehensive win and bag his second hat-trick of the season.
Boss Collicutt was delighted with his side’s efforts over the past week and, talking before Tuesday’s visit of rock-bottom Bashley, said: “It was a massive week for us and we’ve come through with flying colours.
“We played three tough games and picked up an impressive nine points. The boys have been magnificent but we’ve still got ten cup finals to play.
“We’ve hit a bit of form at the minute and must take it through to the end of the season.
“Our second half performance was pleasing but you can never relax in this league. I was happy Adam got his hat-trick but slightly disappointed we conceded two goals.
“We’re up to seventh now and will take it one game at a time and see where we end up.”