DEEPING RANGERS 1 LONG BUCKBY 0: It won’t live long in the memory, but this hard-fought victory over the defending champions could be a big moment in Deeping’s season.
Ashley Stevens’ 48th minute strike settled a largely drab Outgang Road affair in the hosts’ favour, keeping them just within touching distance of the UCL Premier Division’s top four.
Had they failed to deliver all three points, Tuncay Korkmaz’s men would only have had the Hinchingbrooke Cup left to play for – but Saturday’s success leaves them ten points off top spot at the half-way stage of the campaign.
Fresh off the back of Tuesday night’s 2-0 win over Wootton Blue Cross, which booked a Hinchingbrooke quarter final with old foes Bourne Town, Deeping settled the better on a bitterly cold afternoon.
Scott Ginty fired a near-post effort over on 14 minutes following a cracking pass from Nick Jackson, while skipper Steve Julian nodded a Harry Deane free kick over on the half hour.
If it was slow going in the first 30 minutes, the end of the half was anything but.
Matt Heron saw a goal correctly ruled out for offside, before Ginty flashed another near-post strike just over after a lovely run and cross from Alex Beck.
At the other end, Nkosi Mzungwana rifled Long Buckby’s best opening high and wide, while James Doughty was forced to save a well-struck Nathan Willis free kick.
The impressive Beck then had two golden opportunities to give the hosts a half-time lead. He was somehow denied by a stunning point-blank save from keeper Dan Farrell, then saw a close-range strike come back off the bar – with Heron heading the rebound wide.
The interval failed to derail Deeping’s momentum, as they grabbed the crucial breakthrough three minutes into the second period. Striker Stevens latched onto a hopeful ball through and managed to round Farrell, before calmly dispatching the ball into the net.
You never really felt one goal would be enough to take all three points though, as the resilient Bucks – who look a much stronger side than when they started the season – went close to a leveller on numerous occasions. Mzungwana smashed their best opening wide at the near post, while a header from substitute Stuart Ndlovu went the wrong side of the post with Doughty beaten.
Stevens did have two chances to put the result beyond any doubt, but he headed a super Spencer Tinkler free kick over before lashing another effort into orbit on his weaker left foot.
In the end it mattered little, with the hosts holding on for a victory they just about deserved.
Deeping: Doughty, Lambley, Jackson, Tinkler, Julian, Holt, Ginty (Stone 73), Heron, Beck, Stevens, Deane (Evans 90). Not used: Waumsley.
Deeping player/boss Tuncay Korkmaz
“We just about deserved the three points. I was impressed with Long Buckby, their passing in midfield was excellent.
“But we had the better chances and, with a bit more composure, would’ve won the game a little more comfortably. We’ve played better and lost this season, so it’s always nice to get a result like this.
“I don’t think we’re playing for top spot if I’m honest. The challenge for me and the lads is to try and emulate – or even better – the fourth place we managed last season.
“I see either Spalding, Holbeach or Quorn winning the title. We’re six points better off than last season, so our challenge is to match the impressive end to the campaign that we enjoyed then. If we do that, who knows how high we may be able to finish this time.”