Easington United 1
Holme Rovers 0
By Richard Lusmore
Easington United arrested a run of four straight defeats in the best possible manner when beating the Right Car East Riding County League Premiership leaders Holme Rovers last weekend.
Charlie Ashwell’s 48th-minute goal proved enough to secure only the Eastenders’ second win of the season, one that was fully merited on the back of a performance full of grit and determination.
Afterwards, manager Craig Smalley acknowledged that perhaps it hadn’t been the most aesthetically pleasing performance from his side, telling his players, “I don’t think our quality of football played was anywhere near to some of that we produced last week (at Goole)”, before adding, “but we more than compensated for that with the graft we put in.”
Making the win even more satisfying was that it was again achieved amid plenty of adversity.
With both the previous week’s central defensive partnership of Steve Jamieson and David Nolan unavailable and Andy Graham still sidelined by injury, the locals’ starting eleven included just the one recognised replacement in Oli Bewell – and he hadn’t kicked a ball since sustaining an ankle injury against Hedon back in August.
Stepping in alongside him was Dan Warcup, while elsewhere the team looked the same as that which had gone close to halting Goole United’s unblemished home run the previous week.
There were a couple of changes on the bench where Brad Bowden was joined by Toby Wilson and new signing Curtis McElwee.
On an overcast afternoon, the visitors began in a mood that suggested we might be in for another chastening 90 minutes of the sort witnessed at the locals’ last home game.
Indeed, Rovers may well feel they should have had a penalty inside the opening two minutes, courtesy of a rash challenge from Anderson-Richardson that left referee Ron McNaught unmoved but saw the youngster forced to retire with an ankle injury.
With Bowden on in an unaccustomed right back role and four left-footed defenders, it gave the rearguard a somewhat lop-sided look!
For a short time Holme looked set to exploit this apparent imbalance but aside from James Winstanley’s free header on 7 minutes, which Lloyd Mulholland saved comfortably, they didn’t really carve out a clear- cut early chance.
Gradually the locals grew into the game and on 19 minutes they went desperately close to opening the scoring. Ciaran Collins met Smith’s excellent corner only to see his header cannon down off the bar to where the arriving Bewell couldn’t quite adjust himself in time and the ball was eventually scrambled clear.
Seven minutes later it was the visitors’ turn to strike woodwork, Olly Reynard being left unmarked in the box at a free-kick and his volley saw the ball ping back off the bar.
The game was opening up nicely and just past the half-hour Collins fired just over following a quick Easington counter-attack.
The keenly contested nature of the game occasionally stretched beyond the boundaries and both Warcup and Lucas Sneddon found their way into Mr McNaughton’s notebook before the break.
Holme’s Louis Dean went one better, following up a yellow card with an immediate 10 minutes in the bin for dissent.
The locals went close to making the extra man count in the run up to half-time. On 40 minutes a Murrey corner was met by Jack Wright but his header was blocked by what appeared to be a combination of defender and post. From the resulting clearance, the speedy Nick Cage raced past Bowden but was denied by Mulholland with Ashwell on hand to tidy up.
Back up the other end and United had another big chance right at the death when goalkeeper Harry Stewart was forced into a smart reflex save to prevent what would have been an ‘own goal’, following Murrey’s attempted cross-shot.
The interval saw Smalley forced into a switch, with Bewell coming off after a poor challenge from Josh Bell right on half-time, one that quite rightly saw the Holme man become the fourth booking of the afternoon.
Easington began the second half in the best possible fashion when Wright did well from a throw-in, holding the ball up before feeding Ashwell whose drive from 12 yards flew past Stewart for 1-0.
The goal came on 48 minutes and five minutes later Wright himself burst through but saw his shot saved. Moments later Adamson’s flick from a Smith set-piece drifted wide. A second goal appeared likely.
Instead, in a reminder of how fragile the locals’ lead was, just past the hour mark Reynard beat Mulholland to Stewart’s long punt but thankfully headed wide of the mark.
Back came Easington. First Ashwell showed lovely feet to go between two defenders. Unfortunately the shot didn’t match the approach play but it was another sign of the youngster’s growing confidence. Adamson then showed good strength before flashing a shot wide.
The visitors’ cause was dealt a further blow when Reynard became the second man to be sent to the sin bin.
However, after Smith had struck the bar direct from a corner, Rovers forced the locals on to the back foot, courtesy of a succession of corners. The home defence held firm though and broke to almost double their lead in the game’s dying moments.
Firstly, Smith struck a free-kick that flew narrowly over then, in the game’s last action, another stinging set-piece drive was excellently turned away by Stewart.
Smith’s overall contribution earned him the R & A Smith Builders Ltd manager’s man of the match award, while skipper Liam Murrey took the players’ plaudits.
Easington: Lloyd Mulholland, Harry Anderson- Richardson (Brad Bowden, 2), Adam Smith, Lucas Sneddon (Curtis McElwee, 73), Dan Warcup, Oliver Bewell (Anderson-Richardson, 46), Liam Murrey, Ciaran Collins, Matt Adamson (Toby Wilson, 78), Jack Wright, Charlie Ashwell