ESSEX & SUFFOLK BORDER FOOTBALL LEAGUE
LITTLE OAKLEY FC RESERVES: 4. EARLS COLNE FC: 1.
Date: Saturday 27th January 2018. Venue: War Memorial Ground, Little Oakley.
Another week of treacherous weather, the Representative Team, FA Inter-League Cup – R3 game currently remains unscheduled, so I opted for a safe haven, well at least somewhere where I could shelter from the imminent rain, so Little Oakley, who now have a small stand behind the goal at the clubhouse end was my chosen match and those who attended were not disappointed unless of course you were from Earls Colne!
The continuous cold prevailed and rain had been forecast for three o’clock but it obviously can’t tell the time as just before the two o’clock kick-off it started and did not relent until after the match had finished, this pitch that was used on Tuesday evening looked remarkably good, it was very soft and would definitely cut-up as play progressed making for players searching for a firm footing and plenty of sliding tackles!
The match officials were Stuart Gillman supported by Paul Beard and Kelvin Llewellyn who ensured the “Respect” handshake was undertaken, some sheltering inside the stand questioned why, it’s the rules I muttered under my breath and so to kick-off with the wind and rain driving diagonally across the pitch towards the houses along the main road.
Earls Colne kicked off with the wind slightly in their favour and within ten seconds should have taken the lead, a cross from Randall was inadvertently headed down by Kioussis into the path of Preston (Ja) whose first time shot was parried at point blank range by keeper Pepperell with Allen clearing away against the elements. Preston (Ja) and Randall linked up again inside the first minute with the wingers shot hitting the front of the stand having just cleared the goal and on four minutes a corner by Randall, taken left-footed led to a foul by Keefe on Polley, the first free-kick of the game. Kioussis took this free-kick finding Smart down the left side whilst Palmer and Polley got to grips with the midfield for the home team. Brazitis fouled Randall, who got up to take the free-kick finding Turner who fed Preston (Ja) with Roots clearing but only as far as Preston (Jo) who was fouled by Kioussis leading to another Randall free-kick which found the head of Preston (Ja) but the ball flew towards keeper Pepperell who saved in the goalmouth melee with Roots clearing up-field.
It took almost ten minutes for Little Oakley to gain possession inside the Earls Colne half and make a telling attack which started with Palmer, with Polley and Pratt supporting through midfield forcing Pike to concede a free-kick for a foul on Polley just on the edge of the home penalty area. For Earls Colne the danger players were Randall and Preston (Ja) both looked sharp and possessed good footwork when on the ball with the former forcing a corner off Roots, taken by Randall but headed over by Hickman. Another cross from Turner was headed over by Preston (Jo) but the usual number of free-kicks was evident, mainly due to the difficult conditions and at the other end Smart, a diminutive player with pace, grit and but only a good left foot kept control of the ball to find Brazitis who was beaten by the no-nonsense defending of Pike. The wind was clearly spoiling this game with the ball often swirling into touch, Pratt fouled Hickman, mid-half and from a Turner throw-in Preston (Ja) fouled Allan and it had taken twenty minutes for Little Oakley to muster a shot at goal, this from Palmer who was on the end of a move involving himself, Brazitis and Eldridge (S).
Earls Colne were the team in the ascendency so no surprise when a left footed shot from Gilder, who drifted wide of his defender, crashed against the cross-bar and safety but from the goal-kick the ball flew straight out into touch mid-half, a poor clearance not helped by the wind! Earls Colne keeper, Hobster, saved at the feet of Pratt from a pass following an interchange of play between Brazitis and Palmer and when the ball was cleared Eldridge (A) fouled Preston (Ja) just wide of the penalty area with the free-kick taken by Randall clearing the defensive wall and missing the goal by just over a yard with Pepperell covering. The home team started another move through Kioussis who found Eldridge (S) and from his cross Brazitis tried an overhead return ball which fell to Pratt but by raising his boot to kick the ball only managed to collide with keeper Hobster who had read the danger and dived in to attempt a block, only to be fouled, but much better from the home team.
On the half hour mark Polley fouled Preston (Ja), Randall struck a long free-kick towards Pike who only managed to foul Allan and with the pitch now showing signs of cutting-up Gell fouled Eldridge (S) to receive the first warning of the game, Kioussis took the free-kick finding Pratt and from his lay-off Brazitis stubbed the ball just wide of the goal and with ten minutes to half-time there was a stoppage when Gell and Pratt clashed heads, both requiring treatment. Keeper, Hobster saved at the near post from Eldridge (s) who latched onto a pass from Brazitis and from another long clearance Polley and Eldridge (A) doubled up to stop the tricky Preston (Ja) to concede a throw-in which led to a corner. Randall tool the corner, left-footed and curling goalwards, keeper Pepperell perhaps pre-empting the flight of the ball which was actually dropping behind him, so when he failed to gather the ball THOMAS OGBORN was on hand to smash the loose ball into the roof of the net and Earls Colne got the goal they deserved for being the better team in the first half, this from a definite keeper error! Smart had a shot deflected past keeper, Hobster and Smart continued to chase down players with the ball, gaining possession once to set up Eldridge (S) whose pass to Brazitis was placed wide as the Earls Colne defence stood solid before the break. The final action came through Kioussis who was always an outlet down the left side for Little Oakley, this time finding Pratt who shot wide, I say the final action, perhaps, this came from the grounds-man who entered the field after the whistle in an attempt to replace some of the numerous divots, commendable stuff, they look after everything at Little Oakley. As I walked to the clubhouse I remarked to a Little Oakley stalwart, this looks like the proverbial game of two halves, he agreed, Earls Colne had a slender lead but should have been three goals ahead as the home team had not played at all well, could they improve, well that would not be difficult given their collective display so far.
HALF-TIME: 0 – 1
Earls Colne made an immediate change before the restart, Gell who had suffered the head injury was replaced by Watts and from the home team kick-off Earls Colne forced Pepperell into a save at the feet of Preston (Jo) who was set up by Gilder and Turner and Earls Colne could quite easily have scored twice more as the ball flashed across the penalty area on two occasion and only needed a forward to be in the right place with the home defence still not reading the danger signs. A short free-kick from Kioussis to Eldridge (S) was passed lazily into touch as the home team struggled to raise the required rhythm to get back in this game, but another quickly taken free-kick almost worked as the crossed ball from Kioussis drifted just out of play, or was that a shot at goal! When Polley found space to shoot goalwards substitute Adams defended well to clear the ball off the goal-line, where was VAR when you needed it, the referee, well placed to see the ball hitting his chest, evidenced by the ball smudge on his shirt whereas Little Oakley saw it as a penalty, close call though. On fifty-five minutes Little Oakley were awarded a corner kick, right in front of the stand, we all though “goal-kick” but no, a corner was awarded, taken on the left side and cleared by Pike but only to ROBERT PRATT who scored from close range.
On the hour mark Little Oakley replaced Pratt with Eades and Brazitis followed soon after with Harte taking his place and his first action was to head over from a cross from Palmer who received a return ball from Eldridge (S) on the right side. With the elements now in their favour Little Oakley pressed forward, perhaps fortunate to be back on level terms but the visitors had not defended that corner very well either! Worse followed, on sixty-seven minutes, defender Pike put in a strong right footed clearance from around the penalty spot, the ball flew high but aided by the wind, only dropped only a few yards ahead and fell to the unmarked JAMIE EADES who stroked the ball home from the edge of the penalty area. The response from Earls Colne was immediate, Randall crossed and Preston (Ja) flashed a header across the face of the goal, the home team hit back at the clubhouse end Kioussis sent a free-kick goalwards, Ogborn headed clear to Eades whose shot was charged down, Eldridge (S) sent another shot goalwards, again blocked but for a corner. When Smart stopped play from restarting at a throw-in, walking away with the ball, he was duly cautioned, why-oh-why, I felt like singing “When will they ever learn” but anther ten pounds to the county coffers!
On seventy-five minutes Earls Colne replaced Gilder with May and Little Oakley sent on Good for Eldridge (A), no matter, it was three minutes later that Eades scored again when Smart unselfishly passed across goal, rather than shoot himself and there was JAMIE EADES to sweep the ball home, his second of the match. Soon after Preston (Ja) was caught by the boot of Good and despite limping away, had to leave the field leaving his team with ten players. Little Oakley piled forward, Ogborn was cautioned for a poor, tired challenge on Polley and five minutes remained. Two minutes from the end of normal time the home team scored again, Kioussis found Smart who took on Watts to cross to JAMIE EADES who controlled the ball before swivelling to place a well placed left footed shot past Hobster and complete a twenty-eight minute hat-trick, now was that an inspired substitution! The final action of the game saw substitute May wipe out keeper Pepperell who advanced to smother a forward ball for Earls Colne.
FULL TIME: 4 – 1.
The game of two halves continues to defy logic, Earls Colne were by far the better team in the first half and clearly will rue missing gilt edged chances in the first half as a slender single goal lead would always be difficult to defend in the second half where Little Oakley could only improve! Get to grips, Little Oakley did, the award of a corner instead of a goal-kick helped but teams should still be able to defend these and the visitors did not, leading to the equalising goal. Thereafter the second half might be one way and I was lucky enough to see all the goals right in front of the stand end and the introduction of Eades proved crucial. Both teams and the match officials deserve credit for competing in what must have been very trying conditions and spare a thought for the Little Oakley grounds man who now has to repair and prepare for next weekend.
Now, for my Man-of-the-Match selection, on the first half showing Pike, Hickman and particularly Ogborn defended stoutly with Preston (Ja) and Randall constantly causing problems up front. For Little Oakley, the experienced trio of Pratt, Palmer and Polley led the home team recovery but the introduction of Eades proved to be a master stroke, planned or otherwise, three goals turned this match in favour of Little Oakley so it’s hard not to give him the Man-of-the Match nomination.
LITTLE OAKLEY FC: Colours: Blue & Black Shirts, Black Shorts and Black Socks.
Charlie Pepperell., Daniel Roots., Jacob Kioussis., Nicky Palmer., Jonathan Allen., Adam Eldridge., Robert Pratt (C)., Stephen Polley., Sam Eldridge., Ross Brazitis., Ryan Smart.
Manager: James Good.,
Assistant Manager: Paul Beasley.
Used Substitutes: Luke Good., Jamie Eades., Reece Harte.
EARLS COLNE FC: Colours: Red Shirts, Red Shorts and Red Socks.
Christopher Hobster., Andrew Turner., Ryan Gell., Mitchell Hickman (C)., Bobby Pike., Thomas Ogborn., Jake Gilder., Bradley Keefe., Jack Preston., Joshua Preston., Connor Randall.
Manager: John Pike.
Assistant Manager: Carl Pearce.
Used Substitutes: Steven May., Adam Watts
Unused Substitutes: Joshua Huwes.
Referee: Stuart Gilman (Wivenhoe).
Assistant Referee’s: Paul Beard (Braintree).
and Kelvin Llewellyn (Elmstead Market).
Man of the Match: Jamie EADES. (LITTLE OAKLEY FC)
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