Rangers 3 - 0 Knights
Northern Rangers finally came home for the 2011 season, after a run of three away games, of which one was officially a home game but at Birch Avenue, and everyone was looking forward to playing on some well-manicured, shortly cut grass to assist in playing some real football.
Some poor playing surfaces have not helped the playing side of Northern Rangers of late, so this week would test the passing game out on a good deck.
Jago was back into the side this week, the only change coming in for Josh van Zetten. Knights kept an unchanged line up from the side that walloped Burnie 3-0 last week, leaving the likes of Sean Harris and Tim Claxton in the reserves.
Conditions at the NTCA were balmy and windy, with the expected rain not due to hit until later in the evening, so almost perfect for football really.
Whenever Rangers and Knights match up, the form book can be tossed out the window, as anything can happen. In what is one of Rangers traditional rivalry matches, Knights were firming as a real title contender with two wins from two starts, while Rangers have not been able to convert close games into wins of late. But in the more recent past, Rangers have held the wood in this match up, not losing to Knights in the last seven encounters, and you have to go back to round 10 in 2007 for the last time Prospect Knights beat Northern Rangers.
But it was Prospect Knights who started the stronger and looked the more likely to score in the opening stages. Matthew Sessay had the ball on a string and was looking threatening, but Sam Luck was clinical on each occasion to deal with the chances.
For the first 30 minutes of the games, the better of the game was with Knights, but Rangers absorbed the pressure and pounced through Chris Hunt who struck a fine goal from his left foot, slamming the ball past a hapless James Wilson in goal who could do nothing about the class strike.
Toby Omenihu could have levelled for Knights but failed to knock home a headed chance and Pooley was in good form in goals and collecting every opportunity with skill and dexterity and to some extent the difference between the two sides.
Rangers doubled the lead when Chris Hunt hit an even better goal than his first to double his personal tally as well, when he menaced a shot on a right angle 20 yards out that tore the net from the top corner in the process of going home.
2-0 the score at half time.
The second half had Rangers kicking into a stiff breeze, but this has rarely troubled the seniors in the past, and has often produced a more productive effort half to half compared.
Knights lost their shape in the second half a little and Rangers improved their ball movement, after two weeks of midfield turn overs, Rangers were making the right decisions, particularly through midfield, and Derek Schipper was back to his best.
Andrew Nicholson capitalised on his chance to make it 3-0 on the 68th minute and the fizz was starting to go out of the game from here.
Duffy nearly put Knights on the score sheet when he hit a powerful drive from well outside the 18 yard box, but Pooley was having a fine day and kept the shot safe.
In the dying stages, Mark Ambrose got free and went one on one with James Wilson in goals and poked the ball under the keeper, but struck the upright, Nicholson pounced on the rebound but the shot was saved off the line by the Prospect defence.
So 3-0 the final result, and Rangers had restored some self-belief and more importantly scored two great goals thanks to new signing Chris Hunt. A result that keeps Rangers in touch with the league leaders going into next week’s challenge against top of the table Ulverstone at Valley road in a gala day that will see that game plus Devonport Vs Knights later in the evening.
Adam Whitemore said after the game “The result was a pretty accurate reflection of the game. We dominated possession in the first half but never got the tempo of passing that I'd like. Hunt's goals were very well taken. The interplay between him and Nicholson for the second was straight off the training pitch.
We tightened up our shape at half time in preparation for the expected long ball assault and defended really well, but still looked the more likely scorers. We got really compact defensively and hunted the ball down well. In the end we should have won by 4 or 5.
While I'm fairly happy with the performance there is still a lot of room for improvement. This week is a very big game. It could be a tight league, so the first team to string a run together will have a big advantage.”
Thanks to ‘Captain Australia’ for giving me permission to use this report from the Rangers website www.northernrangers.com Good website!