ESSEX & SUFFOLK BORDER FOOTBALL LEAGUE
GREAT BENTLEY FC: 1. LAWFORD LADS FC: 0.
Date: Saturday 21st April 2018. Venue: The Green, Great Bentley.
When this fixture was first posted on “FA Full-Time” the respective teams were literally “neck-and-neck” for the Division One title, however Lawford Lads FC, probably, by losing against Alresford Colne Rangers FC Reserves and drawing against Tiptree Park FC knew before play began that there was a seven-point gap with two games remaining, however, they might put a dent in the home teams un-beaten league record. Great Bentley FC were missing regular player Gareth Evans who suffered a broken leg just prior to last weekend’s match, good to see him watching and we wish him well for a speedy recovery.
On a bright, sunny but breezy afternoon, why is there is always a breeze on the picturesque Village Green, still, I believe, the largest in the country, the appointed match official was Errol Souter who tried to keep play flowing despite some heavyweight challenges from both sets of players in front of a decent crowd, who hopefully enjoyed this match.
Lawford kicked off which was followed by a throw-in on the left side, but thrown too long by defender Wood, for the first goal-kick from which Yarwood committed the first foul of the match on Stocker, up front for Lawford, leading scorer Mann was already prepared to chase every ball pumped forward out of defence. Wood got forward for Lawford, playing the ball inside to Mann who returned it to Wood whose cross was cleared by Branson, a call for handball went up but never likely to be given. A free-kick taken by Flack found Baker whose pass wide to Vaughan led to a low shot which Lawford keeper, Thompson (J) saved at the base of the post. Already some of the challenges were to be fair, robust, I did not expect any quarter to be given but both teams had also tried to play football, pass and move, simples! Another throw-in from Wood found Mann but Birch covered at the expense of a corner, taken too long by Lorimer, leading to a goal kick which Waltham pumped forward to Baker but Young showed some early match determination to win the ball over the top of Baker who called for a foul. A through ball from Yarwood found Vaughan off-side, Lorimer fouled Yarwood and the two players exchanged verbal comments before the game re-started on ten minutes but clearly both teams were going to stifle any open play and certainly neither wanted to lose! Bolingbroke found Stocker then Mann, who was foiled by the close attention of Branson. A deep cross from Daly fell to Vaughan who was about to shoot when Lawford, defender, Wood stepped in to block the effort, Young appeared to foul Baker, but because the ball, from any advantage, failed to reach Daly the referee brought play back for a free-kick inside the centre-circle.
Great Bentley had allowed Lawford to have some early possession but through Baker, Vaughan and Jones they forged forward to gain a corner off Young, however, Daly over-hit the corner kick which Baker retrieved to find Flack whose low, but weak, shot bounced through to keeper, Thompson (J). Stocker fouled Vaughan forty yards from goal but the free-kick taken by Brand was over-hit for a goal-kick and when play switched to the other end Mann forced a corner off Southee, taken by Lorimer but headed clear by Southee. Defender Branson started the next push forward finding Baker, then Yarwood pushed the ball wide to Daly with Bolingbroke conceding a throw-in leading to a right-wing cross from Daly reaching Vaughan who headed up and over the cross-bar. As I expected from the two tops teams in this Division, the quality of football both in attack and defending was very good, the lively Daly was fouled by Bolingbroke, Daly took the free-kick which keeper Thompson clutched out of the air above his own defenders. On twenty-five minutes Jones found Daly and when play switched to Vaughan the knock-down was driven over the cross-bar by Jones and Young received a verbal admonishment from the match official, not sure why as the game had been flowing and entertaining. A cross from Upton fell to Lorimer but Branson was on hand once again to clear just as Mann, who was taking up some excellent positioning, thought he had a chance.
On thirty minutes a rare error by Branson let Lorimer in to use his pace down the right side but the driven cross was cleared by Southee, once again tracking back to defend setting Vaughan away, moving from his left to his right foot before shooting straight at visiting keeper Thompson (J). More competitive tackles followed as the referee allowed the game to flow, in fact both teams seemed to want to get on with the game and not get involved in any dissent or dispute. A throw-in from Vaughan found Baker who set Yarwood up for a shot which was blocked by James and when the ball bounced free, Baker turned to thrash the ball against the right-hand upright and from the goal-kick Lorimer fouled Yarwood on the half-way line. Bolingbroke set Lorimer away and he sent a ball towards Mann with the outside of his right foot but Birch nipped in to quickly dispossess the forward, Lawford followed this up with a free-kick, taken by Lorimer but straight to Waltham who caught the ball at the second attempt. As the half drifted towards half-time, Primus found Stocker, then Lorimer won a throw-in but Great Bentley defended well once again to release Yarwood who lost control and proceeded to tackle Primus from behind wide on the left side, Mann took the free-kick which failed to trouble anybody as it was very high and very wide of the mark.
HALF-TIME: 0 – 0.
So, all to play for, the home team kicked-off, Wood won a throw-in off Daly from where Baker fouled Bolingbroke, Upton taking the free-kick but shooting weakly wide, then Stocker found Mann whose lay-back found Wood with keeper Waltham clutching the ball to his chest. Apart from one first half save, by Thompson, neither keeper had really been tested such was the dominance of the respective defences, Daly ran at pace against Bolingbroke, good contest this, with the visitor’s player conceding a foul, level with the penalty area on the left side. Daly struck the free-kick goal-wards, Stocker headed clear to Branson who controlled the ball and shot goal-wards, then Vaughan and Young clashed, out came the hand-bags and play resumed with Wood only finding Waltham whose long clearance gave Jones a chance to stretch his legs to win a corner on the right side. Daly took the corner, curling the ball into the six-yard box which was headed clear to Daly whose next effort appeared to fly narrowly over the cross-bar, looked like a goal-kick to me, others seemed to have had the same opinion but the referee standing between the corner flag and the goal had a better view and awarded another corner, this time on the left side. Daly, once again stroked the ball towards the far post where unmarked central defender, JACK BIRCH ran in to rise and head firmly home, clearly Lawford had momentarily lost the art of defending set-pieces. Branson fouled Mann, this pairing was another good contest, Mann played the ball to Stocker whose pass was handled by Southee, a delayed whistle followed allowing Lorimer to try his luck from twenty-five yards.
Daly waltzed around Upton and James before lifting the ball over the advancing keeper and the cross-bar and when play switched to the other end Birch and Branson were left standing as Mann evaded detection to run on only to lift his lobbed effort against the cross-bar with Waltham in no-man’s land. Great Bentley replaced Baker with Holyman, Bolingbroke passed Flack to find Lorimer whose, in-swinging cross found Mann who placed the ball wide, and the home team broke through Jones, then Daly and Jones again could only find the hands of keeper, Thompson (J). On seventy minutes Great Bentley replaced Vaughan with Hurd and Lawford made a change with Young being replaced in defence by Perry, whose first action was to use his strength to fend off Birch and Hurd tried to use his pace to field an over-hit forward ball for Great Bentley.
With fifteen minutes remaining Lawford replaced Primus with Allam, Southee was caught offside down the left side and Holyman won a throw-in deep in the Lawford half. Great Bentley made their third change bringing on Jack for Jones, his first action was a clumsy foul and the only caution of the match, leading to a chase forward by Allam but Waltham reached the ball first, outside his penalty area to concede a throw-in. With four minutes remaining Brand found Hurd whose cross found Holyman well placed, but he fired over the cross-bar from ten yards out. Lawford now found it hard to gain possession as Great Bentley, through Jack, then Holyman forced a corner off Upton and in the last minute Holyman and Jack forced another corner off Wood with the final whistle blowing as the ball was cleared.
FULL TIME: 1 – 0.
A close game indeed, a decent crowd of just under one hundred by my reckoning, watched the top two teams in the division battle right to the end with the home team remaining undefeated with one match to play. Goal-scoring chances were at a premium, a set piece decided the result, whether it was a corner or not you still have to defend against it and Birch, who had missed little in the air all game rose to head home and deflate the Lawford aspirations. Personally, I thought it was an excellent contest, two closely matched teams who showed why they have been at the top all season, I expect both teams to do well, at least consolidate, in the Premier Division next season.
After the end of the match it gave me great pleasure, on behalf of the ESBFL, to present Lawford Lads FC with the Division One “Runners-Up” Cup with Great Bentley FC receiving the Division One “Champions Cup” and queue a few wild and wet celebrations back towards the clubhouse.
Now, for my Man-of-the-Match selection, numerous players caught my eye, for the visitors, James and Young looked comfortable, Bolingbroke chased everyone, Lorimer was always an outlet as was Stocker whilst Mann, the ESBFL leading goal-scorer, forty-five goals from twenty-four matches always looked dangerous, good first touch and usually a defined pass to a colleague. Now, for Great Bentley, once again a big team effort, Birch and Branson negated the bulk of the Lawford attacks, Yarwood, Southee and Baker were immense in midfield, with Vaughan and Jones always looking to capitalise from the production line of Daly, who showed some classy touches throughout, his pace and vision of passing, his free-kicks and lastly the corner from which his team scored topped a fine display
GREAT BENTLEY FC: Colours: Silver Shirts, Black Shorts and Black Socks.
Greg Waltham., Adam Brand., Tim Flack., Lee Branson., Jack Birch., Michael Southee., Jake Vaughan., Aran Yarwood (C)., Connor Jones., Keiron Baker., Quentin Daly.
Manager: James Meadows.
Used Substitutes: Joe Hurd., Calum Holyman., Tom Jack.
Unused Substitutes: Aaron Clifton., Jake Bell.
LAWFORD LADS FC: Colours: Blue Shirts, Blue Shorts and Blue Socks.
James Thompson (C)., Ben Upton., Jack Wood., Jerome Primus., Glen James., Kevin Young., Nicholas Bolingbroke., Sean Lorimer., Oliver Mann., Alex Stocker., Adam Thompson
Manager: Andrew Young.
Used Substitutes: Jack Allam., Samuel Perry.
Unused Substitutes: Alan Lonergan.
Referee: Errol Souter (Colchester)
Man of the Match: Quentin DALY. (GREAT BENTLEY FC)
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