Rangers edge it in the cold
Cup success thanks to keeper's heroics
It took a late goal from in-form striker Billy Herbert to end Third Division Marlow's spirited challenge and secure Thame's first win in the Development Cup.
Both teams had struggled to cope with a frozen pitch and it was fitting that Herbert's well placed shot should settle the game as his touch and awareness had set him apart from the other outfield players.
On this occasion however the man-of-the-match honours went to goalkeeper Eddie Hart who made a string of fine saves including one from the penalty spot to prevent Royals pulling off a cup shock.
Before kick-off both teams had joined clubs around the world in observing a minutes silence to remember the players and officials of Brazil's Chapecoense club killed in a plane crash earlier in the week. It was a demonstration of how football can bring out the best in people in a week when most of the headlines had been negative and disturbing.
When the two teams resumed a rivalry that dated back to junior days both goalkeepers were outstanding but the Marlow number one will have been as amazed as the rest of us that his goal remained intact after Herbert worked a great chance for his strike partner Jake Dann .From a few feet out the Rangers top scorer crashed his shot against the crossbar and the post, even then the rebound dropped invitingly for Dann but for a second time he struck the woodwork and the ball was finally scrambled clear.
There was no such reprieve in the 35th minute though when Herbert set up midfielder George Bennetts whose powerful shot from outside the area dipped over the Royals keeper and into the net. This was Thames best spell and it took good saves to deny Herbert and Sam Muscroft before half time.
The second 45 minutes began with pressure from the visitors who were aided by some eccentric refereeing. A dubious penalty decision was given but Eddie Hart dived the right way to block the shot. A far more obvious penalty appeal by Rangers was turned away and a Jake Dann "goal" originally given by the referee was disallowed following the intervention of the Royals linesman.
Worse was to come and it was no real surprise when Marlow finally capitalised on the long ball over the Thame defence that had been a threat all game.This time not even Eddie Hart was able to prevent a speedy forward winning the race with the home keeper and finding the net from the edge of the area.
At that stage, and with some of the Rangers players becoming increasingly frustrated by the match officials decisions,this game could have gone either way. To their credit Thame rallied for a last push, started to string their passes together again and Billy Herbert stepped up to score a winning goal that was just about deserved.
Squad:Eddie Hart,Tom Howard,Jordan Baker, Tom Darling, Ed Hickman, Jack Howland, George Bennetts,Jack Thurnham, Ollie Gibson, Matt Gomm, Sam Muscroft, Jake Dann,Billy Herbert and Matt Wigglesworth.