First win of the year for Epsom & Ewell FC
Camberley Town 1-2 Epsom & Ewell FC. Combined Counties League – Premier Division. Saturday 17th February 2024
After seven successive defeats we finally opened our account for 2024 with an extremely important 2-1 victory at Krooner Park over our old friends Camberley Town. It was our first win over our opponents in ten matches and our first in Camberley since a 2-0 win there back in 2013. Over the ninety minutes we deserved it too, with Ethan Nelson-Roberts claiming the highlights with both goals, although several players produced great performances.
In the absence of Warren Burton, Gwynne Berry took charge in the dugout and we made three changes from our defeat against Farnham Town with the injured Carl Oblitey and the unwell Toby Colwell both being unable to take part with Mekhi Savage dropping to the bench. In their places came Thompson Adeyemi and Sirak Negassi, while in goal we had Faebian Witter who had joined us from Carshalton Athletic. This meant that we were starting our fourth different goal keeper in our last four matches. For those who like their stats, this has only happened five times previously, although it did happen recently, when in January 2023 we had five different keepers in a four game span, due to a harsh sending off that left Nick Wilson between the posts at Hailsham Town!
It wasn’t that long ago that we met Camberley Town at the Madgwick, where we started brightly but fell away badly to lose 5-0. While the margin of victory in this match was nowhere near as emphatic, the story was a similar one, except it was our opponents that started better with our boys that finishing the stronger of the teams this time.
Witter found himself having to tip over an early strike from Kingsley Anokye and he also made another good low block at the near post on the quarter hour mark. In response Negassi was causing a bit of trouble on the right wing originally, but switched wings with Nelson-Roberts around the 22 minute mark. He was unfortunate to see the ball bobble on him just as he was shooting, and also put another chance wide from an angle when he probably should have delivered the ball into the box and. It was easy to wonder if this would cost us when the home side took the lead shortly afterwards. With the clock showing the 35th minute we were caught out by an enormous throw from Tom Wensley that was headed past Witter from close range by Regan Hitch. It was a colossal throw in and I’m not sure if I have seen a larger throw, but he had delivered an earlier one on a similar scale, so we probably should have been aware and better prepared for this.
The fightback began almost immediately. Rory Edwards sent a shot just beyond the far post from twenty yards only moments after the goal before we started to build some good pressure. In the 44th minute Tijani Eshilokun was taken out over on the far touchline by Cavan Atkinson and whilst I was surprised that a yellow card was not awarded, we got our revenge in a different way. Adam Green’s deep free kick was contested for by two Camberley players who both got a touch to the ball. Reece Tierney and Ethan Nelson-Roberts were on the end of the ball with the ball brushing the latter’s right leg as it crossed the line for our 45th minute equaliser. Some people felt there was a foul on the keeper, but having seen the video back, my original view that there wasn’t enough contact to cancel it out remained unchanged. More importantly, the referee agreed!
Going up the hill in the second half is often difficult against Camberley, who it should be remembered, had the better of a goalless draw with Knaphill just four days previously and had a fairly decent home record. However, we had wrestled away the momentum and the second half would prove to be a really good one to watch if you were an Epsom supporter.
Edwards was on target from twenty yards in the opening minute and whilst it was a fairly easy save for Owen Crawford, it had come from a good move and was a good start. Next to feature was our full back Jerry Antwi who beat the offside trap on the left after good work from Eshilokun and Negassi before slotting the ball back to Adeyemi who teed it up for Negassi to strike, forcing Crawford into a good low save from twelve yards in the 54th minute. However, we weren’t to be denied and a minute later we had our lead. Negassi controlled a crossfield pass with a killer touch on the left, before continuing to run at goal before pulling the ball back for Eshilokun to strike from 15 yards. His shot wasn’t the greatest, but it would end up counting as an assist as the ball was scuffed almost sideways and straight into the path of Nelson-Roberts who forced the loose ball in just ahead of a defender from about three yards.
For a few minutes the pattern of the game changed as we had our first lead. We either chose to sit back a little, or were pushed back as the hosts suddenly realised that they needed to “up” things a little. We had to clear the ball away from under the bar before Witter was alert to make a decent save on the hour. We also had a scare when Witter chose to clear a back pass first time and clubbed the ball straight at a home forward, but fortunately the player was unable to control it and we escaped.
We had another great chance in the 74th minute when a Green corner was met by the head of an unmarked Tierney, but the delivery required a solid thumping header and his contact wasn’t the greatest and the ball went across goal. Tierney was soon in action at the other end as Macauley Martin ran at him, cutting back onto his right, but he went for power from about 18 yards and was well off target, dragging the shot wide of the near post.
Gradually the home side began to run out of ideas against a defence that was holding up well. Our game management was much better and even the Wensley howitzers were being dealt with by our defenders with Tierney in particular heading a few away during the second half. The game concluded in a fairly comfortable win by the end, albeit with one final funny incident just outside the Camberley penalty area, where Brad Passfield and Cavan Atkinson got involved in a spot of handbags with Eshilokun, only for the referee to bring all three players together and tell them to “grow up”!
Following the match I heard some people refer to the fact that one of our reasons for winning was that we were fitter than we had been. We certainly looked the stronger of the two teams today, particularly in the second period, but must remember it is not that long since we lost three games in a row in the closing moments, so I think there was another reason that was more relevant. I know it is a bit of a cliché, but I felt we simply wanted it more than our opponents, who had won so easily in January and thought this would be a comfortable win, particularly after conceding the opening goal. This time though, we fought back and it was good to see that for the first time in a while. Tougher challenges await us, but for now this is one of those occasions where you just have to focus on enjoying the win, as it’s been a while!
Epsom & Ewell: Faebian Witter, Ethan Brazier, Jerry Antwi, Adam Green, Reece Tierney, Nick Wilson (c), Sirak Negassi, Rory Edwards, Thompson Adeyemi, Tijani Eshilokun, Ethan Nelson-Roberts
Subs: Luke Miller for Negassi (82), Mekhi Savage for Nelson-Roberts
Report Source: www.eefconline.co.uk