CRUCIAL successive away wins have propelled Evesham United into fourth place in Southern League West in what is becoming an increasingly dramatic race for the play-offs.
Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Barnstaple Town was followed by a 3-1 win much closer to home at Cinderford Town on Tuesday, leaving Paul Collicutt’s side handily placed in a table which sees third to tenth separated by just six points.
Indeed, Saturday’s visitors to the Jubilee Stadium Cirencester Town are just nine points behind Evesham despite sitting nine places below them.
United took the lead in Saturday’s encounter in Devon when midfielder Matt Liddiard continued his red-hot streak in front of goal by converting a looping header on the half hour mark.
The opening goal capped an entertaining start to the game in which the hosts threatened whilst at the other end Mann volleyed just wide and Liddiard’s sliding effort struck the bar.
In the second half, Mann surged towards goal and, under pressure, guided the ball past Town keeper Rob Holmes but Jordan Walton was able to prevent the ball crossing the line.
Lewis Binns’ deflected volley was superbly saved before Mann put the outcome beyond doubt six minutes from time when he got in between Holmes and Austen Booth to meet Aysa Corrick’s long ball before finding the back of the net.
EVESHAM also grabbed the all-important first goal in midweek when Carl Brown hit the target after good work from Mann.
The hosts rallied well and Kevin Sawyer made a smart stop to deny Matt McDonald, but the stopper was helpless soon afterwards in the 25th minute when former Robins defender Nick Rhodes found the net.
Sawyer was called into action again in the 35th minute to thwart Lewis Bamford and it proved to be a crucial save as Mann put the visitors 2-1 up seven minutes later when his deflected strike looped over home Eric Edge and into the net.
Cinderford spurned a glorious chance to restore parity again in the second half after Liddiard upended Bamford in the box, only for Sawyer to dive to his left and keep out the resultant penalty from ex-Evesham striker Dan MacDonald.
There was drama in the closing stages when Mann was forced off with an eye problem – believed to be connected to a work-related incident and which ended in a visit to hospital – but the visitors were undeterred and made it 3-1 on 84 minutes when young forward prospect Ewen Dunbar produced a fine finish to Binns’ cross from the left.
Meanwhile, United have signed goalkeeper Alex Harris on a dual registration.
The former Cinderford Town, Gloucester City and Hereford number one is currently on the books of Midland League Premier Division outfit Westfields.
He helped Cinderford win the Southern League Division One South & West title in 2015/16 under boss John Brough.
Veteran Sawyer is Collicutt’s regular goalkeeper at the Jubilee Stadium but, since Sam Gilder returned to Bishop’s Cleeve, he has not had an understudy.
Collicutt signed on ex-Shortwood United stopper Tom King as cover earlier in the season, but former Newport County youngster Harris will now be ready to play if needed.