Match Report: RFC v Prudhoe Y.C. - Rothbury Football Club
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Rothbury 0 Prudhoe Y.C. 4

Combination Cup Semi Final

Saturday 1st May 2021

A cock pheasant patrolling the perimeters of Armstrong Park was the only one crowing as Rothbury were comprehensively beaten in the Combination Cup semi-finals.

The game bird may have a new sedum stand roof to sit on instead of lurking in the woodland and undergrowth of the Reds’ rural idyll if their impressive ground improvement plans get the go ahead.

As it was, the high-flying visitors were certainly pleased by the present quality of the pitch and surroundings as they got to play the ball around in imposing themselves on the hosts without the fear of getting shot down.

It helped that they were ahead within just a couple of minutes as a corner was played short, Harry Mitchell whipped in a delightful dangerous cross-shot and it crashed in off the back post.

And when big striker Arron Fletcher then got off his shot early from 18 yards across keeper Jack Halton and it clanked in off the other post just a few minutes later, Prudhoe’s sideline celebrations should have startled the pheasant into flight.

They didn’t, and the Hillmen, like their unlikely avian mascot, hung on in there even when the woodwork was crashed for a third time with the ball rebounding back out. The noise was enough to cause a red wattle to pop up from the long grass behind the banked paddock and a beady orange eye to check things out before ducking back down.

The Reds by then had settled somewhat and Greg Woodburn’s pacy run down the left caused problems but the ball just wouldn’t sit in the box for Paul Dunn or Chris Coe to get a clean strike away. Tony Brown then fizzed one just over from 20 yards after being set up by Woodburn.

But it was Prudhoe who could and probably should have added a third just before the break as a move down the right was headed over from close range when it looked easier to score.

They didn’t have to wait long after the re-start to make amends for that miss though, and when another cross from the right wasn’t dealt with and bounced all the way across the box, Matty Robinson tucked it away easily.

Jackson was unlucky not to net a consolation when a fierce volley with the outside of the boot was blocked by a team-mate with the visitor’s keeper in no-man’s-land and Woodburn hit a shot from distance that deflected and looped safely into the keeper’s grasp.

Prudhoe have been unfortunate during the Covid pandemic as they’ve topped the table in the past two disjointed seasons without any medals or honours to show for it, but they cruised into the Combination Final and added a fourth late on when a huge throw into the box again wasn’t cleared and Ricky Hayes put the loose ball into the roof of the net from close range. Joe Kendrick’s side will face Cramlington United for the silverware after they secured their spot with a 2-1 win at Hebburn Town u23s.

Experienced Reds central defender Tom Macpherson said afterwards: “I thought we were outplayed in every department – to be fair to Prudhoe they are a very good side.”

“From our perspective, I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t do enough to ever really make a game of it, I thought we were quite passive throughout. Maybe the fact they scored two early and frankly soft goals knocked the confidence out of us.” 

On the plus side for Rothbury, young Gareth ‘Gary Goals’ Rickaby was back on the bench after suffering a horrendous injury last September and assistant manager Rob Marshall seemed to be moving freer after a recent knee operation. Himself and boss Danny Olson have had a stop-start beginning to their time in Coquetdale while instantly impressing in the way that they have got the team playing in the right way with their attractive brand possession-based passing football. The summer break hopefully gives them a chance to strengthen the squad ahead of season 2021/22 as they were down to a bare 13 for the tie.

And as for that strutting pheasant? You kind of hoped that a loose clearance would hit the bird as it edged its way along the tree-line just to give legendary former manager Tony Dick the chance to crack some dry one-liner about ‘bagging a brace’ from the crowd. Hell, the other week when a player shouted to put the ball ‘in the channel’ he said: “That’s some ball into the Channel – it’s about 30 mile just to put it in the Tyne!” 

Sometimes you just have to make your own amusement on the bank behind the hole for the coming curved dug-outs, and face the future with a smile.

“We are a young side – apart from Tony Brown and myself – so we will get better from here,” said Macpherson.

Words: Jon Tait. Pictures: Susan Aynsley.