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Staines Town 1 Chelmsford City 3
3:07pm Sunday 3rd March 2013 in Local Sport
GLENN Pennyfather had to make six changes to the Chelmsford City starting 11 which took on Staines Town, but goals from David Rainford, Anthony Cook and Jamie Slabber earned them three well deserved Blue Square Bet South points to keep them in contention near the top of the table.
Rainford gave the Clarets a 26th-minute lead at Wheatsheaf Park, picking up the pieces after Justin Miller's initial shot was saved, then Cook's sublime free kick on the interval whistle made it two.
Troy Ferguson brought Town back into the game from distance on 58 minutes though Slabber's header in the 71st sealed the victory, and meant Rainford's red card six minutes from time for alleged serious foul play was academic.
"I criticised the players on Tuesday [against Bromley] for not competing enough but they did today - they were competitive for every ball and were much better," said proud boss Pennyfather at full time, as his team remained in fourth place.
"It was good work from Millsy to bring a smart save from their 'keeper for the first, which Rains has tucked away."
"Then it's always a good time to score just before the half time whistle, and you won't see many better free kicks than the one from Cookie. 2-0 is a dangerous score, though, and you've got to concentrate and focus. But we've given away a sloppy goal when we were in control of the game.
"After that we composed ourselves and some great work down the left from Kyle supplied Jamie, and you know if the ball is decent he's going to score."
Stuart Searle returned in goal for City in place of Danzelle St Louis-Hamilton, who had himself become injured, while Justin Miller also came back to fill the gap left by the suspended Mark Haines at centre-half.
Joe Whight's knock meant Aiden Palmer stepped back into his usual left-back berth and Kyle Vassell was selected on that wing.
Elsewhere in midfield, a muscle strain for Max Cornhill enabled David Bridges to take a place in the centre of the park and Junior Konadu earned his first Clarets start in a swap for another absentee, Omer Riza. Striker Rob Edmans, who received a black eye in the midweek trip to Bromley, made way for top scorer Slabber up-front.
It was Bridges who crafted City's first effort in the 13th minute with a decent attempt from distance which he fired wide, Rainford following suit as he tried his luck from a similar range six minutes later.
Then it was the unlikely figure of defender Kenny Clark who rammed over the bar on 25 minutes at the far post after some neat interplay with Palmer.
Within 60 seconds of a fairly even contest, however, Chelmsford were in front. Staines goalkeeper Jack Turner will have been pleased with how he palmed Miller's initial strike back out and away from goal, but the loose ball fell into the path of Rainford, who followed up with a shot into the floor which bounced into the net.
Ten minutes prior to the break that advantage was almost doubled as Cook's brilliant cross picked out the head of Bridges, who nodded into the side netting.
Yet Cook himself was responsible for City's second when he firstly won a dead ball two minutes into stoppage time then expertly stroked it into the top left-hand corner.
There were only a small handful of truly noteworthy incidents after the break, yet those which did occur had a real impact on the fixture.
Just before the hour mark what was a comfortable situation for the visitors became a slender lead thanks to Ferguson's long-ranger, which flew past Searle via a slight deflection to grab a goal back for Marcus Gayle's men.
Thankfully for City another at the other end wasn't long in coming, and the identity of the scorer was no great surprise.
Vassell did exceedingly well to progress down his flank and send a tempting near post centre into the goalmouth and Slabber accepted the invitation to head powerfully into the bottom corner, albeit slightly against the run of play.
That made sure the points were heading back to Essex, but not before Rainford's dismissal as referee Carl Brook believed his challenge on Ferguson to be over-zealous.
"My view was obscured through a melee of players so I've asked the referee after the game and he's said it was a definite sending-off, while David said it was a good tackle," recalled Glenn.
"We can't change the decision, though, and we'll be missing David and Cookie for three games after his tenth yellow, so we're properly down to the bare bones. All the points are crucial at this stage of the season.
"I keep saying it but, especially with the injuries and suspensions we have at the moment, we really do have to look at our games week-by-week.
"Of the 13 we've got left we have eight at home, so our fate is still in our own hands."