Cottesmore defeat County Hall in Leicestershire Senior League Premier Division match
A late change of fixture to an unfamiliar playing surface after three weeks without a game failed to blow Cottesmore's promotion push off track on Saturday.
The Rutland side had been scheduled to travel to sixth-placed Blaby & Whetstone for a Leicestershire Senior League Premier Division clash.
However, when that match was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, a back-up plan of playing County Hall on the 3G surface at Saffron Lane in Leicester was put into action.
And, despite conceding a goal inside the opening minute of the contest, Cottesmore maintained their grip on second spot with a 3-1 win courtesy of a Harry Stannard double and Tom Pope's 24th strike of the season.
Manager Rich Giblin explained: "We were contacted by County Hall on Friday night as they had booked a 3G pitch in advance.
"They should have been playing at Hathern who didn't want to reverse the fixture so, when our game at Blaby was postponed, we were very pleased to take the game which we would have been playing this weekend.
"We needed to play after having three weeks off so, after a bit of move around, we were all good to go.
"There was a force 10 gale blowing down the pitch which they train on so they were more familiar with it.
"We looked very ring-rusty to start with, began poorly and conceded a goal within the first 30 seconds.
"It took us a little bit of time to settle as we hadn't played for a while but, after their goal, we started to adapt to the pitch and the conditions.
"We were pretty much in control of the game after that and, even when we had to play against the wind in the second half, it probably suited us better because we could get the ball down and play.
"It wasn't pretty, but we got the job done with minimal fuss. I was pleased to get the result and we now move on to the next one."
Cottesmore were caught off guard in the opening exchanges when they missed a couple of early tackles which allowed a back post cross to be tucked away by Scott Machin.
The visitors gradually began to find their feet though and equalised on the half-hour mark through a fantastic finish from Stannard.
Skipper Jordan Smith linked up well with Pope whose shot was blocked and rebounded to Stannard who smashed home a volley into a top corner of the County Hall net.
Cottesmore continued to create the better chances against a home side who were reduced to 10 men before the break after a red card for violent conduct.
However, despite the dismissal, County Hall went close on a couple of occasions in the second half when they had the wind at the backs only to be denied by two excellent saves from Cottesmore custodian Alex Egner.
Cottesmore then hit the front for the first time in the game with Stannard this time rising highest to deftly flick home a header from Jake Robson's cross.
Egner then did well to tip away a swirling cross-come-shot from a corner as County Hall pushed for a second equaliser.
His opposite number at the other end then denied Cottesmore a third goal with a good save as Tom Atkins burst through.
The home side were then reduced to nine men with five minutes remaining when Pope was upended as he raced clear.
And the Cottesmore marksman rubbed salt in the County Hall wounds by stepping up to rifle home an unstoppable shot from the resultant free-kick to secure the visitors' fourth successive league win.
Cottesmore: Egner, Iron, Dennigan, L Smith, Bendle, Cropper, Sabberton, Robson, J Smith, Pope, Stannard. Subs all used: Lomas, Atkins, McJanet.
Cottesmore will be aiming to secure their place in the final of the Beacon Hill League Cup when they entertain Thurnby Rangers in a last four clash at Westray Park on Tuesday night (kick-off 7.30pm).
The Rutland side have already recorded 4-0 and 7-2 wins over Thurnby in the league this season, but boss Giblin insists his side will be taking nothing for granted.
He commented: "You're never really sure what you're going to get with Thurnby. It's a midweek match so there's always the possibility of dual-registered higher level players being available.
"We've had two good wins against them in the league, but it's certainly not cut and dried.
"They've got absolutely nothing to lose so we've still got a job to do. The worst thing we could do is to start thinking about playing in a final.
"Cottesmore haven't been in a League Cup final for a long time though and, although it's secondary to what we're trying to do in the league this season, it would be great to win the game and reach a final."
More by this authorJames Bedford