Oakham Reserves show their strength in depth

Action from Oakham United v 	Northampton ON Chenecks. Photo: Alan Walters EMN-160216-092802001
Action from Oakham United v Northampton ON Chenecks. Photo: Alan Walters EMN-160216-092802001
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Oakham United Reserves made sure this match wasn’t unlucky number 13, as they secured their 13th straight victory of this league campaign with a comfortable and dominant performance away at Leverington Sports Reserves to win 4-0.

The feat was made more impressive by the fact they had 10 regular players unavailable.

Oakham went into the match with a squad of just 13 players, their smallest in a year, but despite the low numbers they took the game to Leverington from the first whistle. Oakham started brightly and looked to create chances early on, as Lucas Alais, Pete Shirley and Sam Linford continually looked to get in behind the Leverington defence.

Ten minutes in, Linford flicked the ball on to put Shirley one-on-one, but he took too long on the ball and the keeper was able to neutralise the threat. Shortly afterwards, Linford was played in and he rounded the keeper before miscuing his effort, which probably should have been left to the supporting Ewan Crawford who, was coming on to the ball from a better angle.

Halfway through the first half Leverington nearly made Oakham pay for not converting their chances, when Joshua Beakhouse’s effort somehow snuck past Aaron Simpson’s well-timed challenge in the area and past stand-in keeper Nick Buff. Luckily, Ash Chamberlain was alert to the problem and cleared the ball from off the goal line. Except for a few corners, this was Leverington’s only major threat on the Oakham goal in the first half, as the back three of Simpson, Chamberlain and skipper Will Lee, along with holding midfielders James Dalby and Craig Welbourn snuffed out any Leverington attacks.

With 10 minutes remaining in the half, Oakham got the breakthrough their dominance deserved. They attacked down the left and Dalby and Will Hanson linked up well, before the ball fell to Linford in the area and he slid the ball across to Alais, who drove the ball home.

Oakham made it 2-0 just three minutes before the break, as Alais repaid the favour and laid the ball off to Linford who, hit an effort from 30 yards out and lobbed the keeper.

Oakham came out for the second half full of confidence and looked to put the game to bed early and they did so just six minutes after the restart. Chamberlain hit a drilled cross from the left towards the far post, but the ball skidded off the surface, deceiving everyone, including the Leverington keeper, and ended up in the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

From then on, bar one or two moments, Oakham were in complete control. With 20 minutes remaining, Shirley got Oakham’s fourth goal of the match and his tenth of the season. A wonderfully weighted, 30-yard pass over the defence from Dalby set him free and he lifted it over the on-rushing keeper from 20 yards.

Leverington nearly grabbed a consolation goal towards the end of the match, but Beakhouse saw another effort cleared off the line, this time by Lee. Oakham created a few chances towards the end, through Dalby, Shirley and substitute Jasper Goddard, but they couldn’t add to their tally.

Oakham assistant manager Dave Grieve said: “Nick and I were a bit nervous for this game, because we had the smallest squad we’ve had in at least a year, due to so many players being unavailable, due to no fault of their own - three had family commitments, three were with the first team, two were working, one was injured and another was playing in a rugby cup semi-final - but, the guys who were there played fantastically from the first whistle to the final whistle.

“The defence were solid and built on last week’s second half and James and Craig were excellent in front of them, as they limited Leverington’s attacks and were the creators of our own attacks - everything went through them.

“After a couple of shakier performances, it was great to see the guys dominate and create so many chances and this will help boost us for the tough games we’ve got coming in the next four or five weeks.”

Oakham United Reserves: Nick Buff; Will Lee (c), Aaron Simpson, Ash Chamberlain; Ewan Crawford (Jasper Goddard), James Dalby, Lucas Alais (Dave Grieve), Craig Welbourn, Will Hanson; Sam Linford, Pete Shirley