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Match Report  Friday, April 20, 2001  09:45 GMT

Cheshire strikes to calm the nerves

League fixture - Thursday 19th April 2001
Orton Rangers 2-0 Forget-Me-Not Ex-Servicemen (HT:1-0)

Orton Rangers continued their unbeaten run that has put them in a strong position in the league with three more points on Thursday night. The manner of their win was less than convincing as the second place side laboured to victory over relegation threatened Forget-Me-Not at The Park. Goals from Peter Cheshire and Simon Jennings late on in both halves were enough to give Orton maximum return in a game in which both sides missed penalties.

Orton made two changes from Tuesday nightís tense but rewarding 2-2 draw with league leaders St Marys as they reverted to their normal 3-5-2 formation. Forward James Marrett came back into the side in pace of Michael Bolton as Simon Jennings went back to his midfield role. Ryan Farrell took Boltonís position at centre-half. Another change was made at wing-back as Craig Smyth started in place of Steve Baird on the right. Baird was named as one of five substitutes along with Bolton, Dean Billingsley, Stuart Taylor and Mark Seymour.

The visitors came with the game plan to frustrate Rangers and consequently there was little to report in the beginning. Brian Treanor latched on to a long ball and took his shot early from distance but didnít trouble the goalkeeper. Orton were seeing more of the ball but couldnít quite get their rhythm going. Ryan Farrell went on a strong run from the back past a couple of players and fed James Marrett but his shot lacked conviction as it went straight at the goalkeeper. Ortonís tricky midfielder Simon Jennings then began to get involved and became the main source of the home sideís attacking options. He set up Treanor but the big frontman lifted his shot over the bar again. Craig Smyth was to have a good game and he tried his luck with a shot that went narrowly wide.

The visitors were not providing much of a threat and were being well looked after by the imposing defensive trio of Neil Noakes, Paul Thatcher and Ryan Farrell. Forget-Me-Not managed to force a couple of corners but didnít look like upsetting the title-chasers. Rangers themselves though were not playing with the same confidence as usual and too many long balls were hit in the direction of the forwards.

Orton wingbacks Smyth and Peter Cheshire were both enjoying forward forays on occasions and it was Cheshire who calmed a few nerves with a fine opening strike. Some neat approach work between Gregg Marrett and brother James was broken down on the edge of the box but Cheshire came marauding through to hit a trademark left-foot effort low past the keeper. The goal seemed to wake up Blain Parkerís side and they enjoyed a spell towards the end of the half where they could have chalked up further goals. Jenningsí endeavours gave Rangers the chance to double their lead when he earned Orton a penalty soon afterwards. His crossfield run took him into the box where he was chopped down for a clear penalty. Up stepped regular spot-kick expert Paul Thatcher but his effort was pushed away well by the keeper to his left. A second goal would have given the ĎGers a cushion going into the break but the setback rocked the blue-shirted side and they seemed a little edgy as the half finished.

The second period followed the pattern of the first with Orton again having most of the play. Other than an early tip over the bar Alan Lynham was fairly redundant in the home goal. Ten minutes into the second half Orton made a change as Dean Billingsley came on in place of James Marrett upfront. Rangers were having difficulty finding the crucial second goal against the hardworking, industrious Forget-Me-Not side. A number of attacks were breaking down in or around the area as Orton attacked The Bowling Green End. It was only in the last fifteen minutes of the game that any chances came about. Another home substitution then took place as Steve Baird came on for Brian Treanor. Baird went into his familiar right wing-back slot and Craig Smyth joined Billingsley upfront.

It was Orton forward Billingsley, lively as ever, who had the hostsí best opportunity. He took a pass from midfielder Chris Giles in the box and tried a right-foot shot that went straight at the keeper. Smyth then twisted and turned outside the 18 yard line before attempting a shot but without success. Rangers did eventually get another goal and it was fine play from captain Gregg Marrett who instigated the move. He took the ball on the left hand side and lofted over a pass to the far post where an unmarked Jennings took the ball down before lashing it into the top corner.

The game was over as a contest but there was still time for drama at the other end as a rash Neil Noakes challenge gave Forget-Me-Not the chance of a consolation from the spot. They were denied when Rangers keeper Lynham saved the penalty. The rebound came back to the taker who looked certain to score. To everyoneís amazement he headed the ball against the crossbar and when the ball dropped down again Smyth made a brave dive to head the ball away to safety. Noakes was then withdrawn with a painful knock he picked up in the challenge as Stuart Taylor came on. He had less than ten seconds on the pitch as the referee blew for full-time.

Rangers had an on-pitch after match inquest between players and management that seemed more of a gee-up than anything else. Regardless of how they played this evening the points were securely in the bag and that must be the only concern at this stage. The draw with St Marys leaves the title in Rangersí hands and for the first time in the campaign Orton showed signs of nerves. The run-in will be tough with the games coming thick and fast. It calls for mental strength as well and also character. Rangers know they have that. It is now time to show it.

Starting Team (3-5-2): Lynham; Smyth, Cheshire, Farrell, Thatcher, Noakes (Taylor); G.Marrett (c), Giles, Jennings; Treanor (Baird), J.Marrett (Billingsley)

Subs not used: Bolton, Seymour

Referee:- E.Howe

Management M.O.M:- Simon Jennings
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