Experience and youth combine as Thatcham end run of three defeats with 2-0 victory over Northwood
Thatcham Town boss Yashwa Romeo felt the experienced quartet of Josh Blackwood, Curtis Angell, Callum Willmoth and Jordan Brown were vital as the Kingfishers ended a run of three straight defeats with a 2-0 victory over Northwood on Saturday.
However it was 18-year-old full-back Kyle Daniel-Spray, signed in September to replace vice-captain Cameron Rohart-Brown, who provided the most telling contributions, swinging the ball in from a corner for Blackwood to head Thatcham in front after 25 minutes before scoring a spectacular second half goal to make sure of the points.
The Kingfishers, who had been on a run of three straight defeats, went ahead midway through the first half when Blackwood headed in his second goal in two games and almost doubled their lead just before the hour when former Reading teenager Daniel-Spray clipped the crossbar with a deep ball into the box.
The visitors pressed forward in search of an equaliser and forced a fine low save from Toby Fisher, who is training with League Two side Sutton, 12 minutes from time through Riccard Alexander-Greenway.
The home side made sure of the points with five minutes of normal time remaining when the outstanding Daniel-Spray beat a man and drilled a left-footed shot into the corner from 25 yards to earn Thatcham just their second win in nine competitive matches.
“I was really pleased with the overall performance,” boss Yashwa Romeo said.
“We started well but it was business as usual, we just couldn’t finish our chances. Harry Hoath broke through one-on-one and skewed it wide, and at that point I was thinking, ‘here we go again’.
“We went ahead and we managed the game really well. We had four big players all in the side – Josh, Curtis, Callum and Jordan – and that made a massive difference for us.
“They’re four of our most experienced players, and it showed. There was a calmness about us on the pitch that we hadn’t seen for a while. When it got to the business end of the game, we didn’t panic.
“I challenged the boys to get a clean sheet and they went out and did it.”
Romeo reverted back to last season’s 4-4-2 diamond formation, with skipper Nathan Jones shielding the back four, after experimenting with a more attacking 4-2-3-1 for most of this term.
The Kingfishers have struggled to keep clean sheets, conceding 29 goals in 12 games and shipping five on three separate occasions, and Romeo felt the change in shape was instrumental as his side managed a second clean sheet of the season.
He said: “We went back to a diamond, I think that makes us a little bit more secure.
“We worked hard and nullified them, the formation helped massively.”
Romeo was full of praise for former Reading City captain Josh Blackwood, who was signed in the summer to help Thatcham improve aerially in both boxes.
While Blackwood hasn’t solved all of the Kingfishers' issues at set-pieces, his new manager has been impressed with the threat he poses attacking dead-balls.
“He’s not the biggest. He can’t be much more than six feet tall,” Romeo said.
“What he does do is he gets up very well, he wins a lot of headers.
“Harry (Hoath) has also added a real threat in the air, he’s hit the crossbar three times from corners.
“We’ve improved a lot from set-pieces. We just need to make sure we don’t switch off when the ball goes out of play.”
Thatcham, who moved up one place to 14th in the Isthmian League South Central table, had been set to welcome FA Vase winners Ascot United in midweek, only for the game to fall foul of the weather.
Instead, Romeo's side travel to 12th placed Westfield on Saturday.