NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: March Town in seventh heaven after 10-goal thriller with Leiston Reserves
PUBLISHED: 19:43 22 February 2020
It was seventh heaven in March Town boss Arran Duke’s first home game in charge after his team ran riot at the GER.
The Hares dispatched Leiston Reserves 7-3 in Thurlow Nunn League First Division North to leap into the promotion places at the expense of Norwich CBS, whose league fixture with Downham Town was postponed.
Braces from top scorer Jack Friend and Eoin McQuaid, alongside strikes from Toby Allen, Dylan Edge and Craig Gillies extended Duke's perfect start to three games since taking the managerial hotseat from predecessor Brett Whaley.
Duke made three changes to the team from the Cambs Invitation Cup semi-final success over Newmarket Town, with Jack Saunders, Gillies and Friend starting ahead of Jack Rawson, Lewis Gibson and the suspended Tarren Moxon.
There was also a minute's applause and a fundraiser for March Park Rangers footballer Kaleb Ablett who passed away last year, raising £200 in the process as Hares players were led onto the pitch by mascots from Kaleb's club.
A contest that saw five goals scored in each half was perhaps unexpectedly frantic, but judging from the last meeting between these two sides where March ran out 8-1 winners on the opening day, high-class entertainment was a certainty.
Two goals in two minutes spurred the Hares on their way. First, Allen slotted home after his initial shot was denied by Leiston goalkeeper Joe Potter having been found by a superb Josh Burrows free-kick.
On nine minutes, man of the match McQuaid then converted from close-range after his first shot was saved. However, this encouraged an unlikely response from a team who have won only four away games all season.
A Leiston attack straight from the restart allowed the impressive Louie Bloom to cut inside and shoot, which March 'keeper Charlie Congreve should have prevented from spinning into his net.
It only took six minutes for March to restore their two-goal cushion, Friend linking up with Edge who fired in at the near post to the disbelief of some supporters.
But despite never relinquishing their advantage, there was a feeling of defensive frailty as Bloom led the charge up front, before bullying his way past Saunders to cross for strike partner Will Davies, who could not miss from six yards.
The game could well have turned in Leiston's favour had referee Dario Matthewson punished Emmington more harshly after pulling Bloom's shirt to prevent the forward from a most likely attempt at goal just after the half-hour mark.
Duke admitted he gave his team a half-time roasting, and his mass of fury turned into words of wisdom as March were once again quick out of the blocks.
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The lethal pair of Friend and Gillies were not to be denied. Friend tucked away after his strike partner had flicked on an Emmington throw-in, before Gillies met Edge's tidy through-ball to place through the legs of Potter.
Chances were being created and the free-flowing football had continued into the post-Whaley era, McQuaid at the heart of numerous attacks.
Leiston replied to this onslaught with Drew Connick latching onto a drilled cross from Bloom, who the Hares failed to deal with throughout.
But this was merely a consolation with the March afterburners well and truly switched on. McQuaid struck into the bottom corner after good hold-up play from Gillies, before Friend rounded off proceedings with a simple finish in a one-on-one.
There may have been a change off the pitch, but on this performance and recent form, the willingness of this March Town team to achieve success has only strengthened.
March: Charlie Congreve; Josh Burrows (sub Gavin Cooke), Tom McLeish, Danny Emmington (C), Jamie Short, Eoin McQuaid, Jack Saunders, Toby Allen (sub Jack Rawson), Jack Friend, Craig Gillies, Dylan Edge (sub Lewis Gibson).
Unused subs: Drew Barker, Casey Logan.
Goals: March Town - Allen (7'), McQuaid (9' and 89'), Edge (16'), Friend (48' and 90'+1), Gillies (52').
Leiston Reserves - Bloom (10' and 27'), Connick (75').
Cautions: March Town - Emmington (foul).
Man of the match: Eoin McQuaid.
Referee: Mr Dario Matthewson.