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Home humbling is second successive loss for Stones

Joe Papworth in action for Blackstones at Olney on Saturday.
Joe Papworth in action for Blackstones at Olney on Saturday.

Blackstones suffered a second successive United Counties League Division One defeat after a 3-0 home humbling by Harrowby United on Wednesday night.

Daniel French and Lee Clarke’s charges were second best for large parts of the contest at Lincoln Road as the razor-sharp Arrows were rewarded for a sprightly and industrious display.

It took them just six minutes to break the deadlock as Jawanza Grant glanced home a cross from the right.

Stones briefly responded with Jack Bates finding himself in space but his effort was well held by Harrowby goalkeeper Sam Andrew.

Home custodian Aaron Bellairs was in the right place at the right time to safely gather efforts from Jack Havron and Sam Grouse.

But he was powerless to prevent the visitors from doubling their lead when Grouse was allowed space to run at the home defence before rounding off a fine individual effort with a superbly-weighted finish into the far corner.

Matt Carter rifled a decent shot over the bar as Stones looked for a way back into the contest but, despite an improved showing after the break, they were unable to breach a well-organised Harrowby rearguard.

Half-time substitute Scott Musgrove flashed their best chance narrowly over the bar from Stones’ best move of the match.

But, as they pushed more men forward, they were susceptible to the breakaway through Harrowby’s pacy attackers.

Home defender Rikki Wilmer did well to cover round and block a goalbound effort from Richemone Sylla who then fizzed another effort wide of the far post.

The visitors wrapped up the points late on with Sylla the goalscorer from close range after tapping home following Grouse’s burst forward on the counter attack that caught Stones cold.

Stones are without a match this weekend. They are next in action on Saturday, April 28, when Buckingham Town visit the ALH Recruitment Stadium.

Stones: Bellairs, Peasgood, Wilmer, Pell, Simpson, Elwood (Musgrove), Porter, Papworth, Bates, Clarke, Carter (Easson). Not used: Hands, Crockett.

Joint Blackstones boss Lee Clarke felt Saturday’s away defeat at Olney was a huge learning curve for their management team.

Stones had gone into the contest against their fellow high-flyers on the back of an eight-match unbeaten run.

However, a sluggish performance saw Stones slip down to sixth place in the United Counties League Division One standings after being leapfrogged by their victorious hosts.

Clarke said: “Myself and Daniel French probably learned more on Saturday than we have at any other point since we took over which is probably the only positive we can take.

“We had been on a good run so turned up confident that we could get the three points, but we sensed that things didn’t feel right in the warm up.

“It was lethargic, slow and lacked any real quality. It doesn’t always translate into the game but it definitely did.

“We didn’t look interested for the first 30 minutes. They were quicker, sharper, played with a tempo and had a bit of quality on the ball. We were way off the pace and gifted them the first goal.

“Although we improved towards the end of the half, we were still not good enough and a lot was said at half-time.

“The main point was that as bad as we had been we were only one behind so we were still very much in the game.

“We actually started the second half quite well, the tempo was better and the energy levels were higher.

“We were starting to knock on the door until we gave away one of the most embarrassing goals you could give away defensively. Again it was four or fived errors from us that led to it.

“We did pull a goal back in the last minute but it was too little too late and in truth, if we had got anything from the game, it would have been harsh on Olney who deserved the three points.

“It was a disappointing afternoon for us. We had been on a good run of form due to working hard, putting a shift in and playing to our strengths .

“Although Saturday doesn’t undo all that, it does show that we’re not good enough to just turn up, do what we want and expect to flick a switch at 3pm to perform.

“Any team that wants to be successful prepares right and gives themselves the best chance of getting the three points. We didn’t do that on Saturday and got what we deserved.”

Stones fell behind after just four minutes when a ball was floated in from the right wing and the unmarked James Saunders hammered home.

Although Stones huffed and puffed to get back into the game, there was something missing in the last third with the home team tackling hard and using every trick to disrupt the Stamford side and destroy any rhythm in the play.

Stones lost Filip Czerwonka to a heavy challenge 10 minutes before half-time and his replacement Liam Buttery only lasted until the when the weight and enthusiasm of the home team’s tackling prevented him from starting the second period.

Stones tried to break back into the game in the second half, but defensive indecision when they failed to clear out of their own box gifted the home side a second goal as Christian Smail finished past a stranded Aaron Bellairs to double the lead.

Stones then threw caution to the wind with Jake Pell pushing forward and Jack Bates providing width while Joe Papworth was targeted by the home defence and brought down with clinical efficiency.

The visitors halved the deficit in the last minute as Clarke took the ball midway inside the home team’s half and drove forward and into their box before drilling his shot goalwards with too much force for the keeper.

Despite a last-minute rally, it was too late to salvage a point.

Stones: Bellairs, Bates, Wilmer, Pell, Simpson, Peasgood, Porter, Papworth, Czerwonka (Buttery) (Hands), Clarke, Butler. Not used: Crockett.


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