PAULTON ROVERS 2 NORTH LEIGH 1
Rovers edge a thrilling encounter to grab 3 vital points.
Match report from Andy Harris
[b]Match sponsors D Rowe Building Contractors Ltd of Shepton Mallet[/b]
Rovers edged a thrilling encounter to defeat their play off rivals with a goal two minutes into injury time, thus completing the double over the impressive Oxfordshire side.
In what was arguably their best performance in 2012, the home side made the perfect start as they opened the scoring with just 3 minutes on the clock. They took a corner quickly on the right with the ball played short to Craig Loxton and although his cross was headed clear, Marcus Mapstone's 25 yard follow up shot was blocked by a defender but it dropped kindly for skipper, Dan Cleverley, to stab the ball home from close range despite claims for offside.
Just 4 minutes later visiting keeper, Sam Worrall, pulled off the first of a string of fine saves, sticking out his right leg to deny Ryan Gay a goal in his first Southern League start after a great defensive tackle by Mapstone had set up the chance. The free scoring visitors then began to exert some pressure as they sought the equaliser but their only real chance saw Elliot Osbourne-Ricketts fire over the bar after collecting a Stuart Tovey headed clearance. Rovers came very close to adding a second in the 21st minute as debutant, Lee Davidson, sent over a free kick from the right, which found Cleverley at the back post but he could only direct his header into the side netting. The visitors then had their best spell of the half as home keeper, Kyle Phillips, produced saves from Michael Hopkins and Tom Franklin, but he was beaten by Morgan William’s 34th minute shot across goal, which went just wide of the far post. Rovers responded with a great run and cross from Ben Lacey down the right which found Loxton, but his shot was superbly saved by Worrall. The North Leigh keeper then produced a point blank save from Gay and from the resultant corner kick Mapstone sent his header just wide. However it was the visitors who had the final word in a great first half and were almost level at the break as skipper, Stuart Hole, sent over a cross from the right which James Organ at the far post volleyed wide.
The visitors had the better of the second half but were indebted to Worrall again 3 minutes after the restart as he turned a volley from Cleverley away for a corner after a great move from Davidson and Gay down the left. Osbourne-Ricketts had an excellent game for the visitors and his cross on the hour mark picked out Joe Burnell but Phillips at full stretch saved his header. Just a minute later and Rovers had an escape as Hopkins crossed from the left and beyond the far post Hole sent his diving header just wide of the goal Williams then spurned a great chance to draw his side level, as collecting another Hopkins cross, he somehow failed to hit the target from 10 yards out.
North Leigh deservedly equalised with just 6 minutes remaining as defender, Tom Franklin, out jumped the home defence to head Osbourne-Rickett's right wing corner.
It looked as though the visitors might well go on to win the game as Osbourne-Ricketts set up Williams for a strike, but Phillips did well to save. Rovers then conceded a free kick on the edge of their penalty area in a central position but Hole saw the Rovers wall do its job to block his effort.
However it was Rovers who claimed the win 2 minutes into injury time as substitute, Lee Bryant slid in to tap home after fellow substitute, James Billing headed the ball down from a left wing cross.
The win sees Rovers leap frog North Leigh but remain just outside the 5th place needed to secure the final play-off position.
Rovers: Kyle Phillips, Stuart Tovey, Lee Davidson, Ben Osman (James Billing 87 mins), Marcus Mapstone, Scott Brice, Josh Jeffries, Craig Loxton, Ryan Gay (Lee Bryant 77 mins), Dan Cleverley (C), Lacey
Subs not used: Jack Allward, Scott Lewis.
Star Man: Dan Cleverley (Rovers).
Referee: Robert Abrams
Assts: Alan Smith / Craig Scriven