March Town United 0 HISTON 1
Uhlsport United Counties League Premier Division South
Saturday 25th February 2023
Histon put in a dogged performance to come away from a blustery March Town United ground with all three points thanks to a second-half Ryan Towner penalty. The Stutes had to again stand strong to fend off mounting late pressure from the hosts but held out valiantly to record a second successive away victory by the only goal of the game. The victory lifts the Stutes up to fifth place in the league table; our highest position so far this season.
Any hopes of this game being remembered as an exhibition of attractive free-flowing football were soon thwarted by the strong fenland wind, gusting from one end of this rustic venue to the other with little regards for anything that got in its way. This, coupled with a determination by both sides not to allow their opponent to settle into any kind of rhythm, resulted in a game that was definitely not one for the purists.
Histon won the toss and opted to start the game with the wind at their backs. It was a choice that brought some early reward as the Stutes pushed their hosts back in the opening stages. The Hares were restricted to the occasional break as they battled against a strong headwind and a tight-looking Histon defence. The back three of Ollie Brookes, Max York in his 250th Histon appearance and Luke Crisp, returning after injury to replace the departed Jay Rolfe, all prevented the March forwards from getting clear sight of Sam Roach between the sticks.
At the other end, Connor Barnes was getting onto the end of probing balls forward and finding space with his runs down the channels. But it was the height advantage enjoyed by the visitors from corner kicks that looked most likely to break the deadlock. Twice Ollie Brookes connected with Harry Meats corner kicks that seemed to hold up in the wind. The well-rehearsed Max York throw-ins were also raining down on the March goal area, but despite the dominance, the home keeper was not seriously tested.
The game had settled into one in which both sides struggled to retain the ball or find space in the opposing half. Histon may have been enjoying the territorial advantage, aided by the unrelenting wind, but neither side could produce the moment of quality needed to ignite the game.
With 30 minutes on the clock, the home fans were momentarily out of their seats when the Stutes defence was opened up, but Brookes made an excellent covering block to preserve the scoreline. Histon responded with the best passage of play in the game so far. A Ryan Towner 25-yard shot/lob looked destined for the net before the back-tracking goalkeeper finger-tipped the ball over the bar at full stretch.
Back came March Town United just before the break with a low cross from the left which should have been converted at the back post but for a scuffed contact on the ball.
The flurry of chances towards the end of the first half disguised what had otherwise been an ugly and uninspiring 45 minutes between local opponents in awkward conditions. It served as a reminder that you can put lipstick on a pig, but it still remains a pig.
With Histon having the lion’s share of the game in the first half, the expectation was that the second would be quite different as it was now the home side that had the advantage of the wind. But, 10 minutes after the break, the game was turned on its head in unexpected circumstances. Yet another Max York throw had been repelled by the Hares defence but only cleared as far as the thrower. York looked to swing the ball straight back into the goalmouth but his cross hit the raised arm of an unfortunate on-rush defender who had stretched out a leg to block the ball. The referee had little option than to point to the penalty spot, despite the claims from the home side that the defender could do nothing to get his arm out of the way of the ball.
After a series of mishaps earlier in the season, it was now Ryan Towner’s turn to take responsibility from the penalty spot. His shot was typically powerful, giving the keeper little chance of preventing it from whistling past him and into the bottom corner of the net. The Stutes had the lead in unexpected and slightly fortunate circumstances but there was still over thirty minutes to play.
Going a goal down seemed to stir the Hares and it was they who looked to up the tempo. There was now more urgency to their game as they pressed forward looking for a leveller. But Histon again stood firm. The experience of withstanding a similar onslaught at Newport Pagnell Town ten days earlier seemed to galvanise the defence and they dug deep to repel all the home side could offer.
With twenty minutes remaining, Lance Key turned to his bench to find fresh legs. Ryan Henry and Dexter Todd replaced Dan Brown and Bubba Camara and Ben Hurrion was soon to follow in place of Marcus Cole. It was a youthful midfield that now formed the first line of defence but they were up to the task.
Time was slipping by for March Town United and they had yet to seriously test Sam Roach. A final opportunity was to come their way in added time when a free kick was awarded on the edge of the Histon penalty area. The resulting shot was deflected away for a corner for which the home goalkeeper was to chance his arm by advancing into the Histon goalmouth. It was a final Hail Mary by the home side but Roach was able to palm the ball away and the danger was averted. The three points were coming back to Bridge Road.
The win was Histon’s eighth in ten matches and the undefeated run now stands at six games. In addition, clean sheet bonuses have been paid out in five of the last six matches. With ten league games remaining, the season has taken a very interesting turn. Dare we dream?
Histon: Sam Roach, Marcus Cole (Ben Hurrion 80), Luke Crisp, Ryan Towner, Max York, Ollie Brookes, Dan Brown (Dexter Todd 70), Harry Meats, Connor Barnes, Bubba Camara (Ryan Henry 72), Sam Collison.
Histon subs not used: Chris Gough.
Histon yellow card: Ryan Henry.
Histon goal scorer: Ryan Towner 57 pen.