Payne-ful for North
A DEBUT strike by Chezney Payne and a late header by sub Dale Webb secured the champions three key points at Northfield last night.
Even at this early stage the result severely dents injury-hit North’s title prospects and already they find themselves seven points off the pace.
There had been a pre-game bonus for North with news that Joby Bourgaize was fit after all, his Achilles issue having cleared enough to take his spot in the home XI.
Interestingly, North started with Bourgaize playing at the heart of a back three, freeing skipper River Marsh to keep ploughing away in his better suited midfield role.
Rovers, meanwhile, not only included Carlos Canha but also Payne, who is unavailable on Saturdays but impressed while hitting a hat-trick in Lancaster One on Sunday, and Island cricketer Tom Nightingale, on the left of the visitors’ back trio.
It was a full year ago that Canha announced his arrival with a goal on a midweek night at Northfield, but given Sam Murray’s recent form he was not necessarily the hottest striker on view.
Canha set up Rovers’ first half-chance with a clever chest take, turn and pass to Blair Howitt, while at the other end Ben Bullock got away a fierce drive straight down Josh Addison’s throat.
The opening 20min. was a messy, frenetic affair with scarcely a decent telling pass but when Rovers did piece a move together Leroi Riley had to be alert to parry Howitt’s powerful drive.
North often took the aerial route with diagonal crosses into the heart of the box, but each time Tom Strawbridge was there to head away.
In first half stoppage time Rovers went ahead.
Tyler McKane smashed a low 30 yarder, Riley parried low to his right but simply turned the ball into the path of the debutant Payne – easy finish.
McKane again threatened at the start of the second half but this time his shot on the run flew wide, Hall also went close and Nightingale, left free beyond the back post, sliced wide wastefully.
On the hour Murray finally got into the action with a strong header parried away by Addison.
Soon after the striker’s bicycle kick clattered into a covering defender, blocking a potential leveller.
Late on Scott Bougourd was within a whisker of turning in an equaliser but at the other end Webb headed home to clinch the win.