MATCH REPORT: Brand’s brace helps March Town United thump struggling Cornard United

Ridgeons First Division: March Town United 4 Cornard United 0

A SECOND-HALF brace from pint-sized winger Ash Brand helped March Town United thump struggling Cornard United 4-0 today.

The Hares, who led 1-0 at the break courtesy of Stu Anderson’s calm finish, should have had the game wrapped up long before they sealed a deserved win with three late goals.

Two strikes from Brand and a header from substitute Alex Burton in the final 15 minutes was enough to secure Brett Whaley’s side all three points - but they certainly made hard work of it.

Whaley’s outfit started the game well with impressive captain for the day Kyle Nolan dictating much of March’s more promising football.

When he got on the ball, the Hares looked threatening, as they did every time Brand got one-on-one with the visitors’ right back Matthew Short.

The flying winger left his opposite number with egg on his face on countless occasions and went close in the 10th minute after latching onto Nolan’s through ball - but his fierce drive was parried comfortably by Cornard ‘keeper Matthew Walker.

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The hosts grew into the half, even though the Suffolk outfit’s number nine Scott Yearling looked dangerous, with tenacious midfielder Dan Jenkins regaining possession continuously.

Right-back Gavin Cooke’s 20-yard free-kick curled just wide before - against the run of play - Cornard missed their best opportunity when Josh Hodgson shinned his effort wide after getting the wrong side of left-back Lewis Cook.

Three minutes later, just inside the half-hour, Anderson gave March the lead.

The Hares’ lone-striker, who had a mixed afternoon, latched onto Cooke’s lofted through-ball and raced clear from just inside Cornard’s half after springing a high offside trap.

He calmly slotted home and the goal inspired his, and March’s performance, for the remainder of the half.

Cooke’s centre was headed against the crossbar by an unmarked Anderson, who then went close with a speculative overhead kick in the same passage of play.

And with just minutes left on the clock before the break centre-back Chris Lenton - who gave another rock-solid display at the heart of the Hares’ defence - crashed a header against the woodwork following another fine delivery by Cooke.

Whaley’s side continued their rampant form after the break and ripped the visitors to shreds within seconds of the restart.

Unfortunately, unlike earlier, Anderson picked up a fine through ball, this time from Nolan, but ballooned over from inside the box.

It was as if he almost had too much time to think and the horror miss clearly unsettled March’s top scorer who played the next 20 minutes like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.

He raced through again moments later but lost his nerve - or perhaps unselfishly tried to square the ball to Giuliano Staffieiri.

March should have been home and dry, but they weren’t, and Cornard gained fresh impetus as a result.

Yearling and his strike partner Hodgson looked threatening on the break and the visitors started to pour forward in numbers as March struggled to retain possession.

Whaley’s nerves must have been tested but he could only watch on thankfully as Lenton and his other defensive counterparts stood firm.

Loan ‘keeper Lewis Moat relieved the growing pressure with some fine handling but Anderson’s confidence failed to return, when for the second time in the half he should have shot from close range but opted to pass.

However, with 77 minutes on the clock, the striker’s problems evaporated as he pulled the ball down from the air with a fine touch and slotted in Brand.

The Hares’ winger didn’t waste this opportunity and dinked the ball past Walker to give March a deserved 2-0 lead. Anderson pumped the air and deserved huge credit for his non-step effort despite enduring a mini crisis of confidence.

The goal relaxed everybody associated with the men in orange and black and Whaley’s side began to dominate possession again.

Jenkins’ sublime pass picked out Brand - who nutmegged the ‘keeper from close range to make it 3-0 - before Cook’s marauding run and cross was headed home by substitute Alex Burton in injury time to give the scoreline a healthier feel.

March will have to be more ruthless in the coming weeks to maintain a push for a top-five finish but Whaley’s side comfortably deserved their win - even if they made hard work of it.

Today’s Ridgeons First Division results in full

Debenham LC 1 Downham Town 1 - Att: 78

Godmanchester Rovers 5 Long Melford 1 - Att: 90

Halstead Town 4 Swaffham Town 1 - Att: 77

Ipswich Wanderers 1 Thetford Town 4 - Att: 38

March Town United 4 Cornard United 0 - Att: 47

Team Bury 0 Brightlingsea Regent 3 - Att: 60

Whitton United 2 Fakenham Town 0 - Att: 62

• CENTRE-BACK Craig Norman today returned to March Town United to link up with Whaley again.

The Hares’ boss had Norman with him at the GER during his first spell as March boss - and when he was manager at Deeping Rangers - convincing the unattached defender to put pen to paper on becoming a Hare again.

• ‘Keeper Lewis Moat’s loan deal officially ended today but the talented teenager has told Whaley he wishes to remain at the GER.

The Hares boss said he will be doing “everything he can” to try and extend the shot-stoppers stay at March when he talks to United Counties League Premier Division leaders Peterborough Northern Star this weekend.

• For more on how Wisbech Town fared today, click on the related-link on the right-hand side of this page