Barnton 2 Brocton 3
On what can only be described as a dank day in Cheshire, the Badgers faced a tricky away game against a well organised and industrious Barnton side, clearly focussed on disrupting the Badgers current form right from the off. Starting brightly, the Badgers struggled to get into their normal rhythm early on, Barnton pushing on as the Badgers headed uphill first half. However, the Badgers did strike first with the combination of Will Whieldon and Connor Haddaway linking on the left hand side. Dipping a shoulder, Will cut the ball back to the edge of the box and Connor let fly with a thunderbolt into the bottom left hand corner leaving the keeper no chance for 1-0 after 8 mins. The home side undeterred, continued to take much of the possession, but their final pass let in the Badgers for a counter on more than one occasion. Reg Smith went close with a shot on the edge of the box, but it was Morgan Payne's 18th of the season in the 18th minute which took the Badgers to a 2-0 lead. A perfect through ball from Will Whieldon sprung the offside trap and calm as you like, Morgan placed it past the keeper. With both slides slipping and sliding on a wet surface, the game became more about control. The Badgers continued to create chances, specifically from Connor with another couple of range finders and Morgan going close to no 3 with a header just wide from a Will cross on the right hand side. The home side continued to press on the right particularly with Nicols-Holness against Dan Evans, but Dan, Kenny Devoir, the returning Jack Bostock and Charlie Marshall generally had the measure of the forays into the box, keeping it 2-0 to the Badgers at the break.
The second half saw Barnton change formation as they attacked the club bar end uphill, with the Badgers having to adjust their own game plan to meet the new challenge. The team started well with Reg Smith taking two bites at a shot but Barnton equal to it. The game then turned into one where the officials started to have a major influence on the outcome for both sides. On 57, a ball at the edge of the box fell between Kenny Devoir and Sample with Sample coming off second best following a foul and a penalty given. Joe Levey slotted the ball to Tony's left and halved the deficit to 2-1, but in the melee, Sample found himself with 10 mins on the sidelines. Barnton down to 10. Despite a numerical advantage, Badgers couldn't make it count and if anything, this spurred Barnton to push on more. A flurry of yellow cards followed, with Alex Curtis first on the bench then Lucas Green-Birch for a midfield challenge, but it was the second yellow for Charlie King which caused the most controversy. Already booked for a very innocuous challenge in the first half, Charlie slid in on the Barnton right hand side, seemingly winning the ball, but not fairly according to the referee. A second yellow shown and within 60 seconds, Barnton were back to 11 players, Badgers down to ten. With 12 plus stoppage time to come, could the Badgers show the fortitude and strength to keep a resurgent Barnton back? It was certainly a low block for the rest of the match as the ref called 7 additional minutes. With Henry Smith and Ben Haddaway now on to close out the game, the team defended incredibly well, whilst up front, Reg Smith ran tirelessly and played a true no 9 holding forward role. In the 96th minute, the Badgers extended the lead to potentially seal the game. Dan Evans ran the entire length of the pitch with the ball, before a defender passed back to the Barnton keeper. The keeper slipped, and the ball fell to Will Whieldon who calmly passed to Reg Smith. Making no mistake Reg hit a special low and hard past the keeper for 3-1 and his 4th goal in 3 games. With less than a minute remaining, Barnton weren't finished and a cross from the right was met by Will Avon at the back post for 3-2.
With little time to restart, the Badgers win 3-2 on the road and now take a mini-break from the league for 3 weeks with cup action now dominating. But my god, probably the hardest win of the season against a very well organised and dogged Barnton.
Team; Alsopp, Evans, Marshall, Bostock, Devoir, Green-Birch, C Haddaway, King, Whieldon, R Smith, Payne
Subs Used; H Smith, B Haddaway, Osborne
Subs Not used; Douglas, Arber
Goals; Payne, Haddaway, R Smith
Red Card; King