A bumper crowd of 304 at the AJN Stadium turned out on this holiday Saturday, probably more in hope than expectation, for the clash with league leaders Bradford Town.
The first quarter of the match was a rather low-key affair with the visitors making all the running but failing to look really dangerous in front of goal. Gary Higdon shot wide when found with a pass from Tyson Pollard, Will Hailston had a shot palmed over the bar by Ash Clark and hit another over the crossbar from a corner. Charlie Pollard’s header from a corner was saved and Lewis Powell had a good chance from inside the penalty area, but Ash Clark just beat him to the ball. Powell also lofted a ball over the bar following a swift attack from Bradford and Gary Higdon had a shot saved by Clark.
In the end it was the old, familiar story for the home supporters. A long through ball that cut through the Keynsham defence led to them taking the lead. It found Lewis Powell on the edge of the penalty area and he slipped the ball through the advancing goalkeeper, Ash Clark’s legs.
An equaliser seven minutes later came out of the blue, with Keynsham’s first meaningful forage into the visitors’ half. Craig Wilson crossed the ball from the right and found Matt Brown in front of goal who slipped the ball past Bradford’s custodian, Daniel Worton. The crowd cheered but found it hard to believe they were level.
The rest of the first half was more even with both sides creating chances. Gary Higdon’s half-volley from the centre of the penalty area was saved by Clark and Will Hailston shot over from 20 yards out. For Keynsham, Ade Harvey’s driving run through the middle and resulting pass just failed to find Matt Brown with Worton intercepting. Sean Keet headed over from a corner for Bradford and five minutes from half time Ash Clark made a double save at the far post following a corner on the right.
However, before the end of the first period, the home side could have taken the lead, when Craig Wilson’s cross cum shot hit the crossbar on 42 minutes.
Bradford Town brought on Lee Davidson for Will Hailston at half time but it was an Ade Harvey’s shot for the home side that brought the first save of the second period from Bradford’s Worton, five minutes in. The home crowd were then jubilant as Ks took the lead two minutes later. Daniel Worton failed to win the ball in a challenge on the edge of his penalty area and Craig Wilson lashed the loose ball into an almost unguarded net.
With a shock on the cards the league leaders attacked valiantly but the home side fought a well-organised and courageous rear-guard action. Bradford had several dangerous free kicks which were either blocked by defenders or saved by Ash Clark. Midway through the second period Bradford brought on substitute Dean Griffiths and in his first effort on goal he was brought down in the penalty area. Charlie Maddison was given the responsibility to get the championship contenders back into the match, but his firmly-struck spot kick was well saved by Ash Clark diving low down to his right.
Substitute Cam Ricketts had two clear chances to make the game safe for Keynsham in the last quarter of an hour but he could not finish either. When Steve Scott put him clear of the visitors’ defence after 68 minutes, he seemed to hesitate and lost full control of the ball before his shot was saved by Worton. The second time 12 minutes later, he tried unsuccessfully to dribble around Worton. Had Keynsham lost the chance to gain an unexpected three points?
Bradford pressed hard and it seemed only a matter of time before they equalised with goal scrambles and a clearance off the line keeping Keynsham ahead. The game entered an even more nervous period of stoppage time for the home fans, but it was Keynsham who came out on top. Craig Wilson’s shot from the righthand edge of the penalty area with the outside of his boot, swerved around the goalkeeper and his effort went inoff the far post to make the game safe.
So, Keynsham had unexpectedly inflicted league leaders Bradford Town’ only second league defeat of the season on them. It was by far their best performance and result of the season. The defence looked nothing like the one that had conceded 15 goals from a four-match sequence in November. In fact, their remarkable turnaround has seen just eight goals conceded from eight matches since.
With Plymouth Parkway winning, the gap at the top narrowed to three points and the Devon side have a game in hand. The home crowd went home well pleased and can now look forward with more confidence to the next match at the AJN Stadium against, you guessed it, Plymouth Parkway.
Starman: Craig Wilson (Keynsham Town). Scored two and assisted with the third.