St Catz registered their third league win in four games to confirm their
credentials as genuine title challengers with a battling 3-2 victory away at
Magdalen. Goals from Sam Donaldson, Alan MacNaughton and Ross Hughes were enough to earn all three points for Catz, but hosts Magdalen could be proud of a hugely spirited performance that belied their position at the foot of the table.
Indeed it was the home side that started the better, and could easily have been two up in the first ten minutes. A terrific through-ball from Alex Canfor-Dumas sent Mervin Kissoon clear with Magdalen’s first real attack, but the lively striker fired wide with only Charlie Hardwick to beat. Hardwick had to be at his best five minutes later when Alex Obradovic sent a low free kick towards the bottom corner, the Catz keeper producing a fine one-handed save.
The awkward playing surface and narrow pitch were only encouraging an
attritional midfield battle, and neither side were able to offer much in the
way of attacking fluency throughout the first half. The only real scare in the
Magdalen defence came when left-back Doug Kelly was forced off with a knee-
injury midway through the half, causing a reshuffle that took the dangerous
Obradovic out of midfield and diminished his attacking influence.
Just when it looked like the two sides would go into half-time level at 0-0, Catz poached a goal out of nothing. A long throw from Peter Jones was allowed to bounce by the new-look Magdalen defence, and Donaldson reacted first to prod home from close range.
Catz came out aggressively in the second half, sensing that with chances at a
premium the next goal would be crucial. Unfortunately for them, it was Magdalen who got it. Substitute Henry Curr did brilliantly to win the ball in midfield before releasing Kissoon, who this time made no mistake, lifting the ball neatly over the onrushing Hardwick for the equaliser. Both sides pressed
forward in search of a second, but neither could produce a final ball to match
the ample determination and midfield aggression that was rapidly becoming the defining feature of the game. It took a late challenge on Efe Ekhaese to spring the contest into life, the tackle causing a mini-melee and interrupting the concentration of the Magdalen back four enough to allow Catz to take the lead.
A long free-kick found its way to Ryan Taylor in the box and, though his shot was brilliantly saved, the rebound fell kindly to MacNaughton who grabbed the goal his performance merited with a neat finish.
Kissoon then came close to levelling matters for a second time, volleying just over from the edge of the box. But with the hosts’ midfield pressing further up the pitch in search of an equaliser, Catz made it 3-1 with a clinical counter-
attack. An exquisite chipped through-ball from Carl Assmundson was latched into by Ross Hughes, and the Catz left-back produced an emphatic finish to cap the move of the match and seemingly make the game safe.
There was to be one final twist in what had developed into an enthralling battle, and it came from an unlikely source. With most of the life having seeped from the contest, the referee’s insistence to keep on playing encouraged Magdalen. With his watch seemingly operating in a different time zone, the hosts poured forward, and Rob Frost produced a thirty-yard screamer to reduce the deficit to just one. With the home side sensing an improbable fightback, however, the referee finally blew, some 60 minutes into the second half, to send the Catz’ fans home happy and leave Magdalen anchored to the bottom of the table.