Evo-Stik Southern League Division One South & West: Yate Town 4 Hungerford Town 2
WHEN top scorer Tom Knighton left Yate earlier this week, few would've predicted their left back and 41-year-old assistant manager would replace him as a source of goals.
But that's exactly what happened in the bottom of the table side's first game without the prolific striker as they turned the formbook upside down to record their first home league win of the season against Hungerford, who had won seven of their previous eight games and were top of the table going into the game.
Ollie Barnes took over the penalty taking duties from Knighton to hit an 18th minute equaliser from the spot after Hungerford took the lead three minutes earlier and veteran Michael Meaker scored a well taken goal to put Yate ahead on 29 minutes having come into the side up front.
Hungerford levelled the scores four minutes before half-time but Matt Groves struck twice in 12 second half minutes to sew the game up for Yate with Jon Boardman being sent off for the visitors in between.
Having hit five goals past previous league leaders Poole Town and six past Blue Square Premier leaders Newport County over two games on their way to the first round of the FA Cup, Yate raised their game once again with the odds stacked against them and showed that they are capable of tearing any team apart when they are in full flow to pick up just their second win from 11 league games.
Hungerford took the lead when Ben Pugh's header from Sean Wood's corner was tipped onto the bar by Lubos Ancin and Mark Draycott was on hand to finish from three yards.
Yate were literally handed a route back into the game almost immediately when Danny Wring's pass into the box was handled by Boardman, and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Barnes stepped up and coolly placed the ball into the bottom right corner.
Buoyed by the goal, Yate started to play some of the passing football that earned them so many deserved plaudits during their FA Cup run and they took the lead on 29 minutes. Jake Cox's long ball forward was chested down by Mitchell Page and Groves played a perfectly weighted ball through to Meaker, who showed he hasn't lost his predatory instincts as he held off his marker with his shot going into the bottom corner off the inside of the post.
It was against the run of play when Hungerford equalised four minutes before half time. Pugh's free kick from 25 yards somehow went under the wall and squirmed under Ancin to send the sides into the break level.
Pugh tested Ancin's handling within 45 seconds of the second half with a 25-yard strike, and there was a worrying moment for the goalkeeper, deputising for Josh Dempsey, when the ball bounced out of his arms before going wide.
Yate then went back ahead on 49 minutes when Groves robbed Boardman of the ball and raced through to beat goalkeeper Paul Strudley from 15 yards.
Boardman's afternoon got even worse two minutes later when he was shown a second yellow card for a high tackle on Groves.
Hungerford responded well with Matt Day sending a fierce shot just over the bar from 20 yards that had Ancin scrambling but Yate extended their lead just after the hour mark.
Groves made one of his trademark runs into the box from the left flank and sent a beautiful curling shot into the opposite corner of the net.
The winger almost completed a quick-fire hat-trick when he glanced a header just wide at the near post from a cross by Wring, who went close himself when he kept the ball in on the left byline, but the tight angle was against him as his shot flashed the wrong side of the post.
Hungerford started to cause problems as they resorted to route one football, with Ancin racing off his line to deny Pugh with his legs before Pugh flicked onto Draycott, who fired straight into the grateful arms of Ancin as Yate held on.
Yate Town: Ancin, Warren (c), Barnes, Purnell, Thomas, Wring, Groves, Bryant (Harmer, 73), Meaker (Hiroli, 81), Page, Cox. Subs not used: R Cousins, S Cousins.
Ref: Mr M Greenwood.
Gazette star man: Matt Groves - A man on red hot form.
- Yate are at home to Cinderford Town in the second round of the Red Insure League Cup on Tuesday night (7.45pm).