Report: Cranes in pole position for SIL Senior title after edging out Achilles

James Blades

James Blades - Credit: Archant

Crane Sports won the battle of the top-two in the SIL Senior Division last night, defeating leaders Achilles, 3-2, at home.

The result means Cranes leap-frog Achilles and lead the division by three points, going into the teams’ final two games of the season.

Nathan Woollard kept his cool to score the winner, five minutes after the break, the midfielder converting from the penalty spot after Achilles’ skipper Chris Leys had nudged Mark Van Oene in the box.

It proved to be the only goal of the half, following a breathless first 45 minutes that saw the visitors twice come from behind to level.

After a cagey start from both sides, second-top Cranes broke the deadlock against the run of play on 16 minutes.

Cranes’ full-back Craig Rands’ right-wing throw was controlled by James Blades on the edge of the box, and the former Hadleigh United man swivelled on the edge of the 18-yard box before firing a fierce left-foot shot into goalkeeper James Bones’ left-hand corner.

Cranes pressed after grabbing the opener but Gavin Van Oene was the next player to spurn a chance, stretching at a low ball into the box before firing wide of the near post and missing the chance to bring Achilles level.

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The visitors were level on 28 minutes when Andy Coote got the better of Rands on the left-hand side, cut into the box and fired the ball across the goalmouth where Gavin Van Oene was waiting for a tap-in.

Achilles were now in the ascendancy and Sean Hanley went close with a long-range blockbuster.

Their pressure did not last though, and four minutes later, the hosts were ahead again.

A corner was only cleared to the edge of the box and there, Mark Van Oene engineered a yard of space before firing home from 18 yards, the ball hitting Bones’ right-hand post before trickling over the line and into the opposite corner.

Achilles would not lie down though and Kieron Donovan converted a low corner to bring them level on 43 minutes.

The game set up for a dramatic second half and Cranes grabbed the decisive goal from the spot.

After Woollard’s goal, Achilles attempted to get back in the game again and Cranes goalkeeper Ryan Bedingfield denied Liam Hillyard, while Donovan headed just over.

Cranes were content to sit back and catch Achilles on the break with Mark Roper and striker-cum-defender Tes Bramble marshalling the hosts’ rearguard well.

Achilles applied late pressure, Leys twice heading narrowly off target.

The visitors also had a last-gasp shout for a free-kick, right on the corner of Cranes’ box, but referee Andrew Eley decided against penalising Bramble for a meaty challenge.

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