March Town face defeat at home
IT WAS a game of two halves for March Town United on Saturday but once again it proved to be a frustrating day for co-manager Alan Russell. The 2-1 home defeat to Stowmarket Town means that March have not won a home Ridgeons First Division game since the
IT WAS a game of two halves for March Town United on Saturday but once again it proved to be a frustrating day for co-manager Alan Russell.
The 2-1 home defeat to Stowmarket Town means that March have not won a home Ridgeons First Division game since the 2-0 victory over Hadleigh United on September 9.
And that run of form leaves the Hares just four points ahead of bottom side Godmanchester Rovers, who have six games in hand.
With Steve Thompson and Paul Cousins missing from the heart of the March defence, Saturday's game was always going to be a test but the home side coped well during the first half and soaked up attacks from Stowmarket, who enjoyed the majority of possession.
But it was March who created the better chances and they took the lead on 17 minutes when James Patrick fed the ball through to Ben Green on the right and he fired the ball low past the onrushing keeper.
It could have been 2-0 just two minutes later when Ashley Brand ran down the left and put the ball into the path of Patrick but he sliced his shot wide.
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Patrick was in on goal again on 26 minutes when a swift counter-attack gave Green the chance to cross the ball from the right but the March striker scuffed his shot and his effort was easily saved.
The visitors' best chance of the half came on 41 minutes when the ball broke in the box but March keeper Chris Anker produced a fine save to block the incoming shot.
But the game slipped away from March in the second half and Stowmarket levelled the scores five minutes after the break when a deep cross was headed in at the far post.
The Hares responded with their own attacks and two minutes later, Patrick put in a dangerous cross from the right and Green bundled the ball into the net.
No conclusive signals came from the officials but after appeals from the visiting players, the linesman and referee ruled out the effort for hand ball.
The game became increasingly competitive and the visitors looked the more likely to score as they pushed forward.
The inevitable came on 19 minutes and with the makeshift March defence struggling to clear balls in the air, Stowmarket made it 2-1 with another back post header from a right wing cross.
With the game becoming more heated, the visitors were reduced to 10 men midway through the second half and March looked to hit back.
However, they were unable to break through and the best chance of an equaliser came nine minutes from time when Ashley Brand's shot from 15 yards just cleared the bar.
Alan Russell said: "I thought we were good value for the lead at half time and the indications were that we would kick on and get a result.
"But we were found out in the second half and they took advantage of our defensive weakness in the air."
He added: "The lads did everything we asked of them and I was pleased with everything apart from the result. The officials had a poor game and Ben's second half goal was only disallowed after their players appealed."
Russell must put the disappointment behind him and look ahead to Saturday's home match against Saffron Walden Town.
Steve Thompson will return to the team, as will Paul Shafer but Danny Leafe is injured and Ian Simmonds is unavailable.
Paul Cousins also remains doubtful through injury. Russell said: "I am not sure about Paul Cousins at the moment. I don't want to rush him back and lose him for another month so I may rest him for the match."
The March boss is also looking to strengthen the squad with three former March players. Russell is hoping Chris Anker will find time during his studies at Sheffield University to play for the Hares regularly.
And this week, Russell is also in talks with Tom Chilton and Darren Hurst who may return to the squad. Russell said: "Nothing is finalised yet but Tom and Darren would certainly give us greater strength in depth.