Saturday, 20 January 2018
WATLINGTON TOWN were crowned champions of Division 3 of the North Berks League on Saturday after rescuing this pivotal game from 2-1 down with less than 15 minutes left to play to triumph at Wallingford Town Reserves.
The hosts, with nothing but local pride to play for in a topsy-turvy game, gave Watlington a real scare as they claimed a second-half lead that threatened to derail their title challenge and force them to go into a difficult final league game needing a win. However, a late piece of magic from man-of-the-match Ollie Lynch saw Watlington take a decisive lead with under five minutes remaining to spark celebrations from the large watching Watlington contingent of supporters. Watlington had started the game the brighter and took the lead when Alex B’layachi showed composure in the box to place the ball in the corner of the net after Wallingford had failed to clear.
The visitors created further chances but failed to capitalise on their early superiority and Wallingford soon gained a foothold in the game and threatened at the other end with a couple of breakaway opportunities. The hosts eventually got their reward when Craig Passey’s shot hit the post and the rebound was put away by Pete McLaughlin.
Disaster struck for Watlington early in the second half as Sam Hazell scored to see the hosts take a surprise lead to punish a lacklustre period from the visitors.
Changes were made and slowly Watlington regained some much-needed momentum, with player-coach Damian Rigozzi bringing himself into the fray in the final 20 minutes to try to force the issue. Watlington’s pressure eventually told as William Wright stabbed home from close range to bring the teams level again.
A draw still wasn’t enough for Watlington however, who did not want to go into their final league game needing a result. As the stakes grew, so tempers frayed and Wallingford were reduced to 10 men as Watlington pushed for a winner.
The confidence grew but chances came and went before Lynch collected the ball in the box and turned past a defender before chipping it over the onrushing keeper to give his side a precious 3-2 lead that Watlington were never going to let slip.
Rigozzi’s side held on for the final whistle to claim an historic first league title for the club in two decades and crown the manager’s maiden season in management with a much-treasured league title.
10 April 2017
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