Sort It Out!

Slough Town

Slough Town

S. Scott (26), Manning (2-2)
Northwich Victoria

Northwich Victoria

Bunter (4, 0-2)
League Attendance: 605 Paul Manning
Life at Wexham Road will be nearly unbearable this week as Slough fans look for a convenient wall to bang their heads against. Their team is balanced precariously on the verge of the relegation abyss, knowing that forthcoming matches could save them or send them tumbling.

True, Slough have been lifted one place by this result, and came back strongly to cancel out a two-goal deficit and tie the match, but defensive ineptitude denied them a vital extra two points which would have made such a difference.

Briley was forced to give a debut to newly-signed former Brighton goalkeeper Steve Book as Bunting was unwell, while Steve Scott replaced the injured Ian Hazel.

During the first few minutes, Slough positively buzzed, the ball rarely leaving the Northwich half, but as Slough have discovered this season, luck is most definitely not with them, and after four minutes, they were dealt the cruelest of blows. After failing to clear an in-swinging corner, the ball fell at the feet of Bunter, who gratefully snatched the chance, sending the ball high past the helpless and bewildered Book - a goal from Northwich's first attack.

Though Slough tried desperately to recover, it was Northwich who, in their sporadic attacks, created the most chances, Bunter going just wide after having lobbed Book from the edge of the area.

The mediocre Slough defence began to crumble under the pressure - the talented Bunter being a particular threat. And soon enough, it cracked again, Bunter making a fool of Lee on the touchline before cutting inside to fire past Book from a narrow angle.

To their credit, the Rebels' heads did not begin to drop after this double whammy, and showed great character to fight back. On 19 minutes, however, it could have been three, the Northwich frontline towering over Slough, and Boyd heading onto the underside of the crossbar. As the action swung to the other end, Fiore restored some hope, a determined run being followed by a flashing shot just past the upright.

Generally, however, Slough lacked the cohesion and structure which had characterised their early game. Crosses were wasted and promising runs came to nothing, as a frantic Briley harked orders to his team.

Suddenly, from the darkness their came a glimmer of light. Peters' cross for Northwich, 'keeper Bullock misjudging the ball, and as it fell into no-man's land, there arrived the unlikely figure of Steve Scott to propel it into the back of the net with venom on 26 minutes.

As the half continued, Northwich's aerial play proved too much for Slough to handle, as the Rebels began to press for an equaliser. When Slough finally managed to get the ball into the Vics' area, things began to happen. Peters' brilliant shimmying in the area created the space for Manning to sidefoot home - his first goal for the club.

At half-time, then, the Rebels were back at square one, but relieved to be there. The second half was just as frantically-paced as the first, simmering with potential chances, but failing to catch fire. Despite some brilliant play from Sayer and Manning in particular, the defence looked so fragile that the match could have swung either way.

Bunter could so easily have punished the Rebels when lax defending allowed him acres of space in the box - the Slough defence was beginning to hinder the attack, a dangerous game to play, but Fiore and Sayer still both had the time to put identical headers over the bar.

Upfield pressure therefore seemed the best form of defence for Slough as they turned up the heat, looking for the glancing header or rasping shot which could relieve the weight from their manager's shoulders. Despite many chances, that killer punch would never arrive - Peters' long shot on 75 minutes was not the answer, and was his last effort of the match. He was swapped for Morrys Scott six minutes later.

Defensive suicide was still on the cards with just three minutes to go, Book saving well at the feet of Norman. Former Milwall trainee Brett Smith came on for Fiore on 88 minutes - too little, too late for Slough.

Slough did enough both to win this game and also to lose it, so a draw seemed a reasonable result, but this knowledge will not please Briley. His players know what must be done to stay up, though it may be other teams' results which decide whether or not they face the dreaded drop. In the meantime, the waiting, and the head-banging must continue.

Northwich Victoria Lineup


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