Riverside Rovers 3, Mad Moose 2
The game of the season was finally here, both teams had got themselves into a position where they could see the trophy but yet to get their hands onto it. This was the game that was likely to decide who would finish top of Division 2A this season.
Mad Moose currently four points clear, but Riverside having three games in hand looking the likelier to take the title prior to the game.
Both teams lined up strong, with Riverside having their ever present Roy Bevis and Scott Sutherland-Grey up front, and Mad Moose for the first time in recent weeks with their two top scorers Darren Hills and Tom Swabey lining up together. Mad Moose missing central midfielder Richie Powell, who historically a thorn in Riversides side scoring two goals in their last meeting. The Moose also missing ever present centre back Lee Wright, meaning forced changes to bring captain Ben Burgess from midfield into centre back to sure up the Moose defence.
The game kicked off as scheduled and the standard of football was high. Both teams composed on the ball, and it was Mad Moose who struck first. After 13 minutes Bram Goodwin-Wright hit a low corner to the near post and Jon O’Shea met the ball on the half volley catching Riverside on the back foot.
Just five minutes later Riverside got their leveller, when awarded a free kick just outside the box, Jamie Riley picked up the ball and curled the ball beyond the Mad Moose keeper to bring it back to 1-1.
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The Moose suffered not only from the equaliser but James Raven absorbed a strong challenge and a blow to his hip requiring treatment and ruled him out for the rest of the game. This being a big blow to the Moose as Raven had already carved a few chances for the Moose in the opening exchanges and looking likely to help run the game in the middle for the Moose.
The half continued and both teams contested, with Riverside coming out stronger a majority of the time. The ref struggled to keep up with play and make decisions. It what was a difficult half to manage. Both teams feeling aggrieved with what they felt were strong shouts for fouls not to be given in crucial parts of the pitch.
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The half came to a close at 1-1 which demonstrated the strength of both teams defending each others formidable attacking abilities.
In the second half Riverside again came out ready to battle, and early into the second half conceded some poorly timed challenges giving away free kicks to the Mad Moose in the Riverside half, however the Moose unable to capitalise.
It took 15 minutes into the second half for the next goal to come, when Bram Goodwin-Wright received the ball on the right wing, he cut in and went beyond the Riverside left back and created space to open up and fire the ball into the bottom left corner with his weaker foot.
This should have given the Moose the confidence that they could go on and take the three points, however Riverside again scored shortly after the Moose, when Moose keeper Matt Bevan was unable to gather a Riverside cross and the ball fell to Riverside defender Ben Atkins who fired home from five yards.
Just three minutes after that and with 25 minutes to play Riverside took the lead for the first time in the game when Scott Sutherland-Grey ran onto a long ball and knocked it beyond the Mad Moose keeper who found himself in no mans land and sent the ball into the back of the net to put Riverside in the lead for the first time.
The following 25 minutes were played in a different fashion to the rest of the game, as Riverside held onto the leading doing all they could to keep possession and minimise the Mad Moose opportunities. That said Mad Moose were still able to carve a few chances, with Ryan Newell having the best opportunity however unable to convert his header from two yards. Jon O’Shea also came close with a looped header however saw it glaze over the bar from six yards out.
Riverside held onto their lead and saw the game out at 3-2. This three points bringing them just one point behind Mad Moose with three games in hand and surely now claiming the top spot.
Mad Moose came away licking their wounds knowing that their chance to put themselves into a prime position for first spot had just slipped from their grasp.
With games against team in the bottom five positions of the league Mad Moose now need to win their remaining fixtures to secure promotion to Division 1A.