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By Charles King
Second place in the league was at stake as Wadham visited Worcester in the return fixture from the last week in Michaelmas. It was a dreary January afternoon and the glum weather was reflected in some poor play on a pitch which cut up badly under foot. Worcester were hammered 3-0 when these two sides last met, but were boosted by the return of several Blues players, including club captain Elliot Thomas. Wadham, on the other hand, were missing several of the players who had helped inflict the loss last time around, including the influential Ben Quigley.
Quality attacking football was at a premium in the first period, with both sides starting two holding midfielders in front of rock solid defences, and the game needed a couple of meaty challenges from the Wadham midfield to keep it interesting. Worcester looked by far the more comfortable side in possession. Some enterprising midfield play and a couple of incisive through-balls nearly brought a breakthrough, but too often a heavy touch or mistimed run nullified good attacking moves at the crucial moment. Captain Tom Greene’s assessment in his half time team talk, “We’re rushing it in the final third,” was spot-on. Wadham were very much in the game though, and Matt Metcalfe’s pace was a constant threat down the left wing, even if he got little change out of an assured Worcester back four. Wadham threatened briefly from a corner on 23 minutes, before a long range shot was blazed over from distance, but there were really no clear cut chances in a mostly scrappy affair. Things did improve as the half drew to a close, however. The home side enjoyed a few minutes of sustained pressure around the Wadham penalty area with some awkward corners and long throw-ins, and 10 minutes later they carved open the Wadham defence, only for the referee to call the play back for offside. The best chance of the half came right before the whistle as Worcester headed narrowly wide of the left hand upright. The home groundsmen emerged with the oranges with both sides yet to register on the scoreboard.
The game was in desperate need of some inspiration, and within 10 minutes of the break it got it. Worcester played their way into the Wadham penalty box and as defender and striker tussled side by side the latter went to ground. There certainly was contact, but the decision raised a few eyebrows on the Wadham bench to put it mildly. The home side’s captain, Tom Greene, stepped up to lash the ball into the bottom left-hand corner and Worcester were 1-0 up, a lead they just about deserved on the balance of play. Still, it seemed an unjust way for Wadham to fall behind. From then on refereeing decisions became increasingly important. Shortly after the penalty, defender Josh Vivian was unfortunate to receive a yellow card for what appeared to be a superbly-timed tackle. Five minutes later, the same player saw red for a second bookable offence. This proved to be the turning point of the game. Vivian had enjoyed a solid game as the lynchpin of the away defence, and only a few minutes later, Worcester’s Tom Phelan took advantage of his team’s numerical superiority and struck home from distance to double the home side’s lead. The game was all but over. A couple of outstanding saves from Wadham’s keeper kept the score at 2-0, and although the Parks Road side threatened as the game opened up, the result was never in doubt. Worcester proved just about worthy of the win for their midfield craft, but both sides would agree that they will have to do better if they are to challenge Merton/Mansfield at the top of the league.