EVESHAM United boss Paul Collicutt hailed the quality of his side’s goals as they maintained their faint Southern League Division One South & West promotion hopes with a 2-0 Easter Monday victory over neighbours Bishops Cleeve at the Jubilee Stadium.
Fresh from Saturday’s 5-1 mauling of hosts Bridgwater Town in which the prolific Adam Mann scored four goals, the Robins bagged their seventh win in eight games and were boosted as fifth placed Swindon Supermarine were beaten 1-0 at Mangotsfield United.
Sixth placed Evesham are still eight points behind Marine in the final play-off place and both sides have five matches remaining, but there is still an outside chance of a play-off place for the Robins as they prepare to host Mangotsfield on Saturday whilst Swindon go to title favourites Cinderford Town.
Collicutt was content after the derby victory on Monday, but was quick to praise his former side.
“Bishops Cleeve are an improving side who work very hard for each other, but in the end I felt we did enough to win and the boys deserve a pat on the back for picking up two good wins and six points over the Bank Holiday.
“It was a bit scrappy at times but we finished the stronger and scored two very good goals.”
It was not plain sailing for the hosts in front of their biggest home crowd of the season – 400 – but a strong second half performance resulted in two late goals and was enough to beat a spirited and hardworking Cleeve side.
The Red & Whites were forced into making two changes to the side that thrashed Bridgwater two days earlier as Nathan Modest and Sean Wood came in for the injured Lance Smith and Jake Sloggett, with the latter being named on the bench.
Cleeve, who named five former Evesham players on their teamsheet, made the early running and Elliot Kennedy pulled his shot wide after a mistake at the back by Will Wellon, which turned out to be the visitors’ best chance of the first half.
It was not long before United created a couple of opportunities of their own as Ashley Williams dragged his shot wide and then a Karnell Chambers header was well held by keeper Sam Gilder beneath his crossbar.
A scrappy half was concluded with Kevin Sawyer in the home goal comfortably holding Aaron Drake’s effort as the opening period finished goalless.
United began the second half with the wind at their backs and pressed hard to make the breakthrough, but it was the visitors who blew the best chance when Jack Horrell blazed over in front of goal after good work by Jack Watts.
Carl Brown, who had come on for the ineffective Modest, did likewise at the other end as he prodded his shot wide with the goal at his mercy after neat skills by Mann.
United then enjoyed their best spell of the game and finally unlocked the Cleeve defence 12 minutes from time when Gilder could only punch Nick Stanley’s corner as far as Williams, whose first-time drive fizzed into the roof of the net.
Cleeve were now rocking and conceded a second goal six minutes later when substitute Sloggett paved the way for Linden Dovey to burst into the box and rifle a low drive past Gilder for his first goal of the season, much to the delight of the home fans.
TWO days earlier Mann took his goal tally to ten in five games and his overall total for the season to 27 as Bridgwater were put to the sword at Fairfax Park.
The only downside to a brilliant away day was an injury sustained to Mann’s strike partner Lance Smith who was stretchered off early in the second half with an ankle injury and looks set to miss the rest of the season.
A happy United manager Collicutt said of the display: “The boys were superb and despite the horrendous conditions we showed good attitude, spirit and kept the ball well.
“We needed to get the Cinderford result out of our system and we did just that. I’m really pleased with the way we’ve gone about our business, it was vitally important to get the win and it gets us back on track.
“Adam did the business in front of goal but the injury to Lance Smith is a big blow for us and we’ll miss him. I wish him a speedy recovery but it opens the door for someone to come in and make a name for himself.”
Collicutt made sweeping changes following the disappointing defeat at Cinderford and gave Cheltenham Town youngster Chambers his first start.
The first half was played in wet and wild conditions but it did not affect United who were soon into their stride and took the lead on 12 minutes.
It was down to Chambers who broke into the box and found Mann who bundled the ball in from close range.
At the other end Isaac Reid forced Sawyer to make a fine save before a lapse at the back allowed Henry Horton to level for the hosts as he fired across Sawyer into the far corner.
United, however, came roaring back and four minutes later Mann blasted an unstoppable drive past Jake Viney to hand Collicutt’s men a deserved 2-1 interval lead.
Soon after the restart, Viney somehow kept out Chambers’ goalbound header but was beaten for a third time by Mann from the penalty spot for his hat-trick after Sloggett had been brought down by Josh White.
By now United were well on their way to a ninth league away win and it was inevitably Mann who scored his and his side’s fourth goal on 77 minutes after racing clear and rounding Viney.
The Bridgwater defence continued to be pulled apart and conceded another well worked goal in the last minute courtesy of Chambers’ pinpoint delivery that was volleyed home by Clayton Green.