Saturday 20th January 2024
UNITED COUNTIES LEAGUE – PREMIER DIVISION SOUTH
LEICESTER NIRVANA v COGEHOE UNITED
10 Sandhills Avenue,
The Cooks renew acquaintances with old friends Leicester Nirvana who returned to our division in the summer after a few seasons in the north half of the UCL with the Cooks hoping to improve on their poor record at Hamilton Park since our hosts moved into their own ground a few years ago. We have played there twice in the league with both games ending in home wins with our last visit back in 2018/19 seeing us beaten 2-1. Jordan Smith had given the home side a half-time lead through his 29th minute penalty and a great finish from Sam Burton had doubled their advantage nine minutes into the second half. The Cooks actually played pretty well that day and perhaps should have got something out of the game, but they could only manager to pull one back through Ryan Dove’s effort just after the hour and Nirvana held on to take the points. Our first trip there the previous year came in our final game of the season with the Cooks on an unbeaten run, but that was all but gone by the break as two goals from Jordon Nelson and one from Shaquille Master left us three goals down at the before half-time. Player-coach Mark Rawle, a much-travelled striker, came off the bench late on in what I believe was to be his last game as a player and almost inevitably he popped up with their fourth goal in stoppage time, slotting home from the penalty spot. It finished 4-0 in what was very much a night to forget for the Cooks. We have played them once since Nirvana’s divisional switch, a pre-season friendly very early in Scott Carlin’s initial season, and we came back from 3-0 down to earn a draw, so perhaps our luck is changing and the first points at Hamilton Park are now finally due. Louie Barrett’s double (65 & 81) sandwiching Mitch White’s 79th minute goal giving us a creditable 3-3 draw in Leicester.
Times have been tough for our hosts since their move back south in the summer and they currently sit bottom of the table, although they have reduced the gap between them and Desborough to just three points after being well adrift a few months ago. They have lost their last two games 3-0 though, both away at Bugbrooke and promotion chasing St Neots Town, but prior to that they appeared to be turning the corner with a 3-1 home win over Easington which came between a couple of 2-2 draw against Yaxley (away) and Coventry United at Hamilton Park. They travelled to Compton Park back in November with the Cooks running out 2-1 victors, but we really had to thank keeper John Meadows and a lack of the finishing touch from Nirvana along the way. We were second best for the first half-hour, but a cool finish from inside the box by Ben Gough gave us a rather fortunate lead on 41 minutes and brilliant 30-yard lob by Jack Connor made it two in stoppage time. Former Lutterworth Town striker William Clarke did manage to pull one back for the visitors, but it wasn’t enough to stop Cogenhoe taking all three points from the game.
The Cooks are in much better form right now with just one defeat in their last seven games and they ran out 2-1 winners over Rugby Borough last weekend. Trailing to a Justin Marsden goal with time running out, Josh Jones unleashed a 25-yarder to level the scores on 86 minutes and Jack Connor netted for the fourth consecutive game when he headed home a Brad Ilunga cross five minutes into stoppage time. Biff again has a strong squad to choose from, although he will be without influential defender Ben Gough, whilst Dylan Wilson has opted to try his luck a level higher at Leighton Town after a combination of work, illness and a struggle to get back into a winning team had left him on the bench in recent games. Good luck to Dylz in his new venture where he joins up with another former Cogenhoe player in Louie Barrett who has settled in really well at Bells Close since his summer move. One bonus is the return of Bailey Weatherly who has missed the last couple of games, a player who always has a big impact on the field as he strives to regain his full fitness.
Jack Connor, pictured in action against Nirvana earlier in the season, will be hoping to keep up his fantastic recent record in front of goal.
Bailey Weatherly returns to the squad tomorrow.