Sonning 1st XI 6 – 0 Oxford 2nd XI
By Jonathan Sharp
Sonning fill their boots with another exhilarating performance
Following on from their comprehensive victory over Reading the week prior, Sonning took to the field with an unchanged 15, and were able to field the same starting XI for probably the first time this season. Their opponents had frustrated them in the opposing fixture, with Sonning held to a 2-2 draw despite dominating the play
Sonning endeavoured to start the play in an aggressive manner, as has become their forte, and put their opponents on the back foot from minute 1. Oxford however came with a different script, and it was arguably they who started the stronger. They used the aerial ball at will and pushed the Sonning press deeper than they would have preferred.
Sonning however drew first blood, stinging like a cornered viper, with a goal for the in-form Noel Plant. Matt Sloper broke down an Oxford attack before feeding Ed Williamson on the left wing. He has looked coolly assured having become a 1st XI regular this season, and carried the ball out of danger before playing a dangerous line ball to James Manser. He beat his man with ease before putting in Noel Plant who faked to round the onrushing Oxford keeper before picking his moment and playing the simple shot between the legs. From defence to attack in less than 5 seconds for 1-0.
Sonning went full throttle from here. The Sonning back four looked impregnable, with Thomas Sampson and Neil Pursell marshalling central areas and stepping into midfield to allow Sonning to dominate the middle of the pitch. So, it was little surprise that Sonning claimed a 2nd within a few minutes, with Manser this time playing James Lockhart into space, who drove to the D and unselfishly picked out Ian Gallagher on the left post for a regulation tap in. 2-0.
The 3rd goal came from Jonty Rider, with Neil Pursell having driven almost from D-to-D, casually making a mazy run that created acres of space for forwards to run off. The initial shot from Manser was parried by Oxford’s keeper but Jonty Rider was following in and put in a tidy reverse chip, finding the net over the grounded goalie. 3-0.
If the scoreline at this point looked like total dominance however, it was not the case. Oxford did not let up for one minute in their use of the line ball and cross pitch aerial, and they created a few opportunities for themselves before the half was out. Keeper Ben Sully was called to action on a number of occasions, including in the last minutes of the half where he made an outrageous triple save to keep his clean sheet in-tact. He was also supported by Matt Sloper, who made his second clearance off the line in as many weeks, showing no end of cricketing nous in his work on the post.
As the teams came out for the second half, Sonning endeavoured to turn the screw. And from the pushback, they got just rewards for a tight team press, with Oxford’s left back forced into a channel before playing back into danger, where Sonning’s front line pounced. Manser stole possession on the edge of the Oxford circle, before driving to the baseline and cutting back to Ian Gallagher, who couldn’t miss from the top of the circle for 4-0.
This goal put the game out of sight, and the rest of the half was more relaxed than in some weeks, demonstrating the mantra of getting ahead early to dictate games. Sonning added a 5th goal through Colm Hanlon, with a driven ball in from Gallagher deflected cleverly by Jonty Rider to the unmarked Hanlon for a tap in. Yet another team goal that demonstrated a front line playing as a unit.
Undoubtedly the talisman of that front line however, Manser got his goal to round off the score at 6-0 and take his tally to 12 for the season (#TGS). Sam Terry provided this time for a turn and shoot from Top D that Manser made look easy. Encouragingly for Sonning, this meant that all 5 of Sonning’s forwards on the day got themselves in the goals!
While Sonning’s forwards will take the plaudits today, without naming the whole squad, this result was down to a team, to a man, playing for each other and whose work rate can never be questioned. Their clean sheet, as well as goals scored was just rewards for their efforts. Next up, they travel away to new league leaders Witney, who bested Sonning at The Lane before Christmas in a feisty encounter. Sonning will be hoping to carry their form on in what is likely to be one of their toughest games to date. #COTN
Goalscorers: Ian Gallagher 2, Colm Hanlon, James Manser, Noel Plant, Jonty Rider
MOTM: Ben Sully
DOTD: James Manser