After successive Cup matches ‘Both won’ Cheltenham Saracens resumed to their League campaign with a view on gaining ground with the teams at the top.
4 first half goals from their top scorer Ethan Moore gave them the win but only after a second half fight back by Flackwell Heath made it a little too nervy for Saracens Manager Gerry Oldham and his side.
Saracens went into the game with injuries to numerous players but with quality in depth came through this hard fought win.
Flackwell took the early initative and their quick passing looked good but didn’t really threaten the solid back line of Hill, Tunnicliff, Sheehan & Bryan, the times they did break through Saracens keeper Ryan Betteridge was at hand to make two crucial point blank saves.
Saracens scored their first Goal in the 5th min quite fortuitously!! Lorcan Sheehan broke down a Flackwell attack deep in his own half and saw Elliot Kennedy free, wide on the right, Sheehan’s kick was over-hit ending deep in the Flackwell area, The Flackwell keeper looking to instinctively punt it back down field only succeeded in kicking against the on rushing Kennedy, the ball lobbed up and landed at the feet of top scorer Moore who will not score an easier goal all season!! 0-1
This settled Saracens who then proceeded to play good passing attractive football. The pace of Saracens attack caused Mayhem in the backline of the Flackwell side and they never got to grips with Moore & Kennedy respectively.
A 10th min Flackwell attack nearly brought an equaliser but Betteridge in goal pulled off a majestic point blank save.
Saracens added to their scoreline in the 20th min when Moore scored his and Saracens second, scoring the goal of the game. Acting quicker to a loose Flackwell pass his quick thinking & vision saw the keeper marginally off his line, enough for his exquisite lob to nestle into the corner giving the Keeper no chance 0-2.
Both Saracens midfield players Spike Rhodes and Leigh Raysen were looking particularly sharp from their return of Injuries, and their physical presence in the heart midfield was always a source of attacking options for Saracens.
Moore completed his Hat-trick on the half hour when Sheehan sent a free kick to the far post, Swales instinctive pass landed to the feet of Moore who side stepped his marker and finished his effort into the bottom corner. 0-3
With half time approaching 0-3 became 0-4 and again Moore was at hand to complete the service, but Moore had Kennedy to thank for. Jordan Bryan played a deep ball into the Flackwell half, Kennedy’s pace allowed him to get to the ball first and with a defender & the keeper rushing in, Kennedy skipped past both players with the goal at his mercy he unselfishly squared the ball to Moore who had a better angle to finish.
Half-Time: Flackwell 0-4 Saracens
Saracens had to make an enforced immediate second half change with keeper Betteridge retiring due to a sprained ankle, slipping down a small aqua duct retrieving the ball and slipping!! Tim Griffiths replacing him in goal.
The second half saw a more determined Flackwell side come out the blocks with more purpose and aggression. Where in the first half they played close intricate pass and moves phases of play, the second half they went a more direct long ball route which caught Saracens cold.
Flackwell scored their first after 48mins when a long ball caught the defence flat allowing their forward to run through and finish his shot into the bottom corner. 1-4
This goal gave Flackwell much impetus allowing lots of possession deep in the Saracens half. From a Saracens attack which Moore went close, Flackwell broke quick and another long ball again caught Saracens too square again allowing the Flackwell forward a scoring chance, though his effort was initially saved by Tim Griffiths the rebound fell nicely for his team colleague who scored with a tap in. 2-4
With their tails up and sensing this game was along from finished Flackwell’s direct route was causing uncertainty in the back line, Saracens restructured at the back & started to look more comfortable but just when the Saracens defence thought they were coming to terms with the chance of attacking styles they conceded a 60th min penalty. Lorcan Sheehan unluckily upended a Flackwell player when they both contested a 50-50 ball in the box. The penalty was put away giving Griffiths no chance. 3-4
Flackwell had a player sent off in the 68th min when a punch was thrown after an altercation giving the referee no alternative but to show the red card thus ending any real hopes of Flackwell getting anything from the game…
Saracens knew they still had a fight on their hands and gradually started to get to grips with the second half creating good chances particularly the 70th min when Hammond strong run into the box was ended when he was clumsily taken out but the referee deemed the challenge fair!! Moore then looked again to lob the Keeper from another acute angle but this time the lob lacked pace being comfortably saved by the Flackwell keeper.
Hammond then in the 80th min had an excellent chance to extend the Saracens scoreline when again he danced into the box skipped past three players but the ball took a bobble as he was about to pull the trigger at the last minute.
Saracens saw out the final minutes camping themselves in the Flackwell half seeing out marginal deserved win…
FT: Flackwell Heath 3-4 Cheltenham Saracens
Team: Betteridge (Griffiths Tim) Bryan, Sheehan, Tunnicliff, Hill (Hall) Swales, Rhodes, Raysen, Hammond (Griffiths Carl) Kennedy, Moore