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Honours even in first pre-season friendly for Cranmers

Aslockton & Orston 2 - 2 Ashland Rovers Cranmers welcomed Ashland Rovers to Orston for the third consecutive season for a pre-season friendly. It was a tough week for the home side, finding out that several players had to isolate from close contacts at school but were happy to have Chris Bennett in goal, just about recovered from a bad injury several weeks ago. Kyle Nicholson and Aaron Simpson have returned for pre-season following previous spells with the club. It was also a great opportunity to include some youngsters who gained valuable first team experience.

The first half saw the Cranmers more dominant and on the front foot, with Pierce Hallam and Kieran Wall looking sharp up top creating issues for the Rovers' back line. The away side struggled to break down the Aslockton defence who were protecting Bennett in goal, however he did have to make a couple of smart saves to keep the scores level. Cranmers had a few efforts on goal with Jame Langridge's long range effort comfortably saved and Ryan Bartello's cross/shot was almost latched on to by Aaron Simpson but he couldn't quite get there. The home side took a deserved lead as Kieran Wall saw his deflected effort find the back of the net to open his pre-season campaign. Wall nearly added a second as another deflected effort wrong footed the keeper but he managed to pull of an outstanding saved to keep the score at 1-0. Pierce Hallam had a great chance to double the lead but he couldn't quite stretch far enough with a diving header and his effort went wide of the post.

The second half continued much the same to begin with Aslockton & Orston on top, despite some tiring legs. Morgan Remnant came on for Ryan Bartello and Ollie Stevenson replaced Aaron Simpson. It was these two substitutes who linked up for the second goal of the game as James Hallam's quick throw released Stevenson down the left and he squared neatly for Remnant to smash home from close range. The away side never stopped however and made changes of their own to get back in to the game. They earned a goal back with around 25 minutes left as a ball in to the area was latched on to and finished well. Further subs were made due to injuries as Tom Lager replaced Kieran Wall and Dan Sayer took Pierce Hallam's place now in midfield. The game was now wide open with both sides tiring and fitness really beginning to show. James Hallam thought he'd sealed a win with his effort from the edge of the area, but again the Rovers keeper pulled off a fantastic save to tip the ball on to the post. Late in the game Ashland Rovers completed their comeback as Reece Sugars' clearance rebounded back off James Langridge to put the Rovers striker clean through on goal, only for Sugars to bring him down in the area. A great penalty from the Rovers' captain levelled the scores.

A good 90 minutes for both sides with valuable game time for all involved. Some fantastic performances in the Aslockton & Orston camp for the first game of pre-season and manager Martin Hallam was delighted with his team's effort in the ridiculous heat, particularly two returning players Nicholson and Simpson. The substitutes put in excellent shifts and the home side were unlucky in the end not to win the game.

Report by James Hallam

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