Wisbech Town up to fifth after Cousins’ injury-time winner
Ridgeons Premier Division: Wisbech Town 2 Kirkley & Pakefield 1
WISBECH Town captain Paul Cousins’ injury-time winner saw the Fenmen move up to fifth in the Ridgeons Premier Division.
Cousins’ towering header secured all three points to move Wisbech ahead of Haverhill Rovers, who lost 2-0 at Wroxham, on goal difference.
The Fenmen had been 1-0 down at the break after Scott Manning had fired the visitors ahead, but Ash Stevens’ equaliser and Cousins’ winner were the least Steve Appleby’s side deserved for their domination in the final 25 minutes.
Appleby said: “Yes we have got out of jail with a late goal but it’s nothing more than we deserved.
“We’ve not had a lot of luck all season really, but things even themselves out and we got the win that we badly needed in the end.
“At half-time we had a bit of a heated conversation if you like. Because how can we - with the same 11 who played excellently against Norwich United on Tuesday - turn up in the first half like we did.
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“To be fair to the lads though we got better and better as the game went on.”
The first half was a dour affair with the game lacking any rhythm or tempo - hardly helped by the ball spending more time being booted out of the ground than it did on the pitch.
Referee Steven Artis did his best to disrupt the flow of the game with the awarding of countless petty fouls as the home side’s frustration only continued to grow.
Wisbech’s annoyance was hardly helped when Kirkley & Pakefield took the lead with their first chance of the game on 16 minutes. Jack Newrick and Ian Dawson combined smartly and the latters’ cross found Ryan Crisp who’s close-range header was saved fantastically by Lea Jordan.
However, the rebound fell straight to Scott Manning who fired home to put the visitors in front.
The quality of football didn’t improve after that as the stop-start affair continued. Both defences were on top, with Cousins, Stacy Cartwright and the visitors’ captain Ryan de Coteau giving masterclasses in the art of defending.
It was Cousins who nearly made it all-square at the break when he beat Dave Attridge to Callum Reed’s corner, only to see his header hacked off the line.
A frustrated Appleby admitted his side struggled in the first half and knew they had to perform better after the break.
He said: “The pitches have suddenly dried out making the ground really hard so you’re not going to get the greatest of football matches.
“First half in particular was a very, very scrappy game. Kirkley seemed content on putting men behind the ball and kicking it out of the ground as far as they could and trying to hit us on the break. Which to be fair they did. They got the goal and it seemed to work well for them.
“I’ve told the players we’ve got to combat things like that and come up with answers to it. I don’t feel as if we did that in the first half.
“At half-time I told the lads that they were playing as individuals. I’d never say the lads don’t put a shift in because they’re honest and hard-working but because we weren’t together as a unit it looked awful at times. People were getting picked off and everything.
“I said to the guys, you’ve got to do it together, in twos and threes, and back each other up and press higher up the pitch as a unit.
“I told the two forwards to get in the defenders faces and stop them having time on the ball.”
And to be fair to Wisbech they did just that after the break. They hunted in packs, pressed and raised the tempo. Cousins, Cartwright and Scott Johnson won everything at the back and the Fenmen began flooding forward in search of an equaliser.
They soon got it through the revitalised Ash Stevens who half-volleyed home from the edge of the box to make it 1-1.
Yet, frustration soon returned as Wisbech struggled to match their free-flowing best from Tuesday night’s win. Reed and Lewis Thompson were becoming visibly annoyed with their own performances as both gave the ball away uncharacteristically.
Thompson’s passion and workrate can never be questioned, none more so than when he punched the turf in disgust after miscueing another pass. However, he was replaced by Adam Weston with 15 minutes left and the Fenmen’s pressure continued to grow.
Matt Lunn - who until the closing stages had also been below-par - started to cause problems. He went close three times with decent efforts that all fizzed just over the bar.
The wideman turned provider with just three minutes left when he split the visitors’ defence with a fantastic through-ball but Stevens could only loft the ball into the grateful arms of Attridge.
And just as it seemed Wisbech were going to have to settle for a point - and their 13th draw of the campaign - captain marvel Cousins beat Attridge to Cartwright’s long free-kick to bravely head home.
Appleby was full of praise for his centre-backs but also admitted he’d had a heart-to-heart with Thompson and Reed after the game.
The Wisbech boss said: “The back four is looking solid now even if I don’t think any of them played that well in the first half as a unit. I thought we were a bit square at times.
“However, after the break we were back to how we can be. Scott Johnson, in particular for me, set the tone by getting in a couple of strong challenges to get people at the races.
“All of a sudden Cousi was winning every header and Stacy was covering round. We looked decent, solid and they were excellent as a pair after the break.
“As for Lewis and Callum, people sometimes forget how young they are. I had a word with them both after the game.
“When you get frustrated sometimes you’ve got to start thinking - I need to calm myself down and go back to basics. You do a couple of things correctly and then your game flourishes again.
“If you start giving the ball away and then getting upset over it, then you can guarantee the next time you get the ball you’ll do it again.
“You’ve just got to show a little bit of composure and use your head a little bit - but you’ve got to accept it will happen with the younger lads. Both of them want to do so well and sometimes they get frustrated with themselves.
“I’ve just had to rein them in a little bit and say - don’t let little mistakes affect your game too much.
“Yes of course they want to do everything right but if they got it correct all the time they’d be playing for Man United.”
The Fenmen’s 16-year wait for silverware now becomes the priority with Wisbech travelling to First Division Stowmarket Town - who lost 3-0 at Diss Town on Saturday - on Tuesday night.
Appleby admitted the victory was a timely boost ahead of the Ridgeons League Challenge Cup Semi-Final clash.
He said: “You can’t ask for much more than a win, and no injuries, going into a semi-final.
“The lads will be buoyant and we’ve got to go there confident, but not over-confident and treat them with respect.
“However, I’d like to think we can attack them and they won’t be able to contain us.”
Wisbech Town: Jordan, Fairweather (Reeve, 75), Cousins, Cartwright, Johnson, Reed, Thompson (Weston, 75), Jones, Lunn, Stevens, Jimson (Furnell, 65) Sub not used: Flanz
Man of the match: Stacy Cartwright - Just shaded Cousins as made a couple of crucial blocks. Continues to shine in his first season with the club and looks to be forming a formidable centre-half partnership with the Fenmen’s skipper. Fantastic in the air and reads the game excellently.