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Regan Saunt the hero as the Cooks return home with a point from a tricky game at Leicester Nirvana.

Tuesday 20th February 2024




Att; 57


The Cooks faced a rare midweek road trip to play this rearranged game against Leicester Nirvana on what would have been a mild evening had it not been for the cutting wind that blew from the clubhouse end straight down the pitch. After all the rain we have had in recent weeks, it was hardly surprising that the pitch was heavy which in all honesty isn’t something we are used to these days, but it was still so much better than the ones I played on in the winter months some 35 years ago.

Scott Carlin had been dabbling in the transfer market this week and as a result we had a new centre-back on show as young Diamonds player Tejan Thomas started alongside Harley Mallard after joining on dual registration. His other two signing were also involved as Regan Saunt took over from the unavailable John Meadows in goal while Takula Chijota was named on the bench alongside Dex Nkrumah and the returning trio of Bailey Weatherly and Charlie Pearson (from injuries) and Brad Ilunga (suspension). Sharma Bako and Jamari Hart were both handed starts in a much-changed team from the one that drew in Yaxley on Saturday with Sonny Knights and Dom Wysocki not available (I have been told that Dom has joined National League North side Boston United, so we may not be seeing him in the Cogenhoe kit again). Nirvana boss Dan George made three changes to his starting line-up from the team that drew 2-2 at fellow relegation candidates Desborough on Saturday with keeper Jake Williams, centre-back Daryl Russell and midfielder Kareem Abouraia coming in in place of Shaquille O’Neil-Brooks, Matthew Brown and Luis Parry, with the former the only one of the three named on the bench.

The home side started with the wind at their backs and made a positive start with two early shots wide of the target before Saunt was forced to make a very good save from Abouraia’s close range header, but this one wouldn’t have counted as assistant referee Isabel Danson had already raised her flag for offside. A nice move saw Edward Bamfo send a low ball into the box from the left that Mallard did well to cut out, then with nine minutes already played, the Cooks broke into their opponents half for the first time in the game as Jack Connor won the ball on the half-way line and found Bako on the left and he cut inside before trying a curling shot from just outside the penalty area that was a few feet too high to trouble Williams. Keiron Mobbs played in good ball from the left for Bako who got his foot to it, but it ran through to the keeper, then Connor did well on the left and steered the ball into the path of Hart  just inside the left corner of the box and he played it square with Paddy Cichosz holding off his man as he turned inside, but the presence of two defenders meant he was unable to get into a shooting position. Hart charged down a keeper’s clearance after Russell had sold him a little short with his back pass, but the ball flew behind for a goal kick then the Leicester side threatened and will be very disappointed not to have taken the lead just before the break when Bamfo did really well inside the box on the right before finding William Clarke in space at the far post, but his balance was wrong and he fired his first time effort over the bar from close range as he rushed his effort. The final shot of the first half (and there hadn’t been many) came from Abouraia whose 20-yarder took a deflection off a defender for a corner, but that came to nothing and Karl Bainbridge brought the first half to an end.

The Cooks will have been the happier of the two at the break having defended against a significant wind and despite the home side having the lion’s share of the attacking play, they hadn’t really been threatened that much, but will have been relieved to have survived that late opportunity where the home side found space inside the box for the first time in the game.


Half-Time: Nirvana 0 Cooks 0


Connor held off his marker to make space for a shot from a couple of yards outside the box and although he struck it well, it was too close to Williams who took it comfortably, but it was a positive start from the Cooks who now had the advantage of the wind. Tayo Alexander did really well on the left and cut inside the box before crossing to the far post, but the wind took it away from Michael Akintunde a fraction and he was unable to get over and behind his header. The home side came close to breaking the deadlock when Bamfo latched onto Clarke’s low ball into the box, but Saunt made an excellent save with his legs to deny the close-range effort, then down the other end a short corner by Callum Farmer gave Bako a chance from the edge of the box on the right and his first time shot would have been on target had Russell not managed to get his head to it and divert it over the bar, Farmer whipped this one in and Connor got managed to get a touch with his head, but he couldn’t direct it at goal and it went wide of the far post.

Mobbs and Hart played a one-two on the left with the left-back then playing it inside where Hart worked the ball into a shooting opportunity with the ensuing shot deflecting wide for another corner, Farmer’s sent this one curling in toward the far post, but Abouraia was on hand to head it clear. The game appeared to be swinging the way of the home side when a deep ball into the box saw a Nirvana player go to the ground and the referee immediately pointed to the spot, (Details unfortunately sketchy as I didn’t see what happened but guessing it may well have been for a push). Alexander was the man tasked with the penalty and he sent it low to Saunt’s right, but the Cooks keeper dived the right way to make a fine save and keep the status quo intact.

Akintunde’s late challenge on Farmer forced Bainbridge to dig his yellow card out of his pocket for the first time on 63 minutes, then Nirvana broke quickly with Alexander getting the better of Atat before cutting in, but Thomas was on hand to end his aspirations with a great challenge. George made the first change of the game on 65 minutes as he tried a different approach up top with tall striker Clarke making way for the much smaller Tamar Clayton-Naute. Quick feet from Mobbs saw him get away from Alexander who had already committed into the challenge and brought him down. The free-kick was about three yards outside the box on the left side and Farmer sent it in towards the back post, but Williams punched it away on the edge of his 6-yard box. Biff’s first change saw the fit again Weatherly return to action in place of Bako with 21 minutes remaining and just after Farmer slipped as he took a free kick which very nearly fell for Connor inside the box, the home made another swap as the limping and already cautioned Akintunde made way for Mitch Dublin (a pretty well-known surname in the city as far as football is concerned).

A deep cross from the right was just behind Abouraia, but he did manage to get his head to it and sent it looping towards the goal, but Saunt was on his line and watched closely as it dropped just over his crossbar. Dimond came off on 75 minutes with Nkrumah coming on to take over on the right, then a long throw by Weatherly down the right was headed wide by Connor at the near post, A good run by Clayton-Naute forced Mallard to cover and coolly avert the danger with a good piece of defending just before Cichosz was forced to come off with the affects of the heavy pitch taking its toll, giving Pearson his first run out for a while. Weatherly always makes an impact on the game and today was no different as he picked up a yellow card for a foul on Dublin on 82 minutes and shortly afterwards he was given his final written warning for a foul on Lynas King that some referees may have seen as a second bookable offence. Russell hooked a volley from outside the box, but Saunt had no trouble holding on to it, then Nkrumah latched onto an up-and-under clearance by Mallard down the left before stepping past his man and delivering a great cross that Connor met with a good downward header that forced Willaims into his first real challenge of the game and one he did well on. The last change of the game came on 87 minutes when Richemone Sylla replaced Bamfo. The Cooks had a decent late chance when another long throw from Weatherly was flicked on by Mallard inside the box and it found its way to Pearson 15-yards out, but he didn’t get over his shot and it sailed well over the top. Williams had to slide out to the edge of the box to beat Hart to a through ball, while Hart was fouled on the left by Russell who became the third player to be yellow-carded by Mr Bainbridge tonight. The free kick was a couple of yards outside the box, but beyond the corner angle and with a four-man wall in front of him, Weatherly sized it up and went directly for goal, but his effort was a yard over the bar and the referee brought the game to a close.


In all honesty this game won’t linger very long in the mind with Regan Saunts’ penalty save a massive moment in the game and the returning keeper earns my man-of-the-match accolade for this and the other very good save he made to deny Bamfo. Jack Connor went close to snatching it for the Cooks late on with his header from that excellent Nkrumah cross but in truth we didn’t really do enough out there to win the game from this tricky fixture with the wind and heavy pitch a big influence on the game. We defended well with Harley Mallard the pick of the back four tonight, but Tejan Thomas, Earl Atat and Keiron Mobbs all earning plenty of praise as well.

As for Nirvana, scoring goals does seem to be a problem for them and they will be disappointed not to have won this game given the possession they had and although the point lifts them to within a point of getting off the bottom of the table, a win tonight would have done just that as Desborough were beaten 2-1 at home by Nirvana’s fellow county side Lutterworth Town. I wish them all the best in their plight, lovely people running the club who always make you feel welcome.

The Cooks are back at Compton Park on Saturday with another clash against a city club as GNG Oadby Town head to the village for a 2pm kick-off.

Footnote. Apologies to KEIRON Mobbs as I have been spelling his name wrong for the last twenty months without realising until his dad pointed it out last night. Oops.


Nirvana; 1. Jake Williams 2. Michael Akintunde (sub 16. Mitch Dublin 81) 3. Andrew Wooldridge 4. Lynas King © 5. Daryl Russell 6. Shemar Pettet 7. Tayo Alexander 8. Kareem Abouraia 9. William Clarke (sub 17. Tamar Clayton-Naute 65) 10. Tom Stockley 11. Edward Bamfo (sub 15. Richemone Sylla 87). Sub not used; 12. Youssef Abouraia 14. Shaquille O’Neil-Brooks.

Cooks; 1. Regan Saunt 2. Earl Atat 3. Keiron Mobbs 4. Ben Dimond (sub 15. Dex Nkrumah 75) 5. Tejan Thomas 6. Harley Mallard © 7. Sharma Bako (sub 14. Bailey Weatherly 69) 8, Paddy Cichosz (sub 12. Charlie Pearson 80) 9. Jack Connor 10. Callum Farmer 11. Jamari Hart. Unused subs 16. Takula Chijota 17. Brad Ilunga

Referee; Karl Bainbridge. Assts; Daniel Squires & Isabel Danson.




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