3 v 0
Gavin Cowan will be well aware that one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but the way his Bucks team put Chorley’s Magpies to flight gave much cause for optimism.
Cowan’s team overcame the additional hurdle of having Jason Oswell dismissed just before half-time. The bustling Oswell collected two bookings from referee Richard Holmes, the second for a foul on Chorley captain Scott Leather. Whilst the decision was the correct one, the Bucks were put at a disadvantage. Mr Holmes fussy and inconsistent approach raised fears that the promise that opening day holds looked set to quickly go to seed. However, the Bucks gave the Magpies the bird in a tenacious second-half display, capped by as good a goal as you’ll see from the returning Elliott Durrell.
Cowan went for a 5-3-2 formation and started 18 years old youth prospect Brad Bood at left-back in place of the injured Brendon Daniels. Bood was steady on his debut but made way for Kai Williams at the half-time interval as Cowan had to quickly draw up a new plan following Oswell’s dismissal.
The red card Oswell saw on 36 minutes came only 6 minutes after his first. He was perhaps unfortunate to be booked for what must have been his first foul, especially given that Chorley’s Andy Owens, once a Telford player, seemed to be getting away with far more obvious misdemeanours, ruffling a few feathers in his battle with the Bucks’ Theo Streete.
Streete had needed attention for a knock to the head by the time Oswell became the game’s first booking, whilst Kyle Bennett had the Bucks only meaningful goal attempt, firing the ball over the crossbar from 25 yards.
Oswell then drew the game’s best moment on 32 minutes, controlling a ball played up to him and striking the ball beautifully from 25 yards, only to see Matt Urwin equal to his effort with a great save to his left.
Mr Holmes, seemingly oblivious to Owens’ antics, gave notice of his apparent desire to be at the heart of things when he ordered the retake of the opening kick-off for a player having strayed into the opposition half. He made sure he wouldn’t be on the Bucks’ Christmas card list when he went to his pocket for a second yellow when Oswell mistimed a tackle, making contact with Leather rather than the leather of the ball.
The Bucks hastily regrouped and got through to half-time without conceding, but faced another 45 minutes a man short. Cowan withdrew Bood, sent Williams on to support Bennett up front and switched to four in defence, with Ross White moving to left-back.
The opening quarter of an hour in the second period was as even but uninspiring as the first half, Bennett brightening matters with a smart bit of skill to find room and shoot, Urwin covering his near-post shot.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man, they say, and on the hour, Theo Streete had his moment. The Bucks had held off a Chorley attack on the right and when Durrell’s exquisite pass set Williams away on the left, he won a corner. The ball into danger dropped for Streete in the six-yard box and he made no mistake. The Bucks defender has his detractors, but he is wholehearted and a great character, and he deserved the celebrations.
Chorley had to change their approach and brought on substitute Miilenic Alli. He almost levelled when a burst of pace took him past a defender on the left and his low shot across goal missed the far post by inches. White then blocked an Ollie Shenton shot on the turn as Chorley looked for a response; however, it was the Bucks who netted the crucial second goal.
Thirteen years have passed since Elliott Durrell left Telford, establishing himself first at Hednesford Town and then as one of the National League’s talismanic players, winning promotions with Macclesfield Town and Altrincham. On 71 minutes he showed exactly why Gavin Cowan has been so keen to add him to his Bucks squad for so long.
Leading his side out from midfield, Durrell eased the pressure on his teammates with a sublime strike from 25 yards. Chorley must have realised their error in backing off and giving Durrell room, but by the time he had struck a swinging shot from distance past Urwin, they knew for sure. Durrell’s goal sparked an outpouring of relief and emotion. It was a reminder of how great it was to have fans back, and how hollow that moment might have been without them.
There was even time for some farcical antics towards the end of the game; Chorley assistant manager Andy Preece was sent to the stands for questioning the addition of only six minutes of stoppage time. Some of the stoppages occurred when a fan came onto the field to rescue an injured and apparently flightless pigeon; the fan received a warm round of applause for his actions, but the added time put Preece in a flap.
Preece had just about taken his seat in the stand when Magpies’ keeper Matt Urwin presented a clearance straight to substitute Jack Byrne who gleefully rounded things off, hammering the ball into an unguarded net.
Author: Richard Worton (Shropshire Star)
Match Date: August 21st, 2021 3:00 pm
Competition: National League North
Kick Off: 15:00
Venue: New Bucks Head