Amateurs hold high-flyers despite again making a number of changes
Cottesmore boss Rich Giblin praised the versatility of his players after they shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw with a highly-rated Thurnby Rangers team in Saturday’s Leicestershire Senior League Premier Division clash at Westray Park.
Amateurs again had to make a number of changes to their playing personnel but produced a gritty display against their fourth-placed visitors to extend their unbeaten league and cup run to seven matches.
They were missing Colton Cropper, Danny Seals, Jack Mellor, Eathan Milne and Darren Wilke from the previous week’s 1-1 home stalemate with Allexton and New Parks while injured duo Harry Stannard and Wilson Iron as well as Darren Smith were also absent.
Andre Fontoura did return for his first start of the season after a lengthy spell on the sidelines through injury with Jake Robson impressing after stepping up from the reserves while Luke Smith produced a man-of-the-match performance after being switched to the centre of defence.
Giblin said: “I am asking players to play in a lot of different positions at the moment. We’re having to rotate things around, but I can’t ask for any more from the lads.
“Everyone is really pulling together at the moment. They are battling in every game which is making us a hard team to beat.
“Thurnby are probably the best team I’ve seen this. They’ve already beaten Rugby Borough (league leaders) twice so it was a good result for us.
“I would have been happy with a point before the game and, after coming away with a draw, it shows we were well in it.
“The Senior League is tough, but we’re competing against the top four or five teams which is where I believe we can be if we keep this current group together.”
After Thurnby had enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession in the opening exchanges, Cottesmore broke the deadlock when Tom Pope robbed the Rangers centre-back and teed up Jordan Smith to smash home the opening goal.
The goal was just reward for the Cottesmore skipper who had gone close on several occasions in recent matches only to see goalbound efforts blocked or cleared off the line.
The lead though was shortlived as Thurnby equalised soon after as Cottesmore conceded a sloppy free-kick following a foul on former Amateur Jamie Black and Shaun Barber stepped up to score from the resultant setpiece.
Tom Bendle came close to restoring Cottesmore’s lead, but fired into the side-netting with just the keeper to beat.
And Thurnby took full advantage to head into half-time with a 2-1 lead as Barber slotted home after a neat interchange with Black.
Cottesmore though rallied again after the break and got back on level terms midway through the second half.
Robson played an inch-perfect pass to release Pope who raced clear before scoring his 13th goal of the season from 15 appearances.
Cottesmore now had the initiative in the latter stages and substitute Chris Chilton sent a volley narrowly over while late penalty appeals following a push on Tom Atkins were rejected as the honours finished even.
Cottesmore face another tricky test this weekend when they travel to face third-placed FC GNG.
Amateurs: Hotson, Atkins, L Smith, Richards, Hamnett, Robson, Bendle, J Smith, Green, Pope, Fontoura (Chilton). Sub not used: S Stannard.
Cottesmore Reserves were punished for producing a lack-lustre performance as they suffered a 4-1 away loss at Blaby & Whetstone on Saturday.
Amateurs’ second string had gone into the Division Two contest on the back of an excellent 4-1 away success at Desford Development last weekend.
But they failed to replicate the display of the previous week as they looked off the pace from the start with passes going astray and players making wrong decisions.
This allowed Blaby to take advantage and break the deadlock as a cross to the back post was headed in by an unmarked home player.
With Cottesmore struggling to make an impression as an attacking threat, Blaby bagged two more goals before the break with both coming from headers from corners which were not dealt with by the visitors.
Cottesmore made some adjustments at the break and came out for the second half with renewed vigour.
Adam Lomas and Harry Sabberton started to cause the hosts problems on the wings and Cottesmore managed to reduce the deficit through Lomas’ smart finish.
However, they were unable to turn the momentum into goals and failed to add to their tally when on top of the match.
And, as they pushed further forward in search of a way back into the contest, Blaby created the better openings on the break.
They were awarded a penalty following a foul in the box, but Cottesmore goalkeeper Nathan Clare produced a fine stop from the resultant spot kick.
Clare then produced another super save to tip over a free-kick which was destined for the top corner, however, he was beaten for the fourth time in the dying throes as Blaby broke and finished in a one-on-one.
Cottesmore: Clare, Adams (Baker), Gould, Waterman, Lomas, Sabberton, Wood (Taylor), Gray (Waddington), Dawson, Smith, Hunt.