Thackley took to the road yesterday, heading to the Barrett Steel Stadium to take on Bottesford Town. The Poachers occupied the 20th spot in the league, but their recent matches had all been closely contested, leaving no room for complacency against the hosts. Suddards made his second debut for the club after re-signing from Campion AFC earlier in the week. J. Mitchell returned from suspension to lead the team as captain, and Morgan reclaimed his spot in the starting XI, replacing Dempsey, who took a place on the bench.

Thackley started the game brightly, launching a couple of attacks down both flanks. The second move saw Ellison-Tope cut the ball back to Suddards, but the defensive line managed to clear it. In the 7th minute, Thackley did manage to take the lead with a well-executed goal. Morgan delivered a precise pass to Everingham, who then set up Ellison-Tope on the right wing. Prata was making a run towards the goal and received the ball on the byline. Prata delivered a cross, and Bodle was perfectly positioned at the back post to volley the ball into the net, giving Thackley AFC an early advantage. (GOAL – Bodle – 0-1 – 7 mins)

The game settled into a midfield battle from this point. On the 20-minute mark, Bottesford Town had a free kick centrally, around 20 yards out, after Bell was penalized. The wall held strong as Griffin opted for power over precision. In the 28th minute, Bottesford Town won a corner after their shot went wide, but Everingham headed the danger away to prevent any further threat. Thackley applied some pressure in the 31st minute, creating three chances in quick succession. Suddards fed Claridge, whose powerful shot was blocked by a defender. Ellison-Tope then reached the byline and once again, Claridge had a shot that was well blocked. The ball eventually found its way to J. Mitchell on the edge of the box, but his effort wasn’t enough to trouble the goalkeeper and it went wide. In the 35th minute, Jurkstis for The Poachers had a good strike from distance that went just over the Thackley crossbar, leaving Wilson relieved that it didn’t threaten the goal.

Towards the end of the half, Ellison-Tope made a run down the left and seemed well-positioned to take a shot on goal. However, he opted to pull the ball back, but the defender managed to get back and clear the danger. Claridge then attempted a shot from the right side of the penalty box with his left foot, but Quibbell comfortably saved it at his near post. Thackley had a few minutes with 10 men as Bodle received an arm to the face and had to be attended to for bleeding.

At half-time, Bodle’s early strike was enough to give Thackley the lead, and the Dennyboys had created the better chances thus far. However, the hosts were performing well and displayed some quality in their attacking play, making it all to play for in the second half.

HALF TIME – Bottesford Town 0 v 1 Thackley AFC

The second half kicked off with Thackley fielding an unchanged lineup. An early attack down the left saw Suddards deliver the ball to Ellison-Tope, who crossed it, and Claridge was nearly in position to head it home, but the defender cleared it effectively. In the 53rd minute, Prata received a yellow card for a tackle towards the Thackley left-back area. The resulting free kick was sent into the box, but Billy cleared it away. In the 63rd minute, Thackley somehow failed to score their second goal, which would have sealed the game. Claridge made a run down the left, and his shot was blocked but still headed towards the goal line. Everingham and Ellison-Tope both tried to force the ball over the line, but somehow the defender managed to clear it.

On the 65th minute, Greaves and Donovan came on for Ellison-Tope and Prata. Bottesford Town then began to push forward aggressively in an attempt to level the score. On the 70th minute, Eccles attempted a shot from the right edge of the area, but it went wide of the Thackley post. On the 72nd minute, Wilson did well to deny the Bottesford Town substitute, who seemed to be in a good position – Wilson positioned himself expertly to block the shot, with the red shirts covering back to clear the danger. On the 73rd minute, A. Mitchell replaced Bell, who had put in another strong performance after his man-of-the-match display in the previous match, which also led to a change in shape for the Thackley team.

On the 83rd minute, Suddards came close to capping off a fantastic second debut with a strike from 30 yards out that narrowly missed the top corner of the Bottesford Town goal. The travelling Thackley supporters believed the effort was destined for the net. On the 88th minute, Thackley launched a counterattack, and Greaves set up Donovan. The Bottesford Town defender appeared to fall on the ball or Donovan, prompting the Thackley players to appeal for a penalty. However, the referee didn’t grant it, and Bottesford Town countered, winning a free kick on the touchline. The free kick was delivered, and Griffin’s well-placed header struck the outside of the post and went wide for a goal kick.

On the 90th minute, J. Mitchell was booked for a foul on the edge of the area, giving Bottesford Town a promising opportunity. The free kick was taken, and after hitting a man, it spun behind for a goal kick. At this point, the referee blew his whistle to speak with Donovan and a Bottesford Town player. He then instructed that the free kick be retaken, giving Bottesford Town another good chance. Fortunately, the free kick went high and wide. On the 93rd minute, Griffin was sent to the sin bin, ending his game after he was judged to have said too much after a foul was given against him while Thackley were on a break. Despite being down to 10 men, Bottesford Town continued to press forward and had a long-range shot strike the top of the Thackley bar, bouncing behind for a goal kick in the 98th minute of the game. This brought relief to the Thackley players and travelling support. It turned out to be the final action of the game, with the referee blowing the final whistle shortly after the goal kick was taken.

FULL TIME – Bottesford Town 0 v 1 Thackley AFC