With Oakham bringing in forward enforcements this season of the likes of Lewis Leckie there have been times this year when Ben Easson has had to make do with a place on the bench. But in the last week, in a starting role following an injury to Leckie he has scored four vital goals to take his side to the brink of winning the PDFL Premier Division title and gaining promotion into the UCL Division One.
On Wednesday night a strike either side of half time delivered a 2-0 victory in the Rutland derby over Uppingham Town.
In a much more competitive game than the 6-0 defeat two weeks earlier Easson opened the scoring in the 27th minute before converting from the spot in the 76th minute to put the result beyond doubt.
Uppingham had the better of the opening stages and could have found themselves ahead under the Barleythorpe Road floodlights. Uppingham’s Jake Norton showed great sharpness to nip in and take the ball off Ben Cox as he tried to play the ball back to his keeper and only just pushed a shot wide of Oakham keeper Simon Dalton’s upright.
Norton again went close when he was played in by Will Thomas but he fluffed the chance.
Town skipper Martin Bennett was having a good day marshalling the defence but even so Eddie McDonald called Uppingham keeper Tom Hubbard into action with a firm header which the stopper unconvincing dealt with.
But Oakham took the lead a third of the way through the tie, with the speedy Easson finishing a cutting cross-field ball from Ollie McCann.
Uppingham finished the half on top, creating several more efforts but they could not get a breakthrough.
After the break Oakham almost doubled their lead, this time with Easson turning provider, delivering for Richard Nelson to shoot but Hubbard made a double save, first from Nelson and then Robbie Dance.
Against the run of play Jordan Neil almost levelled the scores but Oakham keeper Dalton made an outstanding stop.
Oakham got their reward for their second half dominance late in the game. Adam Rothery burst into the box after a flick-on header from Richard Nelson and was brought down in the box by Hubbard. The keeper was shown yellow and then watched Easson smash the ball past him from the penalty spot.
Uppingham never gave up and to their credit and chased to reduce the deficit late on. Some more accurate shooting could have seen them do it.
But Oakham saw out the result and with two games left to play they are now just three points away from winning the title, meaning they could be named champions on April 25, at home to Deeping Rangers Reserves.
Before then they have the small matter of a big semi-final in the ChromaSport & Trophies President Premier Shield against Peterborough Sports Reserves on Saturday. Kick-off is 1.30pm.
The other semi-final sees Peterborough ICA Sports play Netherton United.
Uppingham have the weekend off from action.
Oakham: Simon Dalton, Dan Jenkins, Ollie McCann, Stu Lambie, Marcus Baines, Ben Cox, Ben Easson, Adam Rothery, Richard Nelson, Edward McDonald,Robbie Dance. Subs: Sven Hart, Rik Phoenix, Billy Oliver, Alex Brown and Jamie Maxwell.
Uppingham: Tom Hubbard, Jamie Binley, Jack Salt, Jamie Dumford, Mark Dimech, Martin Bennett, Jordan Neil, James Howe, Robert Montgomery, Jake Norton, Will Thomas. Subs: Jon Forster, Matt Hill, Callum Campbell.