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Aug 27

Cheltenham Saracens 4-2 Thame Utd

On the back of their fine weekend performance, against last season’s
league winners Oxford City Nomads, Saracens came into this bank holiday
fixture in a buoyant and confident mood. With the luxury of having
returning players to his squad. Manager Gerry Oldham is now seeing
light at the end of the tunnel with player availability and today it
was the presence of arriving Elliott Kennedy. Having missed their last
five games through suspension, Kennedy came straight into the squad,
slotting into his usual left sided midfield position and culminating in
a superb M.o.M performance. Oldham also had availability captain and
defender Sam Slender along with Mike Oliver who started on the bench.
Lorcan Sheehan having deputised in defence on Saturday, started back in
his customary central midfield role alongside the rejuvenated Leigh
Raysen. Raysen’s return to form is a reminder to all, that when the
going gets tough, and things are not going your way, stick at it,
Raysen has did this with a high degree of professionalism. Having
serious thoughts of retiring last season a number of people at the club
talked him round. Raysen thus started the pre-season fitter than he has
for along time and this is now paying dividends. Another such player is
Mike Rhodes, who has yet to feature this season, due to waiting for an
operation for a minor kidney complaint. Such is Rhodes desire to remind
his Manager he is will be available in 5-6 weeks time, Rhodes has been
present at all but two of Saracens games this season.

Thame Utd one of Oxfords oldest teams ‘Formed in 1883’ have had an
inconsistent start to their season and came into this game on the back
of a 0-6 drubbing by North Leigh in the FA Cup, but still Thame Utd
took the early initiative and forced Saracens on the back foot. Utd’s
main threat was their forward who at 6ft-8 was proving a useful target
man and was causing uncertainty on set pieces. As early as the 2nd min
Saracens had set pieces to defend when they conceded successive
corners. A break away down their right wing, should have seen Saracens
take the lead when young 18year old Jordan Bryan, was put clear by Jack
Oldham. Bryan skipped past two of the incoming Utd players and with
only the keeper to beat sliced his shot wide. Elliot Kennedy though was
running the show down Saracens left hand side, and whenever he received
the ball he looked threatening and was a constant menace to the Thame
Utd side. Kennedy in the 10th min received a pass from Sheehan wide on
the left side, for which Kennedys pace saw him ghost past his marker,
with the unmarked Ethan Moore free in the box Kennedys pass was spot-on
only for Moore to slam his shot against a defender who made a last
ditch flying block. Thame Utd then nearly stole the lead when their
quick and busy forward slammed a shot across goal, but Saracens keeper
Tim Griffiths was at hand to turn over for another corner. Saracens
forward Jamie Hammond then sprinted on to a through ball by Joe
Donaghue, but Hammond was cynically brought down resulting in a caution
to the Thame player. From the resulting free kick both Hammond and
Kennedy should have done better with scoring chances when in good
positions. With 25mins gone, Thame Utd took the lead when Saracens
conceded a free kick on their left hand side. A diagonal pass was met
by the Utd forward who scored with a fine finish. This set back though
did not stop Saracens attacking approach and they were soon level,
again good work by Kennedy saw him square a good pass to Moore who, as
he was about to score was brought down in the area. Lorcan Sheehan
calmly stroked in the resulting penalty to equalise.

HT: 1-1

Saracens came into the second half having to make one switch with Jack
Oldham ‘Ankle’ being replaced by Mike Oliver. Saracens though came out
the second half with more vigour and took the game to Utd. Kennedy’s
cross after the restart looked as though it was going to find Hammond
free in the box, but again a last ditch clearance by Utd denied
Hammond. From this corner Sam Slender’s header flew just over the bar.
Time and again Saracens was opening up the Utd’s team and Ethan Moore
was at hand again, when he was tripped in the box to give Saracens
their second penalty. This time Moore picked himself up and sent the
keeper the wrong way thus scoring his sixth goal in three games. Thame
Utd though was aggrieved at the penalty decision and their midfield
player was sent off immediately after the penalty, for foul and abusive
to the referee. The Utd manager so nearly went as well as the Utd’s
squad was losing their discipline and composure. Saracens took notice
of this and Kennedy was sent clear by a superb pass from Slender,
Kennedys shot was well saved by the Utd keeper. Within a minute though
Thame Utd were level when poor marking by Saracens allowed a 59th min
far post header to creep in at the far post much to the frustration of
Saracens manager Oldham. This was a clear sign to his players to
concentrate throughout. Ethan Moore had a great chance to immediately
put Saracens back ahead when Sheehan’s strong shot rebounded off the
chest of the keeper but Moore failed to capitalise and sent his close
range shot wide. Saracens though needn’t have worried as they scored
their 3rd goal on the hour. Nick Hill replaced the tiring Ethan Moore,
when a strong Leigh Raysen’s shot was saved by the keeper, he couldn’t
hold the ball and from the resulting rebound Hill was able to slot home
with his first touch of the ball to make it 3-2 to Saracens. By now
Saracens from resulting sending off of the Utd player and good team
work, was finding regular space throughout and fully cased themselves
in and around the Thame box. Hammond was replaced by Pat Sayce in 65th
min and Sayce nearly had a chance to add to Utd’s worried when he fired
from an acute angle. Strong running down the right hand side by Bryan
then sent Sayce clear but his shot was again well saved by the Utd
keeper. Lorcan Sheehan’s brilliant goal in the 80th min settled the
affairs when he crashed a superb shot from 30yds into the top corner.

FT:4-2

Manager Gerry Oldham was well pleased with the return of 4 points from
the weekend fixtures which has seen them rise to 4th in the league
table.

Saracens next game is against Abingdon Town ‘FA Vase’ at Home on
Saturday September 1st.

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