Whickham kept their focus and reaped the reward of all three points in their 1-0 victory over Penrith on Wednesday evening. WRITES ADAM TONES.
The Lang Jacks controlled a scrappy first half as the ball was hoofed back and forth with no team being able to get a hold on the game.
Whickham were the better team in the second half, comfortably passing the ball around and creating chances. Ross Peareth’s third goal of the season dividing the two teams.
The visitors came into the game knowing it would be a difficult contest, albeit the league table showed contrasting differences in the club’s fortunes.
The home team are fighting for survival, while the away team are pushing for a top-four finish.
The first half started slowly with no team getting a real grip on the match.
Both defences defended their goal with grit and determination, every ball was cleared leaving the attackers frustrated.
Whickham who made the two-hour journey to Frenchfield Park created the first major chance of the match.
Kaleb Young’s curling free-kick evaded everyone before Arran Taylor in the Penrith goal managed to gather the loose ball.
Scott Robson who is in a rich run of goalscoring form of late was next to have an attempt on goal.
The striker-fired over from just inside the Penrith box with only Taylor to beat.
Robson became provider as the away team threatened to open the scoring. This time Robson found Tom Howard advancing down the right-hand side.
The defender’s first-time cross was almost spectacularly finished off by Young. The midfielder acrobatically connected with the ball – his effort going inches wide of Taylor’s near post.
The home side made it difficult for the visitors in the first half, Penrith pressed every time Whickham got a hold of the ball, leaving little space to create any openings.
Whickham almost scored when Robson latched onto a ball over the top before trying to chip Taylor.
The home team cleared their lines but only to Callum Elliott whose effort sailed over Taylor’s crossbar.
However, the hosts had the best chance of the first half, one they should have scored.
The home team connected sweetly to a floated free-kick into the Whickham box, only to see James Anderson quickly react and pull off a brilliant save.
Penrith were given a second opportunity but the shot from 4 yards out cleared Anderson’s crossbar.
Penrith had another guilt edge opportunity on the hour mark, Whickham struggled to clear their lines, but the shot was blazed over from just 5 yards out.
Nathan Greenwood came within inches from giving Whickham the lead with just 20 minutes left on the clock. The wide man cut inside before curling his effort just past Taylor’s far post.
The deadlock was finally broken with 10 minutes remaining, Young’s cross flashed across the host’s six-yard box before a poor clearance fell to Peareth 18 yards out and centre of the goal.
The Whickham captain drilled his first-time effort into the top right-hand corner of Taylor’s goal, giving the goalkeeper no chance of saving what turned out to be the game’s decisive moment.
Penrith almost equalised in the final few minutes, captain Grant Davidson’s header hitting the crossbar before being cleared by the visitors.
As Penrith pushed forward it left holes at the back and Whickham almost capitalised.
Elliott put pressure on Penrith’s defence after chasing down a loose ball, leaving Taylor struggling to control a loose pass which forced the goalkeeper to bring down Scott Jasper inside the box.
The referee pointed to the penalty spot, but Taylor made amends when he guessed the right way to deny Greenwood’s penalty.
After the match manager Tony Fawcett was relieved and proud of his team’s effort, he said: “I’m relieved if I’m honest, I thought Penrith have acquitted themselves well.
“We had a feeling they would fly out the traps with us early doors which I thought they did quite well.
“First half was competitive and close. I think second half we had a lot of the ball and I thought we would only concede off a set piece or a mistake, I guess.
“I thought we probed well, we didn’t create loads, but it was that one moment of quality that shone through.”
Speak about his captain’s performance, Fawcett added: “Peasy’s (Ross Peareth) is so underrated, in training we call him Busquets (Sergio Busquets) because he’s quality.
“We do a lot of shooting, finishing, and combination play in training. I said to the lads that (Peareth’s goal) was a product of that, the balls come out and he’s struck it really well.”
Man of The Match, Ross Peareth spoke of his delight at getting the three points, adding: “It was a hard game, we had to travel two hours to get here.
“I thought the lads put a good shift in, it wasn’t the best of performances but we got the three points.”
Speaking about his match-winning goal, Peareth added: “I probably could not have hit it any better, to be honest.”
Whickham Team: Anderson, Howard, Burrell, Galbraith, Elliott, Moody, Young, Peareth ©, Greenwood, Scott Robson (Jasper 67’), Atkinson.
Subs not used: Below, Agnew, Bewicke, Bannon.
Goals: Peareth 80’
Man of The Match: Ross Peareth