Francis nets late winner as blues extend lead at the top of the league...
By Rylands FC
Rylands pull seven points clear at the top of the Hallmark Security League First Division South...
Chris Francis netted a seventy-eight minute winner in a tight contest against St Martins at Gorsey Lane on Saturday to move seven points clear at the top of the Hallmark Security League First Division South.
The game started slowly in the February sunshine, with the only sight on goal in the first twenty minutes coming in the form of a low drive from the edge of the box by Ste Wolhuter which went just wide of the far post in the ninth minute.
The game livened up quickly after, first Andy Scarisbrick skipped past two defenders inside the area before appearing to be caught by a recovering challenge, however the referee turned down Rylands' appeals for a penalty. Three minutes later, the visitors had their first attempt when a midfielder had an effort from twenty-five yards watched past the post by Graeme McCall.
The blues began to apply pressure before the interval.. Warren Gerrard's deep free kick almost found the head of Gary Kenny at the back post, before Carl Lownsbrough was played in down the right hand side and fired straight at the 'keeper.
Wolhuter then saw a drive from distance deflected over the crossbar and Rylands' best chance of the half came from the resulting corner where Gerrard found Scarisbrick unmarked at the back post, but the blues' no.11 headed wide of the target.
Andy Scarisbrick heads wide Rylands' best chance of the first half..
HALF TIME - Rylands 0 v 0 St Martins
The hosts made a fast start to the second half, with a ball being played over the top for Stuart Wellstead, who was pulled back by the chasing St Martins' no.6 as he started to pull away.
Five minutes later, Wellstead fired a dangerous ball across goal from the left hand side, which was almost turned in by a St Martins' defender but for a good reaction save by the 'keeper.
The hosts thought they'd broken the deadlock shortly after the hour mark when Carl Lownsbrough found himself through on goal, but a heavy touched allowed the 'keeper to rush off his line and make a crucial intervention. The blues worked the ball back in the box and Lownsbrough found the back of the net, only for celebrations to be cut short by the linesman's offside flag.
Soon after Rylands had another shout for a penalty waved away after White appeared to be pulled down with his back to goal.
The blues continued to pile on the pressure, with a further two chances coming for Wellstead before the deadlock was finally broken in the seventy-eighth minute when Wolhuter's corner found recent signing, Chris Francis unmarked at the back post who made no mistake.
Chris Francis breaks the deadlock for Rylands..
A further chance came for Wellstead in the eighty-seventh minute but Rylands' no.9 fired over the bar at the back post and the hosts saw out the remainder of the game without further incident to report.
FULL TIME - Rylands 1 v 0 St Martins
Rylands: 1. Graeme McCall, 2. Carl Lownsbrough (15. Liam Moran '73), 3. Tom Freeman, 4. Gary Kenny (C), 5. Tony Sayer, 6. Alex Davies (16. Steve Boothman '54), 7. Warren Gerrard, 8. Ste Wolhuter, 9. Stuart Wellstead, 10. Jay White (17. Chris Francis '70), 11. Andy Scarisbrick
"We had a big opportunity to stretch our lead at the top to seven points and we managed to do it, which is the most important thing at this stage of the season. St Martin's are a good side who had beaten us earlier in the season, and gave us a really tough game. They were well organised and prepared to sit behind the ball which made it difficult for us to break down and build up any real momentum. Our lads worked hard for the full ninety and got their rewards late on with Chris Francis getting his first goal for the club. I'm delighted with the effort and look forward to a huge game on the road next week against Wythenshawe Amateurs."
Full match photo gallery available on the club's Facebook page here
The blues next match kicks off at 3PM on Saturday 23rd February when Rylands visit Wythenshawe Amateurs at Hollyhedge Park, M22 4US.