Pitching In Northern Premier League Midlands Division
Saturday 11th December 2021


This match was billed as being not just a six-pointer in the relegation dogfight but also a battle of the returning heroes as both sides named recently re-signed star players in their starting line-ups.  For Daventry Town it was the return from Rushden and Diamonds of former fans’ favourite Tom Lorraine to lead their attack which had them filled with anticipation.  For the visitors, Danny Gould’s re-appearance following his move to Grays Athletic last summer gave Stutes fans reason to be optimistic. But whatever your point of view, this was a game that neither side could afford to lose.

Despite their recent signings, preparations in both camps were far from ideal. Town were missing seven players through injury while Histon were forced to add Tobi Lawal, Pat Bexfield and Finley Wilkinson to the long injury list.  For the Stutes, it meant that Danny Gould, a Swiss Army Knife of a player, had to be used in a left back role with Andy Ballester switching to the right side of the back four.

Histon started the game brightly with Danny Gould predictably behind much of Histon’s best work down the left flank.  The hosts looked nervous at the back during the opening exchanges and the Stutes showed signs of being able to open them up on several occasions.

The game didn’t have to wait long for its first major incident and it came at the Daventry Town end.  Luke Lindsay was carrying his fine form of recent weeks into the game and set up a guilt-edged chance for Ed Rolph. With the goalkeeper already beaten by Lindsay’s slide-rule pass across the face of goal, the captain’s side-footed effort headed was destined for the net, only for a defender on the line to get an out-stretched foot to it.  Had the ball already crossed the line before?  The Stutes fans behind the goal certainly thought so and a cheeky smile by the home keeper seemed to confirm their view, but the match officials thought otherwise.

As the half progressed, Daventry were relying on long balls to their front men as the unfamiliar Histon midfield of Bubba Camara, Manu Ramirez and Junior Muyembe controlling the middle of the park.

Rhys Thorpe was proving to be more than a handful for the home side.  As Histon pressed forward, his low cross found its way right across the face of goal, needing just a touch from a red shirted forward to break the deadlock, but none could be found.  The same player then sent over a high cross which Rolph got a firm head to but could only steer the ball wide.

At the other end, Town were creating little but after a raid down the right a clear chance fell to that man Lorraine, but Sam Roach was equal to his low effort.

Half time came just as the increasing rainfall was making the playing surface awkward for both sides, but the Stutes could be justified in feeling they had the better of the first period.

The first chance of the second half came for the hosts.  A cross from the right was met by the head of Jeff Woodward but the ball bounced off the inside of the post and into the arms of a grateful Sam Roach.  It was a let-off which the Histon defence would do well to learn from.

In response, Ed Rolph spurned another headed chance at the far post as Histon continued their pursuit of the three points. Andy Ballester then gave a hint as to what was to come when he fizzed a shot just over the bar.

With the game moving into the last 15 minutes and everything to play for, a Daventry player went down under the challenge of Victor Garcia and the Referee pointed to the spot.  It looked like a soft one, but despite the protests of the Histon side the penalty stood.  It had to be Lorraine who stepped up to convert the spot-kick and he made no mistake, slamming the ball down the middle as Roach dived to his left.

The goal was harsh on Histon but, as the coaching manual warns, a team is at their most vulnerable shortly after scoring a goal.  A high ball into the Daventry goalmouth was headed clear only as far as Andy Ballester, who fired a low right footed shot into the net from the edge of the penalty area.  It was a thoroughly deserved leveller and befitting that it should be scored by a player making his return from a lengthy injury layoff.

With time running down, it looked momentarily like the Stutes were to get the reward their positive approach deserved. Victor Garcia lifted the ball into the danger area where a defender climbed on the back of Ed Rolph in a mis-judged aerial challenge. The ball bounced off the Histon man into the path of Manu Ramirez who fired it towards goal, only for the whistle to sound just as it began its journey into the net. The frustration of the Histon camp was compounded by the decision to award a free kick on the edge of the area when many thought the foul on Rolph occurred just inside the penalty box.

But the danger was far from over for the home side.  Danny Gould was sizing up the situation and looked poised to complete the dream comeback. The defensive wall looked far from sturdy and the keeper ill prepared as Gould went for power, drilling the ball low towards an unguarded corner of the net. Sadly, a purple shirted defender had not read the script and deflected the ball just wide.

Late on, Sam Roach was called upon to make a save from a tight angle but the final whistle meant the spoils were shared, which suited neither side in their quest to pull away from the wrong end of the table.

The Stutes will feel they made enough chances to have won the game but there is no doubt that the quality of performance of this team is continuing on an upwards trajectory.

Histon: Sam Roach, Andy Ballester, Danny Gould, Junior Muyembe, Victor Garcia, Sam Collison, Ed Rolph, Bubba Camara, Rhys Thorpe, Manu Ramirez (Bahador Chizari 90), Luke Lindsay.

Histon subs not used: Evan Key, Chris Gough, Marcus Cole, Ediz Greengrass.

Histon yellow cards: Junior Muyembe, Ed Rolph.

Histon goal scorer: Andy Ballester (79).

Attendance: 50.