Rushall Olympic 0, Buxton FC 1
Buxton’s promotion push received a welcome boost with a hard-earned and deserved victory on Tuesday evening over rivals Rushall, undoubtedly the division’s form team.
Seven wins and three draws since Boxing Day had propelled The Pics into a challenging league position, but they more than met their match versus a Buxton team clearly committed to earning full points after the last-minute setbacks of the past week.
The return of Ian Deakin and David Haggerty brought renewed solidity to a defence which limited The Pics to a few half-chances and the keeper didn’t have to make one save worthy of the name, though it was obvious how his presence instilled both confidence and authority.
This was an excellent, all-round team performance with Neil Stevens producing one of his best displays for the club, while Lee Morris in the last half-hour gave a masterclass in hold-up play after the departure of his strike partner, Mark Reed, who suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury.
Assistant manager Scott Maxfield was particularly proud of how his team-mates had not buckled under the pressure of Rushall’s physical and direct approach.
Olympic’s method was starkly simple: their trio of giant centre-backs thumped the ball forward as far as possible and if their attacking players gained possession, they moved the ball quickly and accurately.
Their regular marksmen Walker and Obeng were, however, well policed and both were withdrawn well before the end.
Playing up the slope, Buxton started well with Reed powering in a snap shot and Neil Stevens having a drive blocked, but generally defences were in control on another dry surface not conducive to fluent, passing soccer.
Additionally, abysmal displays by two of the three match officials contributed to a first half with little to offer the purist.
Openings were few, but from a Marc Roberts long throw Matt Thornhill struck a close-range shot in a crowded goalmouth only for Morris inadvertently to block its passage.
On the half-hour the Silverlanders suffered a couple of minutes of anxiety as Deakin lay injured but happily made a full recovery.
If the first half exchanges had been even, Buxton had much the better of the second half.
On three occasions only the home side managed to create shooting chances but all the finishing shots were from outside the penalty area and wayward.
By contrast, Buxton’s attacking showed more conviction. Jamie Green robbed Palmer at half-way and his pace took him clear on the left yet neither Morris nor Stevens could fashion a clear opening, but the Bucks did score in the 70th minute. Referee Murphy deemed the visitors a clear advantage, but from Grant Black’s free-kick near halfway, Thornhill produced a superb cross from the right from Morris to head against the far post. Fortunately the ball rebounded to him and he netted from five yards.
Thereafter, the Bucks dealt effectively with Rushall’s response though Craddock, weaving into the penalty area, missed his side’s best chance of the evening by turning to shoot wide.
Buxton: Deakin, Black, Haggerty, Roberts, Sandwith, Stevens, Istead, Thornhill, Green, Reed (Maxfield, 57), Morris (Lugsden, 90+1). Attendance: 156.