Holwell Sports impress with United Counties League debut win

Ben Betteridge's second-half penalty gave Holwell a deserved opening day win EMN-180708-102435002
Ben Betteridge's second-half penalty gave Holwell a deserved opening day win EMN-180708-102435002
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Holwell Sports travelled deep into Northants for their United Counties League debut on Saturday and came away with an opening day win.

Raunds had finished fourth in Division One last year so it was a daunting task for a relatively new squad assembled by Andy Gray.

Confidence grew from the start, however, as Holwell took the game to their hosts.

Their defence were breached after just five minutes through midfielder Harry Thompson.

The ball was worked quickly through midfield to Jack Baker on the right whose ball into the box was blocked and fell to Thompson who, with back to goal, smashed a volley which gave keeper Collett no chance.

Holwell were quicker to the ball and tight in defence, dealing with the pace of Raunds forwards Bass and Dalitso Mandson.

Ambrose lofted a chance over the bar after good work by another debutant Ross McGarry as the visitors pressed well with pace and direct running.

But chances were going astray as Ambrose, Hazeldine and McGarry were presented with good opportunities, but failed to pull the trigger as they tried to take on one player too many.

Following an exchange of free-kicks and counter-attacks, Raunds levelled after 31 minutes.

An error by Ambrose allowed Raunds to catch Holwell pushing on, and Mandson outran the Holwell defence to equalise.

Holwell got back on track and continued to dominate, but just lacked the clinical touch to restore their lead.

The first half finished with another chance going begging when O’Connor tried his best to reach Baker’s smart chip to the back post, but off-balance his header was easily saved.

Holwell came out after the break with renewed vigour, running straight into the box from kick-off and earning a penalty when keeper Collett brought down

Hazeldine.

Ben Betteridge left Collett helpless as he thundered a shot down the middle to make it 2-1 just a minute in.

Holwell were in total control for long spells, with good movement up front by Ambrose and McGarry as Thompson, Baker, and O’Connor ran midfield.

Bitmead and Stevenson mopped up everything at the back and were sharp in the tackle, bringing the ball out of defence with full-backs Robinson and Betteridge finding it easier to move forward.

The home defence struggled for most of the second half as Holwell managed the game well, with Ambrose outstanding in the second half as he harried the defence, using his body well to shield and hold up play intelligently.

Though the result looked assured, the lack of a killer third goal persuaded Gray to bring on Mark Tinsley for Hazeldine, giving Raunds something else to think about as he outran defenders.

Holwell went close in the final minute when Tinsley collected the ball in the left of midfield and outstripped defender McInelly. He laid off a great ball to Baker who could not make the chance count.

A great start to their UCL campaign after a 100-mile round trip.

Holwell’s first home match of the new season sees Rushden and Higham visit Welby Road on Saturday for a 3pm kick-off.

Holwell: Witham, Robinson, Bitmead, Stevenson, Betteridge, Baker, Thompson, Hazeldine (Tinsley), Ambrose, McGarry. Sub not used, S. Smith.