A late goal from Dan Jarvis secured the 2-1 win for Sports at the Bee Arena tonight (March 15) which strengthened the city side’s grip on a Southern League Premier Division Central play-off place.
Jimmy Dean’s men can, and will, play much better than this, but given the mountain of injuries they’ve suffered this season - and they lost talisman striker Michael Gash in the first-half tonight - no win should be devalued.
Diamonds, who had already lost to Sports in league and cup this season, are now one of the form teams in the division. They were backed by bositerous support among a crowd of 302 and how they laughed when Sports’ keeper Paul White’s attempt to control a back-pass from Luke Warner-Eley went horribly awry as the ball slipped under a boot and bobbled over the goalline to give the visitors a 34th minute lead.
But those chuckles turned to groans within 60 seconds as full debutant midfielder Lamine Kaba Sherif toe-poked home from 20 yards for an immediate equaliser. Both sides had come close to scoring earlier in the game with Diamonds dazzling on the break, while Gash fired wide from the edge of the penalty area.
The second-half was a non-event with the crowd animated more by refereeing decisions than the standard of play. Without the focal point of their attack Sports struggled to make headway, but they also kept the backdoor locked despite some serious speed in the visiting attack.
But then, seven minutes from time, Sports won a free kick out wide deep in Diamonds territory. Set-pieces have been a regular source of goals for the hosts this season and they converted again as Ryan Fryatt met Lewis Hilliard’s free kick with a powerful header. It was splendidly saved by Dean Snedker, but Jarvis was on hand to volley home from close range.
The goal deflated Diamonds and encouraged Sports with the energetic Sherif twice coming close to adding further goals in the final stages.
Sports remain fourth, but are two points behind third-placed Rushall Olympic with a game in hand. They are six points clear of fifth-placed Diamonds and 10 points clear of those outside the play-off places.
Sports: Paul White, Dan Jarvis, Luke Warner-Eley, Ryan Fryatt, Richard Jones, Dan Lawlor, Bradley Rolt (sub Ryan Hawkins), Lamine Kaba Sherif, Michael Gash (sub Lewis Hilliard), Josh McCammon, Ky Marsh-Brown. Subs not used: Lewis Elsom, Josh Moreman. Johnny Herd.
Goals: Sports - Sherif (35 mins), Jarvis (82 mins).
Diamonds - Warner-Eley (og, 34 mins).
**Whittlesey Athletic remain just outside the play-off places in Division One of the Thurlow Nunn League after a 5-1 drubbing at third-placed Downham tonight.