UCL PREMIER DIVISION: Deeping Rangers 1 Sileby Rangers 1
If Deeping Rangers manager Michael Goode put D-Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better on in the dressing room ghettoblaster after his side’s 1-1 draw with Sileby Rangers, no one would mind.
The Claret and Blues will play better and finish off teams better than this, but a mitigating factor might be the seven changes made by Goode to the starting 11 that lost the Hinchingbrooke Cup final in May.
Only goalkeeper Dan Bircham, skipper Dan Flack, striker Jezz Goldson-Williams and second half substitute Jordan Avis survived from the 2-1 defeat to Peterborough Northern Star - and it showed.
The early pressure at the Haydon Witham Stadium came from the away side who enjoyed several opening minutes of possession and pressing before Rangers striker Scott Mooney let fly from 20 yards, forcing Sileby keeper Liam Waddy to tip a dipping, curling shot over the bar.
Then alarm for the Deeping defence, led by assistant boss Jack Marsden, as the Cobblers’ winger Brian Farrell danced past them Maradona style, only for Dan Bircham to save with his legs.
Scott Coupland had a chance to open his account for Deeping on 15 minutes, hesitating to shoot before laying off to Mooney who hooked a difficult effort high and wide.
But the underside of the bar denied Goode’s men a deserved opening goal when Fraser Sturgess beat two men before chancing his arm for 12 yards, agonisingly watching as his good effort rebounded off the crossbar.
However, Deeping’s efforts were finally rewarded on 24 minutes when Coupland, a summer signing from Sleaford Town, was bundled down in the box and the ex-Greens skipper got back up, dusted himself off and slotted home.
Mooney almost added a second two minutes later when his clever lob over Waddy just cleared the wrong side of the bar.
The half-time whistle blew, but not before Marsden almost headed a Luke Fairlamb right-wing cross into his own net and Bircham failed to claim a corner which was half-volleyed over by Sileby defender Dominic Okanu on 40 minutes.
There was barely enough time for the home side to digest their manager’s teamtalk before, on 47 minutes, Fairlamb unleashed an angled drive from 20 yards out which beat Bircham at his right-hand post.
Deeping were never the same side after the equaliser and it was then that the game got scrappy and ill-tempered as referee Richard King’s plan to let the players manage themselves backfired badly.
Apart from Matt Porter’s run and shot from 18 yards that skimmed Waddy’s right-hand post, the second half was notable for one or two tasty challenges, players’ tempers starting to fray and a rush of blood moment for Bircham who raced out of his goal to close down Stuart McMichael when he was no threat.
With four minutes left, Brian Farrell was given a straight red card for aiming a headbutt at Luke Avis which many in the ground saw as warranting only a yellow.
But Sileby almost stole three points in stoppage time when substitute Bradley Pettitt crossed from the left and McMichael volleyed wide, with the Deeping goal at his mercy.
A let-off for Deeping in a game which proved that, as D=Ream’s song says, “things can only get better if we see it through”.
4-2-2-2: Bircham 6; Flack 7, Lewis 6, Marsden 6, Porter 7; Oliver 8, L. Avis 7; Goldson-Williams 6 (sub J. Avis 75 mins), Sturgess 7; Mooney 6, Coupland 6. Subs not used: Knowline, Goode.
4-4-2: Waddy; Allton, Okanu, Cottingham, Burgess; Fairlamb, Nugent, Edge, Farrell; Johnston (sub Pettitt 75 mins), McMichael. subs not used: Williams, Offiah, Handley.
Referee: Richard King.