1 v 0
A second successive Saturday in the North East brought the same outcome for the Bucks, but there was some evidence of the Greene shoots of recovery.
A week is a long time in politics, they say, and that’s also true of football. In the eight days since the Bucks fell to a humbling 3-0 defeat at Darlington, the club has dispensed with the services of former manager Gavin Cowan, along with his staff.
Into Cowan’s shoes stepped Dennis Greene, given the role on an interim basis whilst the Bucks seek a permanent successor to Cowan. Greene’s own election campaign began with a defeat, which may not have been unexpected, but the manner of the loss suggested that Greene, a former member of the Magic Circle, had at least conjured some belief within the Bucks dressing room.
Greene, assisted by former Bucks striker Alex Meechan, had met his new charges just once before the game; he did however have a few tricks up his sleeve. The Bucks starting eleven looked set to retain Cowan’s preferred 5-3-2 formation, but Greene deployed right wing-back Arlen Birch, recovered from injury, in midfield, preferring a 4-4-2 formation.
Whether it was the change of shape or Greene’s buoyant personality, it worked. The Bucks presented in-form Spennymoor with the challenge of breaking down two lines of four, but also managed to pull the occasional rabbit from the hat.
They created more and better goalscoring opportunities than they have in recent weeks, and whilst Spennymoor ultimately deserved the victory, the Bucks made their opponents work much harder for the points than has been the case of late.
The hosts were looking for a fourth successive victory in the Vanarama National League North, and their first-ever win over Telford in a competitive fixture. They made the faster start than the Bucks, and Theo Streete conceded an early corner following Ryan Hall making untroubled progress into the penalty area. From the resulting kick, defender Joe Tait’s header back across goal had the visitors’ keeper Russ Griffiths on red alert, using his legs to deny Glen Taylor from just a few feet out and getting in the way of a second effort also.
Telford responded; Jed Abbey’s run earned a corner, and led to a second, although neither brought a threat on goal.
Moors marksman Taylor is a player most teams at this level would sign in a heartbeat, and he is the beating heart of the County Durham side. His link-up with Rob Ramshaw allowed the no.10 to strike at goal, but Ramshaw didn’t make proper contact and Griffiths saved with relative ease.
Moors were the more positive force, and another Hall run and low cross set up former Wrexham man Adriano Moke, but his wayward shot cleared the crossbar. The Bucks won a couple more corners in quick succession by way of a reply, but again to no avail.
Moke then cleared the crossbar again, after Griffiths only punched away Tait’s header from a free-kick as far as the Moors midfielder, and at the other end Jed Abbey was no more accurate, volleying over from distance when an Elliott Durrell free-kick was cleared to the feet of the tall midfielder.
The Bucks looked to counter-attack when possible, and goalkeeper Dale Eve plucked the ball off the head of Oswell as he looked to connect with Birch’s cross, Durrell’s exquisite ball having sent him haring away down the right. Soon after, Oswell went much closer and probably should have put the visitors ahead.
Kai Williams created the chance with his pace, and his low cross to the near post found Oswell; he took a touch before swivelling to shoot, and the touch may have been decisive, as it allowed Eve and a defender to block his effort when a first-time effort on goal may have opened the scoring. The Bucks recovered possession and Kevin Berkoe’s impetuous shot over the bar perhaps wasted the chance to set up a better-placed teammate.
Moors went closer still just after the half-hour when Ramshaw slid through the six-yard box but couldn’t connect with a low cross, the ball narrowly going wide of the far post. Undeterred, Brad Abbott was next to strike at goal, his shot on the run at the end of some neat passing going wide to Griffiths’ right.
The last act of the first half was another Bucks effort that could have brought more reward, as Durrell collected possession at the end of a counter-attack and struck a curling shot from the ‘D’ that Eve saved, plunging to his left to turn the shot away.
The chances for both sides indicated that the game wasn’t destined to end goalless, and so it proved. Moors went back on the offensive immediately, and Taylor appeared hell-bent on scoring, entering into a one-man offensive on the Bucks goal.
The game’s decisive spell was sparked by Abbott’s rising snap-shot from the edge of the box, which beat Griffiths to his left but rebounded back into play off the angle of post and crossbar. Taylor didn’t need asking twice to take the initiative, and on 50 minutes he was on the end of a move that opened the Bucks up down their left; when the ball was played back to the penalty spot, Taylor was there, running in to rifle an emphatic finish through Griffiths, who got his arm to the ball but watched it rocket off him, high into the net.
Within a minute, he almost doubled the lead, play seeming to happen in slow motion as his shot across Griffiths hit the inside of the post and rebounded back along the goal-line for a grateful Griffiths to grab. His relentless assault on goal continued, and in no time at all, he smashed an angled rising volley over the bar as the Bucks reeled.
Greene’s side had to stay in the game, and they did, showing more spirit than had been evident a week earlier in Cowan’s swansong. Taylor rose to head across over the crossbar as Streete and Kory Roberts duelled with the Moors no.9.
Durrell was trying to direct operations for the Bucks, who had brought new loan signing Cameron Antwi on at half-time for Abbey. Oswell headed a Durrell cross wide, but the chances for either side began to dry up. On 75 minutes the Bucks almost received the gift of an equaliser; a corner taken by Durrell arrived low in the six-yard box and a wild swing by a Moors defender almost sliced the ball into his own net, Moors clearing off the line as the Bucks claimed the goal.
Greene made a double substitution, and one of the pair introduced, Dom McHale, had some lively moments as the Bucks refused to give up the ghost. He had a shot blocked at the end of another Bucks counter-attack, and when Moors took the ball straight to the other end, captain Adam Walker was booked, scything his man down in trying to redeem his initial slip that created the chance. Taylor (who else?), went for goal from the free-kick, and Griffiths made a great save from his fierce shot that pierced the defensive wall.
The rain that had held off all afternoon started to descend as the Bucks continued in vain, McHale clearing the crossbar with their most meaningful effort, but the Moors had done enough and celebrated a hard-won three points.
Although he may possess a magic wand, Greene wasn’t able to produce any real magic; whether the Bucks improved showing here is evidence of better times ahead, or merely an illusion, is something only time will tell, and Bucks fans may have to ready themselves for much more shuffling of the cards they’ve been dealt.
Match Date: October 9th, 2021 3:00 pm
Competition: National League North
Kick Off: 15:00
Venue: The Brewery Field