Oakham United Reserves suffered their third defeat of the season and are now out of every cup competition after being beaten 2-1 away at Spalding Town on Saturday in the PFA Challenge Cup second round, in a match that was severely hampered by the elements.
The winds were ridiculously heavy in Spalding, so Oakham took the gamble of attacking against them in the first half, in the hope that they could keep the scoreline down and go on the attack second half.
The early going was tough for Oakham, as they battled to keep the ball out of danger, but despite a lot of pressure and several corners, the scores remained level. Halfway through the first half, Oakham grew into the game and were very nearly ahead, when a Sam Linford free kick was met at the far post by Jamie Maxwell, but his effort skewed back across the face of goal.
Five minutes later, Pete Shirley received the ball just inside the Spalding half, knocked the ball around the left-back and drove towards goal.
He was one-on-one with the keeper, but the ball bobbled just before he struck it and his effort went wide.
Oakham struggled for chances as halftime loomed and were confident they had done enough in defence to give them a chance in the second period.
However on the stroke of halftime, Spalding were first to a couple of headers on the edge of the penalty area and the ball fell to Cymon Lambe, who powered a volley past keeper Andy Collin.
Oakham tried to start the second half on the front foot, but their early balls to Shirley caught in the wind and caused Spalding few problems.
They thought they were level after 52 minutes, when George Maxwell hit a rocket from 40 yards, but the Spalding keeper did well to push the ball wide for a corner.
Just after the hour mark, Oakham’s task became even more difficult, as two players were left free at the back post following a free kick and Markus Parry was allowed to calmly make it 2-0.
From then Oakham knew they had to push and they sacrificed a defensive minded player in the pursuit of goals. Despite pressure, the final ball or shot was not quite there and they knew there was a risk of conceding more, from counter-attacks.
With a little over 15 minutes to go, Oakham pulled one back after a break of their own, as Shirley slipped Sam Watchorn into the area and he drove the ball into the bottom left corner. Oakham continued to push, but their only two clear chances saw Lucas Alais put a free header over the crossbar and Maxwell hit a free kick high over as well.
Oakham assistant manager Dave Grieve said: “Their opening goal was a gut punch, as the lads had defended so well in terrible conditions - it should have been 4, 5 or even 6-0 at halftime, as they had that many opportunities.
The second half was lacklustre from us. I think a couple of players had it in their heads that we’ll just score easily with the wind behind us. The midfield didn’t do a great job of helping the defence out in either half and used Martin Owers at defensive midfield as a bit of a comfort blanket.
“I also probably should have changed things a little earlier and pushed for a more offensive approach throughout the second half.”
Oakham United Reserves : Andy Collin; George Maxwell (Charlie McKie), Aaron Simpson, Ash Chamberlain, Craig Welbourn; Sam Watchorn, James North (c), Martin Owers (Lucas Alais), Sam Linford, Jamie Maxwell; Pete Shirley
Unused substitutes: Jasper Goddard, Dave Grieve