A hard-earned three points for Salts


Spelthorne Sports 0-1 Epsom & Ewell FC. Combined Counties League – Premier Division.

On Saturday we visited the Spelthorne Sports Club for another important League match. This was a venue we had visited on four previous occasions without suffering defeat and we extended that sequence to five with a hard working 1-0 win, providing us with our second League win in a row. The win also gave us our third clean sheet, but unlike the first two against Met Police, our keeper Harvey Keogh had to work hard for this one, making some superb saves during the match.

In the absence of our Caretaker Manager Steve Springett; on a holiday that was booked before he took on the role, the bench duties fell to Assistant Manager Ash Snadden and Coach Sam Groombridge and three changes were made from our friendly match against Merstham last week. Zach Powell returned from injury ahead of Nick Inwugwu, while Sirak Negassi came in for Marlon Pinder and Tijani Eshilokun came in for Snadden and we kicked off in front of a rather pitiful crowd of 37, although admittedly, any “floating supporters” would have always chosen to go to an FA Vase match on this day instead.

We made a bright start with some early interplay on the left between Rory Edwards and Jaan Stanley with the latter’s cross just cut out by the home keeper Shay Honey. In response the home side sent a deep cross to the far post, but the header went over the bar and a few minutes later another right wing cross was acrobatically volleyed over the bar by Kelvin Karanja; a player that had given us a lot of trouble a few years back when at Bedfont & Feltham.

We then had a real scare in the 14th minute after Keogh scuffed a goal kick straight to Leon Iloube and although our defenders closed him down quickly, he still sent a stinging shot towards goal that our keeper somehow clawed away from the top corner to record a fabulous save. This became doubly important a minute later when Ade Batula sent a really good crossfield pass over to Jaan Stanley. Stanley cut back and it looked like the chance might be gone, but then he got round his man and was brought down in the penalty area. I was expecting a yellow card for the defender, but ultimately the award of a penalty was the more important issue and Stanley sent the keeper the wrong way to give us the lead in the 15th minute.

Although we didn’t know it at the time, this goal would be the only one of the match and the rest of the match could arguably be described as attritional! We battled to cover every inch and our job was made a little easier when the Spelthorne Captain, Jamie Fuller chose to argue his case with the referee and found himself in the sinbin. You can always tell when a referee is being assessed as it more often than not leads to a very fussy and over officious display from the man in the middle and this was definitely the case in this match! Admittedly, he had a tricky job in trying to deal with the home bench who yelled and appealed for everything. On one of these occasions Ollie Thompson picked up a yellow card after a coming together between him and another player which looked completely accidental but it’s possible that the official was swayed into awarding the free kick and once it was, I felt that a card would follow.

Then we had another great opportunity on the half hour as Batula got through on goal, but his touch let him down and the ball rolled tamely through to Honey. If we had taken advantage here against the extra man, maybe this would have resulted in a more comfortable position but Fuller was back on the field soon enough and the chance was gone.

The half ended with a couple of Epsom half chances. Eshilokun sent a dangerous looking free kick just wide after Edwards had been fouled nearly thirty yards out, and then Sirak Negassi sent a decent effort just wide from twenty yards with his weaker left foot. We had just about shaded the first half as the players went off for the break.

The second half got going under leaden skies which would eventually become a fairly solid downpour and we nearly had a second goal to celebrate only two minutes in when Thompson Adeyemi clipped a ball goalwards from twenty yards and it ended up only three inches past the post and into the side netting. However, the home side were on the attack soon after and Keogh did well to spread himself to block a shot over the bar.

We had another worry in the 53rd minute when Zach Powell, now Captain following the departure of Callum Wilson to Guildford City, fouled a Spelthorne player. It was hard to tell if it was inside the area or not, but either way we were spared by the sight of the Assistant’s flag going up for offside and the danger was over.

Bearing in mind that the referee had already made it clear he wouldn’t stand for any dissent, it was incredibly hard to believe that anyone would take the risk again, yet in the 54th minute Daniel Watts for the home side and then Eshilokun for us in the 59th both found themselves in the sinbin too after taking issue with decisions that hadn’t gone their way. Both had a very strong case for a free kick, but we need to learn not to say anything to an official, particularly when they have already sent someone for a ten minute rest previously!

It nearly cost us when a left wing cross from the home side was headed goalwards, but Keogh was there to tip the ball over for a corner. From the corner a delivery clearly hit the hand of one of our players, but the referee wasn’t interested in the subsequent penalty shout, despite the rather desperate pleas of the bench some forty yards away from the incident!

As the game reached the closing stages, it certainly was to our advantage to break the game up and Adeyemi picked up a yellow card for delaying a free kick, but when a card was really deserved, after a late lunge on Ethan Nelson-Roberts, there was just a lecture given instead. We welcomed Luke Miller back into the side and he made his 50th appearance for our club, nearly two seasons after his 49th when he joined the action in the 77th minute, but by now we were more interested in hanging on to what we had, instead of attacking too much and Keogh was next to get a yellow card for delaying his goal kick. However, Keogh had already kicked the ball by the time the card was waved, and more time was actually wasted because the referee pulled the game back for a re-kick!

The home side continued to press for an equaliser, but they wouldn’t threaten again and in fact the final opportunity of the match went to Eshilokun who nearly caught Honey out from twenty yards with a chip, but although the keeper’s clearance wasn’t the best contact, it was good enough to keep the ball out.

The final whistle led to celebrations from the players and few supporters that had made the journey and there was an additional bonus as results elsewhere ensured that the win actually moved us off the bottom of the table for the first time in weeks. It may be optimistic to expect to get anything out of our next two matches against Farnham Town and Knaphill, but we were looking like being cut adrift two weeks ago and yet now we are back amongst the other teams with games in hand. We’re not done yet!

Epsom & Ewell: Harvey Keogh, Jabari Ofosu-Hernandez, Ethan Nelson-Roberts, Thompson Adeyemi, Zach Powell (c), Ollie Thompson, Sirak Negassi, Rory Edwards, Ade Batula, Tijani Eshilokun, Jaan Stanley

Subs: Tino Carpene for Negassi (61), Luke Miller for Batula (77), Nick Inwugwu for Edwards (92)

Report Source: www.eefconline.co.uk

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