Lethal Odain helps March Town United wow bumper crowd
Ridgeons First Division: March Town United 3 Halstead Town 1
HOTSHOT Ondre Odain took his tally to seven goals in six games today as March Town United romped to an incredible win in front of their biggest league crowd of the season.
The powerful frontman netted either side of the break to put the Hares in control against a shell-shocked Halstead Town.
The visitors were gifted a lifeline when Reis Farley-Hearn dispatched a controversial penalty but midfielder Adam Rothery secured the points for March by rifling home a 25-yard volley with minutes remaining.
The day startly brightly for the home side as 171 fans took advantage of the special free entry, filing into the GER for the top-six clash.
And matters looked even better on the pitch, as the high-flying Hares started with the sort of confidence that typified their recent five-game winning run.
Captain Luke Pepper showed early flashes of quality in midfield and it was his shot that flew over the bar after a neat lay-off from Odain.
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There were warning signs for the Hares at the other end. Halstead, resorting to playing mainly on the break, could have taken the lead if Jordan Palmer’s shot had been stronger from a neat short corner routine.
But Halstead’s threat was rare as March’s central midfield trio of Pepper, Kyle Nolan and Dan Jenkins continued to assert themselves.
A swift exchange between Nolan and Pepper provided the Hares skipper with another chance to shoot but, again, his effort ballooned over the bar.
Appeals for a March penalty were turned down after Pepper’s cross-goal header appeared to strike a hand and a deflected Rothery effort was inches from looping into the top corner.
Eventually, March’s possession and flair earned them a reward and it came through their in-form striker. Odain capitalised on a sumptuous pass from Rothery to fire the Hares into a deserved lead.
Seconds later that lead was almost doubled as Ash Brand’s stunning half volley cannoned back off the crossbar. Many of the GER spectators were still applauding the winger’s magical effort as the referee blew for half time.
Brett Whaley’s troops began the second-half in similar fashion and three minutes after the break, Odain gave his side some breathing space. Chris Lenton’s clever header picked out Odain who was waiting to volley into the corner of the net.
The second goal did provoke a response from Halstead, who began the day sixth in the Ridgeons First Division.
Hares’ ‘keeper Aaron Butcher failed to collect a looping cross but immediately made up for his mistake by blocking Palmer’s drive.
March seemed to be closing the game out, with Jenkins putting in another eye-catching shift in front of the back-four, but after 65 minutes the visitors were gifted a lifeline.
The Hares were incensed when the referee awarded Halstead a penalty for a handball by full back Marc Welcher. Players surrounded the referee in protest but Farley-Hearn calmly slotted home from the spot to set up a nervy finish.
March, clearly fired-up by the controversial decision, responded with more waves of attack. Odain poked Brand’s cross over the bar before Pepper nodded a Gavin Cooke free-kick wide.
Halstead’s chances had been few and far between but, with five minutes remaining, James Raby came within inches of breaking March hearts.
The winger’s wonderful 25-yard effort looked to be goal-bound but Butcher’s outstretched hand managed to tip the ball onto the bar.
Just as the visitors looked like they might nick an equaliser, Rothery made the game safe.
The energetic midfielder sealed an impressive display by latching onto a Stu Anderson pass, before lashing an unstoppable, dipping half volley over the Halstead ‘keeper.
The stunning strike killed off any remaining resistance in the visitors’ ranks and, no doubt, left some new visitors to the GER with a lasting impression.
The victory sees the Hares return to second in the league, with a trip to Cornard United set for next Saturday.
• FOR MANAGER BRETT WHALEY’S REACTION TO THE 3-1 WIN VISIT THE WEBSITE ON MONDAY.
Full Ridgeons First Division Results:
Cambridge University Press 2 Brightlingsea Regent 1
Debenham LC 1 Cornard United 1
Fakenham Town 2 Team Bury 1
Ipswich Wanderers 3 Swaffham Town 2
March Town United 3 Halstead Town 1