Mercer leaves it late as Winslow pip rivals Buckingham

Hateley Mercer heads home Ryan Freshwater's corner
Hateley Mercer heads home Ryan Freshwater's corner

Hateley Mercer struck five minutes frome time as Winslow United pipped fierce rivals Buckingham Athletic 3-2 in an entertaining local derby at Stratford Fields.

With the two sides separated by just two points going into the game, more than local pride was up for grabs and it was Winslow who came flying out of the blocks to lead after four minutes, but Athletic pegged the visitors back and two goals in three minutes saw the home side go into half-time 2-1 ahead, only for Mercer to bag a second half brace and snatch all three points.

The result sees Winslow leapfrog their rivals and move to 14th in SSML Division One with five games remaining.

United boss Scott Reynolds said afterwards: “What a win! A great measure and strong evidence to support how far we have come this season.

“Personally I’m delighted as I set out to achieve 35 points this season and keep the club in the division. With this win we are now on 36 with five games to go.

“We didn’t play well first half, the players recognised that at half-time and my job was easy.

“Second half we dominated. We were solid at the back, good in midfield and clinical in front of goal. The makings of a winning solution.

“The foot cannot come off the gas now. There are still 15 points up for grabs and I want the league table to make pleasant reading when everyone has finished. It’s nice to now be the highest place side in the division locally, but a lot could still change.”

United began in the ascendency and took the lead on just four minutes when Athletic surrendered possession and the ball found its way to Ryan Freshwater, who drove deep into the home side’s half before feeding Joel McCormick and the striker twisted one way and then the other before dispatching a low shot beyond the despairing dive of goalkeeper Andy Hammond.

The visitors were enjoying more possession without posing too much of a threat but eventually Athletic settled into the game and came close to levelling when Glenn Hawkins’ header was well-saved by Tom Weymes.

That signalled the start of Buckingham’s best spell of the match and on 18 minutes they were level when Hawkins laid the ball off to Paul Dearlove, who had time and space to curl an effort around Weymes and inside the far post.

Now on the front foot, Athletic required just two more minutes to go ahead as Winslow failed to clear a long throw and George Jackman was quickest to react to stab home.

The home side remained on top for the remainder of the half but failed to make their pressure count as Matt Cruse twice came close and Phil Martin blazed an effort over, while Winslow’s only chance came on the stroke of half-time when Jason Costello’s shot rolled agonisingly wide of the far post.

Although Buckingham maintained their slender advantage through to half-time, they were made to pay for not adding to their lead when on top as Winslow produced a much-improved second half display.

Freshwater hammered an effort into the side netting five minutes into the half before the equaliser arrived on the hour-mark when Mercer rose highest to power home Freshwater’s corner.

The goal sparked Winslow into life and from thereafter the visitors looked the likelier to claim all three points but with Costello, McCormick and Tom Williams all wasting chances, the match appeared to be heading for another stalemate after the two sides were also unable to be separated in the reverse fixture back in December.

However, with just five minutes remaining, Winslow won a free-kick on the right and Freshwater again delivered a dangerous cross into the penalty area and with Buckingham unable to scramble the ball clear, Mercer on hand to tap home and kick-start the celebrations.

Attendance: 157