Vodafone Stoke 0 v 2 Uttoxeter Town
UTTOXETER Town were made to work hard for their three points on Saturday as Vodafone Stoke, the side Town ruthlessly dispatched before Christmas, fielded a much-improved side who were intent on making life very difficult for the visitors.
Despite the rain over the previous weeks, Vodafone’s Milton pitch was in superb condition.
After winning the toss Town attacked up the considerable slope in the first half with one change from the side which had hammered Abbey Hulton the previous week.
Kyle Esplin was struggling with a knee complaint and was rested, with Ryan Metcalfe given only his second start of the season in central midfield alongside skipper Martin Gadsby.
The first chance arrived on six minutes when Liam Sowter created a yard of space before hitting a terrific effort that was brilliantly palmed around the post by the hosts’ keeper.
It was not the only impressive save by the Vodafone keeper in the first period as the stopper was also in fine form to deny Gadsby with a full length dive after the midfielder met a Jason Beardsley cross.
Tommy Smith was the next to be denied by the hosts’ number one when he latched on to Gadsby’s through ball before seeing his low drive well saved.
It was not all one way traffic, though, as Vodafone created a couple of half chances themselves in an entertaining first period.
With half-time approaching and Uttoxeter having plenty of possession without creating many clear cut opportunities, it was the more direct approach that broke the deadlock.
A long Alex Langridge clearance was helped on by imposing forward Smith into the path of strike partner Matty Redshaw and the fleet footed finisher danced past the onrushing keeper before rolling into an empty net for his 11th goal in five games since his November signing.
More woe was heaped on Vodafone as the keeper was carried from the pitch following a collision with his own player during the goal and when he was replaced with a makeshift stopper.
Town sensed there could be more goals for them but three wonder saves in the second period showed the replacement was more than capable.
Firstly Gary Beardsley, who grew into the game as it progressed, brought down a high ball with an exquisite touch before unleashing a 30-yard drive that was tipped around the post before Smith was denied brilliantly on two occasions.
A sharp left-footed effort appeared to wrong foot the stand-in keeper but was superbly held before Redshaw squared to Smith six yards out and the Vodafone substitute stuck out a stray leg to turn the ball onto the post.
The visitors were not to be denied, though, and they effectively sealed the game on 78 minutes when the impressive Chris Richards drove forward before delivering a fine cross to the far post.
Gadsby did the pass justice with a wellhit volley that both the keeper or recovering defender could not keep out as Town grabbed some breathing space.
The deficit could easily have been cut in the last 10 minutes had Glyn Douglas not made a stunning challenge when the hosts’ striker seemed destined to score, but the ball was deflected to safety to maintain Langridge’s deserved clean sheet.
TOWN: Langridge, J Beardsley, Farrelly, Douglas, Richards, G Beardsley, Gadsby, Metcalfe, Sowter (Collins 79), Smith, Redshaw (Ward 88). Subs not used: Caswell, Esplin.