MATCH REPORT: Captain Johnson returns to inspire Wisbech Town to comfortable victory
Ridgeons Premier Division: Wisbech Town 2 Kirkley & Pakefield 0
CAPTAIN Scott Johnson marked his return from injury with a stunning strike as Wisbech Town breezed past Kirkley & Pakefield on Saturday.
The left back glided in from his wing, smashed a 25-yard shot against the post and then followed up the rebound himself to put the Fenmen ahead after 36 minutes.
Wisbech doubled their lead minutes into the second half, when Chris Bacon slotted home a harshly-awarded penalty, and the Fenmen comfortably held out for their third win in four games.
It was an encouraging result for Steve Appleby, given that he started the day with several first team players missing through suspension.
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Matt Lunn, Simon Ashton, Callum Reed and Neal Spafford were all absent but Wisbech did welcome back striker Liam Nimmo to the bench and skipper Johnson, who had been sidelined for eight weeks.
It was the Fenmen who immediately looked the brighter of the two sides in the sunshine of the Elgood’s Fenland Stadium.
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Sam Murphy, playing on the right hand side of a four-man midfield, had the crowd on their feet in the first minute as his expert delivery was headed narrowly wide by Nick Davey.
Kirkley’s early threat was minimal, with Wisbech centre backs Stacy Cartwright and Anthony Reeve snuffing out any sign of danger before it could materialise.
The Fenmen continued to look energetic going forward, with Bacon again showing the power and close control that has haunted defences in the Ridgeons Premier Division this season.
It was Bacon who went close in the 15th minute after a neat turn and pass from strike-partner Davey put him through on goal. Only the outstretched hand of Kirkley ‘keeper David Attridge prevented the Fenmen from taking the lead.
Moments later it was Jon Fairweather who was inches from putting his side in front. The full back drifted clear from a corner and watched as his delicate lob came back off the crossbar.
Davey saw his long-range effort comfortably saved before Johnson provided the one real moment of quality in the match.
The Wisbech captain surged forward, before cutting in from the left-hand side and unleashing a fierce drive at goal.
The ball thudded back off the post but Johnson was quickest to react, cantering through to thump the ball into the net and announce his return to the team in style.
It was a deserved lead for Wisbech but it was almost a brief one, as Ryan Rayner’s flying stop prevented Daniel Block from levelling on the stroke of half time.
Appleby’s troops began the second period in the same dominant mood but it was a stroke of good fortune that gave Wisbech their second.
In an innocuous looking incident, a Kirkley defender was adjudged to have put too much pressure on Davey as he tried to jump for the ball. To the shock of the visitors, and large sections of the crowd, referee Alan Marshall pointed to the spot.
Bacon stepped up to convert the spot-kick, crashing the ball into the corner off a short run-up.
The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of any hopes of a Kirkley fightback and Wisbech could have had a third on the hour. Murphy’s cross from the right wing took an odd bounce in the area and Bacon’s driven shot was superbly blocked by Attridge.
The Royals did apply some pressure to the Wisbech goal. Paul Jones was alert to clear a Ryan Crisp header off the line and Chris Bond smashed a speculative long-range attempt narrowly wide, but the visitors looked very much like the side that had only won one away league game all season.
Wisbech missed another chance to extend their lead when substitute Steven Reid rose well at the back post to head Fairweather’s free-kick back across goal. But fellow-substitute Nimmo was unable to find a decisive touch on the stretch.
Reeve, who barely lost a header all day, tried his best to give Kirkley a lifeline with some relaxed defending which saw him caught in possession twice in dangerous areas.
Fortunately for the towering centre-back, Cartwright and Johnson were both alert to come to his rescue and wrap up Wisbech’s first clean sheet in their last seven games.
The comfortable three points keeps the Fenmen in seventh, with tomorrow’s game against Littleport Town in the Cambs Invitation Cup next on their agenda.