Shortwood 2 Stonehouse Town 1 – UHL Hellenic League

Report by Harry Ash.

Shortwood squeaked past Stonehouse in the local derby on Saturday afternoon, though the visitors probably shaded the game.

Throughout a quiet first half, Stonehouse left winger Chris Earle proved a consistent threat running in behind Shortwood’s defence. His first chance came in the seventh minute, when Tom Palmer slipped a through ball down the left hand side, with Earle forcing a good save from the advancing Adam Clark.

Shortwood struggled to provide anything in the way of attacking thrust, despite the best efforts of Lee Bowles, Josh Beadle, and Dylan Miles in particular. They were visibly hampered by the absence of a natural striker, with Ellis Harper forced to deputise in an unfamiliar role leading the attack. Despite this, Shortwood took a surprise lead after twenty minutes. Mirroring Stonehouse’s approach of isolating the left winger against the opposition right back, Miles found room to cross close to the byline, only for the ball to loop over the stranded Will Pederick and nestle in the far bottom corner.

But hope that Shortwood could use this stroke of luck to impose themselves a little more failed to materialise, at least in what remained of the first period. Earle threatened once more running in behind, this time played in by Eliot King, but he flashed a shot past the far post from a tight angle.

Undoubtedly to Stonhouse’s dismay, Shortwood doubled their lead seconds after the restart, with what was their first real chance of the match. A characteristic surge down the right by Harry Purnell allowed Harper to feed the ball in behind the Stonehouse defence, before Purnell drove a low cross to the far post, where Miles was waiting to score his second goal, despite only having one shot.

The half time introduction of Lloyd Gardiner changed the emphasis of Stonehouse’s attack in the second half, with the winger’s willingness to cut in and shoot with his powerful left foot causing problems for the Shortwood defence. Just a few minutes after Miles had made it 2-0, Gardiner picked up the loose ball after his corner was half-cleared, and smashed a shot towards Clark. The Shortwood ‘keeper spilled his attempted catch, giving Nathan Buckland a seemingly unmissable header from close range, but Clark recovered remarkably to tip over the bar.

Shortwood’s attacking play improved markedly at the beginning of the second half, with the combination of Bowles and Purnell providing much of the threat. Approaching the hour mark, Harper again did well to link play, feeding Bowles down the right, but his shot lacked power to trouble Pederick. Tom Hoskins was then denied by the Stonehouse ‘keeper, who did well to smother Hoskins’ shot from close range following a corner.

Stonehouse eventually halved the deficit with just over twenty minutes to play, with Gardiner inevitably the scorer. A cross from the left was poorly cleared, allowing Gardiner to launch himself into an acrobatic volley, which flew past Clark into the far corner.

What many would have expected to follow would be a prolonged assault on the Shortwood goal as Stonehouse searched for an equaliser, but, perhaps with tiredness being the major factor, neither team finished strongly, and Shortwood held on with relative comfort.