Outwitted by Sidcup’s set pieces

Sidcup out of a scrum against Sutton and Epsom RFC

Sidcup 45 Sutton & Epsom RFC 22. Saturday 17th February.

Sutton & Epsom RFC first played at Crescent Farm in February 1898 and it is a delight to record that
modern times have not hindered this historic rivalry as the clubs met for the 21st time in the
league era on Saturday afternoon. Earlier in the campaign the teams met at Rugby Lane with both
clubs apologetically at the bottom of the table with a solitary success each. Sutton & Epsom came
from behind to take the honours on that day. Since that November day the season has improved
considerably for both clubs with the hosts arriving on the back of five straight wins. Sidcup’s
successful streak continued as they comprehensively and deservedly defeated S&E 45-22.

Sutton & Epsom were forced into four changes from the side that beat Gravesend with the back
division incurring most of the disruption with three absentees but with the advantage of hindsight
the loss of the Black & Whites’ hooker probably had greater significance on the events that were to
unfold. Captain Bunting started proceedings as the sides sparred in search of any early defensive
frailties. The teams recycled the ball quickly, defences closed rapidly and kickers looked for open
spaces and the status quo was maintained. A looping run from Sutton 10 Tom Lennard initiated
the first genuine chance in the 22 but solid defensive tackling saw the ball go forward a few
phases later. In contrast from a scrum on halfway Sidcup scored from their first sortie. The ball
went wide and an overlap was created on the flank and Louis Keeley finished with aplomb despite
a valiant effort from the diving Matt Symonds. The conversion fell short but the hosts led 5-0.

Sutton & Epsom’s next chance to score was manufactured by a magnificent touchline clearance from
Gareth O’Brien, being a yard or two from touch he magically threaded the ball 50 metres down the
line. Though denied a stunning 50/22 the slavering chasers forced a penalty and Freddy Bunting
happily accepted the points on offer for S&E to trail 3-5. As ever restarts are crucial and scrappy
play saw the Black & Whites suddenly 5 metres from their own line with a scrum. Matt Whitaker
carried well from a retreating pack giving Tom Lennard time to clear. Relief was temporary and
punishment severe. Moments later Louis Keeley was collecting his and Sidcup’s second try. On this
occasion the winger left a less challenging conversion that was gratefully accepted by Tom Shea.
The Crescent Farm fans warmly applauded the 12-3 lead with the first quarter nearly complete.
It had become apparent that the excellent Sidcup pack had the upper hand in the set
scrum. In addition Sutton were struggling with their lineout ball. Additionally and unexpectedly
Freddy Bunting missed a chance to narrow the deficit as he slipped slightly on the muddy surface
attempting another penalty. Then the visitors were further hampered as fullback Gareth O’Brien
departed with an injured knee to be replaced by Ciaran Mohr. Once more it was a marvellous kick,
this time a 50/22 by Tom Lennard that put the visitors in the opposition 22. S&E pressed for a
score and were brought back for a penalty. Declining the easy three points they took the tap and
Matt Whitaker celebrated his birthday with a try on the ground where he had previously recorded
his 100th league try. Freddy Bunting added the extras and Sutton trailed 10-12 on the half hour.

Sutton & Epsom won a penalty at the restart as optimism rose amongst the ranks of the travelling
support. Seconds later they were relieved that play was brought back for a knock on as Sidcup had
intercepted and a certain try from 70 metres was denied. With half-time approaching Alex Mount
received a yellow card. Not only was the Sutton scrum under pressure their front row had incurred
the wrath of the referee over the technical issue of the scrums engaging. The result was a ten-
minute breather for Mount for the accumulated offences. Reduced to 14 Sidcup had a wonderful
opportunity to make the scoreboard reflect their pack’s dominance. The 14 men from Rugby Lane
appeared to have navigated the choppy seas to the safe waters of half-time harbour but the Kent
men scored with the final play of the half. Taking the ball blind from deep the ball-carrier stepped
out of a low tackle and an overlap opportunity developed from halfway. With clinical efficiency
fullback Dan Masters strode home and Tom Shea’s conversion was met by the whistle that
concluded the first period. The 19-10 interval lead was a fair reflection of superiority that Sidcup
enjoyed in the key areas of the lineout and scrum that had provided the vital possession.

The second half began with the Black & Whites still numerically hampered and before
anyone could debate if they could survive without further addition to the scoreboard Sidcup had
their third try. Outside centre George Bird breezing through the defence to notch up their bonus
point try which was effortlessly converted by Tom Shea for 26-10. Sutton showed their defiance a
minute later. From a ruck on the 22 Matt Whitaker opted for the most direct route and found clear
water before he evaded the last couple of defenders to score his second try. Freddy Bunting added
the conversion and with that kick recorded his 200th point of the league campaign. Sutton &
Epsom trailed 17-26 and hope lingered on.

It was Sidcup’s turn to pin Sutton & Epsom back with a 50/22. Though S&E were now back to their
full compliment the hosts immediately created a chance and how on earth they did not score will
remain a mystery to all who were present. The Black & Whites cleared their lines from a 5-metre
scrum but it was a temporary stay of execution. In contrast to the recently butchered offering
Connor McDonald excelled with a wonderful solo effort weaving his way to the line. Though the
conversion faltered with the score at 31-17 it was threatening to become a long afternoon for the
visitors. That threat became a reality five minutes later. Forced back into their 22 the visitors
conceded a penalty. The hosts opted for a scrum then ran wide and Connor McDonald had the ball
again, with the defence desperately trying to cover men outside, he ghosted in for his second
score. Tom Shea added to his account and Sidcup extended their lead to 38-17.

With 15 minutes remaining Sutton needed to carry the game to Sidcup and attempt to get
something from the fixture. A fine kick return by Angus Findlay ably supported by replacements
Callum Gibson and Dan Jones got S&E into the 22. There followed a Sutton try that owed more to
Heath Robinson than Christopher Wren. From a central position Tom Lennard chipped ahead and
the ball was not secured by the defence in the ensuing chaos the ball ended up in the right hand
corner where Freddy Bunting was on hand for his first try of the season. Sutton & Epsom now had
a very attainable target, the fourth try and a valuable bonus point, despite trailing 22-38.

Sutton suffered the immediate handicap of Callum Gibson becoming the second member of
the front row union to get a yellow card through accumulated indiscretions. Sidcup went for the
jugular only to be denied by Alex Mount’s tackle under the posts forcing a spillage. The award of a
5-metre scrummage under their own posts was a mixed blessing for the Surrey men. The pack
was shunted back, the posts were waving dramatically and Number 8 Nick Jansen touched down
for a magnificent seventh Sidcup try. Tom Shea added the easiest of conversions for his tenth
point of the afternoon as his side led 45-22.

The contest was over but there began the game within the game as Sutton went in search
of their bonus point. First of all Matt Whitaker stormed to the halfway but to no avail. Then a
wonderful run down the wing by Angus Findlay ended as he failed to get his pass to Ellis Rudder
who was in support. The veteran Whitaker again went on the rampage and threw in a kick ahead
for good measure. A penalty was kicked into the corner and the 5-metre lineout was lost. Then on
the final play of the game Ellis Rudder broke clear in the 22 and passed to Matt Symonds. The
rapturous cheers of the Sutton supporters turned to groans as the referee whistled for a forward
pass. The game ended with Sidcup the clear winner by 45-22.

If there was a Man of the Match Award it should have gone to the Sidcup pack as they
were magnificent to a man. The domination of the scrum, lineout and giving their backs front-foot
ball was the telling factor in this game. Sutton & Epsom will regroup with a weekend off from the
cut and thrust of league action before the visit of London Cornish on 2 nd March to Rugby Lane. For
those wishing to attend please note that it will be a 3pm kick off.

Sutton & Epsom: Gareth O’Brien, Angus Findlay, Ellis Rudder, Freddy Bunting ©, Matt Symonds,
Tom Lennard, Joe Lovatt, Tariq Al Khaldi, Alex Mount, Tom Boaden, Josh Glanville, Ewan
McTaggart, George London, Rob Hegarty & Matt Whitaker.
Replacements: Callum Gibson, Dan Jones & Ciaran Mohr.

Sidcup: Dan Masters; Connor McDonald, George Bird, Sam Leek, Louis Keeley, Tom Shea, Simon
Vincent, Teddy Gibbons, Jonathan Fordham, Sam Carmen, Ben Stock, Steven Evans, Fred Ruff,
Billy Williams & Nicholas Jansen.
Replacements: Harry Large, Tom Epps & Alex Ure.

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

Salts defeated in presence of legend

AFC Croydon Athletic 5-2 Epsom & EwellFC. Combined Counties League – Premier Division. Saturday 10th February.

Despite scoring seven times in matches against AFC Croydon Athletic this season, we only have three defeats to show for our efforts and without sounding like a broken record, I felt we have been unlucky in all three of them! In this match, and despite the introduction of four new debutants, we gave as good as we got, only to be punished by some clinical finishing that gave the scoreline of 5-2 a hugely flattering look.

Fortunately, from a personal point of view, the disappointment on the field was eased by the presence behind the goal of our Club legend and record goal scorer Tommy Tuite, who scored the huge total of 391 goals for our club between 1973 and 1987. How we could do with that sort of loyalty and production right now. His attendance enabled us to talk about the good old days when we were one of the better teams in Surrey and had a ground with a welcoming atmosphere. Those days are sadly gone for now at least.

Our four new starters were Conor Beattie, Alex Green and Mekhi Savage, whose father Reggie would also make his debut later on. However, any chance of us having a father and son combination on the pitch for what would be only the second time in club history would have to wait until next week, as one replaced the other! Some of you may not be aware that a large number of players have departed in the last week, hence the replacements, although it was interesting to note that the opposition Manager stated in the match programme that we had let some players go, which couldn’t be further from the truth!

Either way though, the new Management Team were going to have to add some players and Savage and Green look like being useful additions to the squad, while we may have to wait a little longer to analyse Beattie’s performance as he injured himself very early in the second half and was unable to continue.

Despite the bare facts that showed AFC Croydon Athletic had won their last four League matches while we had lost our last four, we started confidently and had the early share of possession. Until the fifth minute that is, when Oalekan Osideko broke away on the right and drilled a shot low at goal. Beattie was down to make the save but could only parry it back into the danger area where the Croydon goal machine Louis Theophanous was waiting to drill the shot past our by now horizontal keeper from a few yards out. It didn’t seem to dent confidence too much though and Savage Junior struck low from twenty yards, requiring Toby Fisher to turn the shot wide. From the corner Thompson Adeyemi was there first, but was unable to keep the header down.

The home side headed another good chance over, although the offside flag would have cancelled any goal out, and we were back on the attack soon after. Carl Oblitey, playing against one of his former clubs, nearly scored when he was denied by a good block, with the loose ball being sent back in with interest by Green who saw the ball deflected wide. Oblitey then headed just over from the resultant corner. However, fortune was not going to be on our side today and on the half hour mark Osideko’s shot was well saved by Beattie, only for the rebound to strike the incoming Nick Wilson, who was only able to clear the ball once it had gone over our goal line. A really unlucky way to concede, although we scored twice last season in similar circumstances. Swings and roundabouts!

Again though we responded well to the set back and within a minute we had a goal back. Ethan Nelson-Roberts fired the ball towards goal, only for his somewhat wayward strike to reach Oblitey, who controlled the ball on the edge of the area and drilled the ball low into Fisher’s right hand corner. Savage then produced a good run, only for the final product to be straight at Fisher. As we went in at the half, we were very unfortunate to be 2-1 down.

The half had been in progress for a few seconds when Beattie came out to clear a long ball, but missed his kick and injured his leg in the process, requiring his replacement. Toby Colwell came on and the game continued in a similar style with Green next to have a try after some good pressure, only for his shot to go just beyond the far post from an angle. In response, the hosts struck the bar with a powerful shot from an angle, but we were asking as many of the questions, if not more than our opponents and Sirak Negassi made a good run, only to be fouled just outside the area. Regrettably though, the free kick was cleared and on the break it took two simple passes to cut our whole team out and leave Andre Coker the easiest of tap ins at the far post in the 68th minute.

With that two goal lead the home team began to grow in confidence and seven minutes later they extended their lead with a fantastic strike from Theophanous who volleyed the ball in from thirty yards with Colwell completely unable to do anything about it. Things got worse as it became 5-1 in the final minute of normal time as Theophanous drilled the ball low past Colwell from the edge of the area.

We had time to pull a goal back when substitute Rory Edwards made a good run on the right and his early low cross was guided past Fisher from six yards by Nelson-Roberts in the 94th minute, but it was barely a consolation and the final whistle blew a few minutes later with the home side victorious by five goals to two.

It wasn’t all bad though; there were glimmers of hope as we performed fairly well against one of the form teams in the League who will surely make the playoffs if they continue to stay fit and healthy, in particular their striker Theophanous who was almost unstoppable. We have brought in some new players, but no defenders yet, and it is fair to say that we are going to need to strengthen in that area if we are to avoid further defeats, even if we manage to score more. Up front Oblitey looks a handful and if only we could have had a young Tuite playing alongside him, we could go into the next matches with more confidence, but up next is the Farnham juggernaut, chasing a world record, and that match looks rather daunting right now.

Epsom & Ewell: Conor Beattie, Ethan Brazier, Ethan Nelson-Roberts, Adam Green, Reece Tierney, Nick Wilson (c), Mekhi Savage, Thompson Adeyemi, Carl Oblitey, Tijani Eshilokun, Sirak Negassi

Subs: Toby Colwell for Beattie (50), Reggie Savage for M.Savage (75), Rory Edwards for Adeyemi (75), Ayran Kugathas for Negassi (83)

Report Source: www.eefconline.co.uk

LibDems call “Love All” for local tennis

Players shaking hands after tennis match

With charges pending for using Epsom and Ewell Borough Council tennis courts the local LibDems ask for free sport for low income players.

In a bid to bolster recreational opportunities and promote an active lifestyle within the community, Epsom & Ewell Borough Council has joined forces with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to revitalize public tennis courts across the borough.

The LTA has pledged £26,650 towards the refurbishment of a dozen tennis courts spread across key recreational areas including Auriol Park, Alexandra Recreation Ground, Court Recreation Ground, Gibraltar Recreation Ground and Poole Road Recreation Ground.

The initiative encompasses a comprehensive upgrade plan featuring state-of-the-art gate access technology, the implementation of a user-friendly online booking platform, and court enhancements geared towards ensuring top-tier facilities for local residents.

Beyond the infrastructural improvements, the partnership also promises an array of activities catered to all age groups and skill levels. Weekly complimentary tennis sessions, inclusive of equipment provision, will eliminate barriers to entry, fostering inclusivity and accessibility. Additionally, Local Tennis Leagues will host friendly competitions, promoting a sociable and active lifestyle within the community.

The Council will roll out a ‘pay as you play’ scheme across all tennis courts in the borough, slated for implementation in the coming year. The generated revenue will be reinvested to maintain and enhance the borough’s tennis infrastructure, ensuring its longevity for future generations.

Cllr John Beckett, (RA Auriol Ward) Chair of the Environment Committee, expressed enthusiasm over the collaboration, emphasizing its significance in bolstering community well-being and fostering a culture of physical activity. He lauded the forthcoming free coaching sessions as pivotal in diversifying tennis participation across socioeconomic backgrounds.

Julie Porter, Chief Operating Officer at the LTA, echoed Beckett’s sentiments, highlighting the project’s alignment with the UK Government and LTA’s Parks Tennis Project. She affirmed the commitment to providing enduring tennis facilities, thus broadening access to the sport.

In response to the impending introduction of charges for tennis court usage, Cllr James Lawrence, (LibDem College Ward) has launched a petition advocating for free access for disadvantaged groups. The petition proposes complimentary access for children during weekends and school holidays, as well as free usage for households receiving council tax support and other benefits.

The petition underscores the importance of preserving equitable access to public amenities, particularly for vulnerable segments of the population. As the council deliberates on the matter, stakeholders await a decision that balances fiscal responsibility with social inclusivity, ensuring that tennis remains an accessible pursuit for all within the community.

Related reports:

Anyone for tennis? If you pay.

Tennis at 95 is the norm.

Epsom dig deep to beat Gravesend

Rugby action Epsom against Gravesend

Sutton & Epsom RFC 21 Gravesend 19. Saturday 3rd February.

It has reached the business end of the campaign and for all clubs a studious look at the table and
the remaining fixtures will determine their aspirations. For Sutton & Epsom and Gravesend it was a
fixture that would relieve relegation fears for the victor but increase anxiety for the defeated.
When the clubs met earlier this season on the Rectory Field it was a match rather ruined by the
referee’s penchant for puritanical pedantry as the crowd endured an endless stream of penalties.
Gravesend triumphed 36-29 with their clinical lineout securing multiple tries. On Saturday, with
great credit to referee Kasey Allen, those present enjoyed a rousing contest unimpeded by the
whistle as the Black & Whites secured their first win after a quartet of losses.

On a cloudy but mild afternoon on an excellent surface Gravesend kicked off playing towards the
clubhouse. The temptation to watch England play Italy was too great for many and a rather
Spartan gathering assembled. As England’s plight increased so did the crowd watching the local
contest. The opening five minutes of high tempo rugby with both sides attacking with gusto set
the tone before the first scrummage interrupted the entertainment. The backs probed, the
defences demonstrated thunderous tackling and the kickers sparred for territorial advantage. If
Sutton were not wary of the Gravesend pack before the start they had an unpleasant reminder on
the quarter hour mark. A penalty was conceded and the ball kicked into the corner. The lineout
ball was taken cleaning. The initial surge was halted but slickly the ball was spun to the blindside
where Brendan Kelly was in splendid isolation and had the easiest task to score in the corner.
Fortune favoured S&E as Josh Smith’s finely struck conversion came back off the upright.
Gravesend led 5-0 with Sutton left to ponder discipline and penalty counts.

Any anxiety in the ranks of the Sutton supporters was instantly assuaged. The visitors cleared the
restart but Gareth O’Brien and Ellis Rudder combined to run it back into the Gravesend 22 to win a
penalty. It was the hosts’ turn to kick into the corner for the attacking lineout. The first assault
saw Freddie Bunting close to glory but an earlier infringement meant the home team had a second
chance. As it has been for over a decade the go-to man was Matt Whitaker and he delivered.
Perhaps conscious of his veteran status he arrived clean-shaven this week, though it only took
days off his appearance it had not diminished his strength and footwork near the line as he
powered over. Freddy Bunting’s conversion put Sutton & Epsom ahead 7-5.

It was now that Gravesend winger Andrew Cooke entered the fray. His first run was rather lateral
but evaded too many defenders before the ball was marshalled into touch. That was merely an
appetiser to his next contribution. He gathered a clearance in his 22 in the middle of the pitch and
ran the ball straight back into the Sutton 22 before being denied a sensational try. Perhaps it
needed that fright to ignite the hosts. S&E now put together their best phases of the match as
forwards and backs in unison swept down the pitch recycling the ball at pace. The attack ended
with a penalty for a high tackle. Yet again the crowd waited to see if a 5-metre lineout would be
converted into points. Once more with clinical efficiency the forwards controlled the ball and
advanced to the line for lock Josh Glanville to score. Captain Bunting bisected the uprights to
extend Sutton’s advantage to 14-5.

The remainder of the first period was played out without further addition to the scoreboard. The
indication of the first half was that this match was evenly poised with Gravesend not only
dangerous through their powerful pack but carrying significantly more attacking threat in their
back division than was seen in the October meeting. For S&E the lineout was functioning superbly,
the set scrum had manfully met the challenge and they were playing with pace and precision. The
sides turned around with all to play for with Sutton holding the upper hand 14-5.

The Rugby Lane crowd nearly had the perfect start to the second half. Centre Lawrence Elliott
went from the sublime to the ridiculous. He picked the perfect angle to break the line and strode
purposefully into the Gravesend 22 with a try looking probable he then threw out a pass that could generously be described as unforgiving as the bemused winger, Ellis Rudder, watched the ball
speed towards the advertising hoardings. Though Sutton stole the lineout ball they could not
manufacture another opening. Soon the Rugby Lane XV was to be on the defensive. A penalty in
the Black & White 22 saw the visitors opt for a scrummage and as they went wide a kick through
rolled against the corner flag as Sutton scrambled in defence. This started a period of relentless
pressure. The hosts did not aid their cause by failing to find touch with a clearance. The Kent men
were now playing their best rugby and it seemed to be a question of when rather than if they
would score.

However, it was now that possibly the key factor of the fixture was becoming evident. The Sutton
defence was obdurate in the extreme, to a man they tackled tenaciously and got on their feet
eager to put in another hit. Almost miraculously the line held as Gravesend were frustrated time
and again as they were held up over the line. Eventually the visitors scored and it took exceptional
work from winger Matthew Brady twisting and turning to score in the corner with multiple tacklers
in attendance. Josh Smith converted exquisitely from the touchline as they made it a two-point
deficit, 12-14. Significantly it had taken ten minutes of siege warfare for the try which must have
emboldened the resolve of the hosts whilst equally left the visitors asking what do we need to do
to score. From the restart Gravesend were hampered by a yellow card as an instinctive
outstretched arm, with no malice intended, caught Kyren Ghumra’s head. The winger had to be
replaced by Matt Symonds but Sutton had ten minutes to play against 14 men.

Reacting to the numerical superiority with great urgency the home team went in search of points
to extend their lead beyond a solitary score. Soon they were given an opportunity. Despite being
awarded a penalty very much within the capabilities of the prolific Bunting boot the captain chose
to go for the corner. His bravery was rewarded as the lineout was secured and the pack advanced
to the line for Chris Farrell to score. The vital conversion was added by Freddy Bunting and the 21-
12 lead meant that Gravesend would have to score twice in the final quarter of an hour.

If Sutton had been under siege before their third try they now endured an all out assault from
Gravesend. It was the type of rugby that has every spectator on the edge of their seat living every
carry and every tackle. The previous fortitude had transformed to cussed resilience and was on the
way to heroic defence. Gravesend opted for scrums but the Sutton pack refused to yield. When
the ball went wide the visiting backs opted for solo glory rather than swift passing and were met
by scything tackles. The longer the line held the more desperate were the attacks. If the Kent men
picked the wrong options to their great credit they did not offer up the knock-ons or penalties to
assist the Sutton cause. Eventually centre Chris Brady crossed the whitewash and Josh Smith
made it a two-point game once more as Sutton led 21-19. Crucially Sutton had eaten away
significantly at the clock and only a couple of minutes were left.

It was now a test of game management and S&E controlled possession with admirable skill
advance to the 22. On the attack they put through a speculative kick to the try line. Though it did
not result in a score and gave Gravesend the ball it left the visitors with the Herculean labour of
scoring from the length of the pitch. Moments later the final whistle blew and Sutton had won a
victory of great significance. The manner of the success built on passion, team spirit and
determination should hold them in great stead for the remainder of the campaign. For Gravesend
they earned a bonus point but they put in a performance vastly superior to the earlier encounter
and they certainly have all the assets required to navigate their way to safety.

There is no game next Saturday but the league continues on 17 th February with a trip to Crescent
Farm to play the improving Sidcup who like S&E are on 38 points in the league but a place higher
on points’ difference.

Sutton & Epsom: Gareth O’Brien, Kyren Ghumra, Lawrence Elliott, Freddy Bunting ©, Ellis
Rudder, Tom Lennard, Steve Munford, Alex Mount, Chris Farrell, Callum Gibson, Josh Glanville,
Ewan McTaggart, George London, Rob Hegarty & Matt Whitaker.
Replacements: Tom Boaden, Tariq Al Khaldi & Matt Symonds.

Gravesend: Jamie Fautley, Andrew Cooke, Chris Brady, Josh Smith, Matt Brady, George Bruce,
Ben Kite, Brendan Kelly, Terry Papworth, Jamie Forsythe, Tom Bird, Harry Brooker, Matt Hewitt,
Samraj Chahal & Connor Murphy.
Replacements: Stan Dadson, Ben Reeve & Harvey Dean

Image – Robin Kennedy

Twice led, thrice beaten….

Sheerwater 4-3 Epsom & Ewell FC. Combined Counties League – Premier Division. Saturday 3rd February.

One of the most concerning afternoons in recent club history took place on Saturday as we made our very first visit to Sheerwater’s Eastwood Leisure Centre for a massive League match between the two clubs. Yet, despite the importance of the fixture, we led twice and threw the game away in the final minutes, marking the third match in a row where we have now done this as the home side claimed a 4-3 victory to record their fifth straight win against us.

For the three previous match reports between 16th and 30 January 2024 CLICK here for reports brought to us by Nathan Lambert.

We went into the match with news breaking over the previous 24 hours that we had lost regular players Jaan Stanley and Ollie Thompson who had decided to move on and I found out during the afternoon that over the last week we had also lost George Owusu, Ade Batula and Tommy Williams too. The club hasn’t bothered to advise its supporters of any of these departures, or even acknowledge their contributions, leaving long suffering fans to figure things out for themselves; not for the first time as secrecy and paranoia continue to reign at our club. One glance at the FA Full Time site was enough to tell me that we have had no new registered players joining the club since Steve Springett resigned and we took the field with just four substitutes named for this hugely important contest.

In terms of personnel Harvey Keogh came back in for Toby Colwell who was one of the four subs, but this was the only change to the line up from our narrow loss to Jersey Bulls four days earlier.

Despite the backdrop to this match, we actually started very well. There were only 91 seconds on the clock when a good move down the left was laid back for Ethan Nelson-Roberts to deliver the ball into the danger area where Carl Oblitey stretched to guide the ball past Joe Hill from close range in the Sheerwater goal. This was a terrific way to start and whilst Louis McGrave headed over unmarked from a corner soon after our goal, the home threat would prove to be fairly limited in the final third in this opening period.

Oblitey was causing problems and it looks like Springett’s final signing will be pivotal to our plight if we are to stay up. He had another chance in the seventh minute after Tijani Eshilokun intercepted a poor defensive pass and set him up, only for our striker to snatch at the ball, puling it wide from just inside the area when he had more time than he realised.

The home side had as much possession in the first half as we did and around the twenty minute mark they sent two balls fizzing straight across our six yard area in opposite directions with no one there to get the vital touch, but we looked likely to increase our lead whenever we went forward and a Nick Wilson free kick was parried by Hill with Nick Inwugwu just millimetres away from getting a touch to the ball first. Oblitey then struck wide from another Eshilokun pass before we extended our lead in the 40th minute. Luke Miller did well down the right and sent in a deep cross that had Hill scrambling. He just managed to reach the ball to claw it away, but only as far as Oblitey and although his chance was blocked, the loose ball reached Lewis Pearch who scooped the ball over the line, off a defender’s leg and up into the roof of the net from inside the six yard box. There were shouts for handball from the home side, but I didn’t see one, although handballs would go on to play an enormous part in the second half story.

But at the half we went in, fully deserving of the two goal lead and unaware of the disastrous second half that would follow. The hosts clearly changed things and Michael Milne and George Sellick began to cause us real difficulty. An early strike from distance wasn’t an issue for Keogh, but a low shot from the right wing caused him to make a good block at the near post, only for the loose ball to be struck against the arm of Reece Tierney with a penalty being awarded. Milne tucked away the penalty in the 51st minute and the home side were on the board.

Tierney was the man penalised for the penalty against Jersey Bulls four days previously, but this one, although it did hit him on the arm, looked a bit harsh and it’s not clear exactly how we could have been expected to get out of the way. Having now seen a video of the incident, I don’t believe that the arm was in an unnatural position either. Either way though it was now 2-1, but not for long as a low shot in came back off our far post and as it rebounded back into play Frazier Osunkoya reacted first to knock the ball into the net from around six yards. This happened in the 53rd minute and our two goal lead had suddenly evaporated into thin air.

We responded to the setback fairly well though and Oblitey set Pearch up for a low shot that was kept out by the feet of Hill before we went ahead again on the hour mark after Miller’s cross was blocked by an arm and Wilson stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way from the spot. It was another one of those decisions where in the old days the appeal would have been rejected as it was clearly ball to hand, but with these new interpretations, I don’t believe anyone is completely sure of what actually constitutes a handball any more. All you could say I suppose is that the referee was consistent in his approach to both penalties and we were 3-2 up again.

Despite being given this lifeline though, we started to be pushed back with Sellick in particular giving our defenders a very difficult examination and asking the question about why he was causing so much trouble after being fairly anonymous in the opening forty-five. However, Keogh was alert to block his low shot before Sellick got through again, winning a corner after a defender got across to block his shot. A free kick was then headed over from one of his crosses while we picked up three yellow cards, one of which for Wilson, saw the home player flying up in the air as a result. Maybe it looked worse than it was, but this is the fourth match in a row with a yellow card for our Captain and he is better than that.

Sellick drilled a shot across goal before delivering another ball deep to the far post which was headed back into the danger area, only for another handball to be given against Tierney. Again, this looked harsh, but Milne put the spot kick to Keogh’s right for the second time in the match and it was 3-3.

In response, Ethan Nelson-Roberts benefitted from a good “no-look” pass from Pearch but chose to shoot from an angle with Miller waiting in the middle and Hill parried the ball to safety, but for the third match in a row we conceded in the closing seconds after Milne wasn’t closed down and his shot from around the edge of the area crept into the corner in the 91st minute to complete his hat trick and give Sheerwater a 4-3 lead that they wouldn’t have time to relinquish.

There was still time for Milne to fall to the ground in the middle of the field, whereupon he picked up a second yellow card for apparent simulation. It was a bizarre decision from a referee who had become a little too trigger happy and incensed the home side to the extent that one of their Management was shown a red card in the “discussions” that followed the final whistle. We were no angels either as the referee was also pursued at the final whistle by our Vice-Chairman Barry Gartell, claiming vociferously that the referee didn’t understand the handball law. He may well have had a point, although I’m aware that the guidelines are often changing in this respect, but it wasn’t a very good look for our club.

Our new Management team now have some significant work to do in bringing in some new players ahead of a brutal run of fixtures coming up throughout the month of February, but the manner of this defeat will also need to be questioned, along with our game Management ability as this is now three points dropped in the last three matches that may well prove costly in a relegation battle that Sheerwater showed more likelihood of escaping than we do right now.

Epsom & Ewell: Harvey Keogh, Ethan Brazier, Ethan Nelson-Roberts, Nick Inwugwu, Reece Tierney, Nick Wilson (c), Luke Miller, Thompson Adeyemi, Carl Oblitey, Tijani Eshilokun, Lewis Pearch

Subs: Sirak Negassi for Pearch (88)

Report Source: www.eefconline.co.uk

Three January match reports for Epsom and Ewell FC

Between 16th and 30th January Nathan Lambert took up the Epsom and Ewell FC match reporting responsibilities of his father Richard. Here are his three reports for your pleasure and the archives. Well done Nathan. Good job.

Epsom & Ewell 2-4 Virginia Water. Southern Combination Cup – Second Round. Tuesday 16th January 2024. Report Source: www.eefconline.co.uk. Reporter: Nathan Lambert

Salts frozen out by Water

On a cold evening at the Reg Madgwick stadium in Cobham, Virginia Water visited us for a Southern Combination Cup tie. The match started off well with a few good chances for both teams as in the sixth minute, Lewis Pearch was set free down the left wing and his ball into the box was headed narrowly wide by Jaan Stanley. From the resulting goal kick, Water went down the other end and put a shot from 15 yards high and wide to the right.

A few minutes later, Thompson Adeyemi ran through the opposition defence and squared a ball across for the shot to be lashed narrowly over the bar from just outside the box. Once again Virginia Water went up the other end and put a ball across the face of the goal from the left-hand side that no one could capitalize on.

After 20 minutes, both sides had decent chances and both could have scored, but it was us that took the lead in the 25th minute when a deep ball from defence found Luke Miller who got in behind the defence through the use of a nice one-two with Tijani Eshilokun. Miller finished this chance off with a great finish at the near post.

It was all downhill from here unfortunately with not much happening between this point and half time, apart from us conceding in the 44th minute with Brandon Jackson who scored for the visitors with a clinical finish into the bottom right corner.

At half time we seemed to be worth the draw but that would not stay the same into the second half as in the 52nd minute, a ball across from the left was poked into the net by Casey Boccaro from about 12 yards out. A few minutes later we made a double substitution to try and switch things up. We brought Carl Oblitey and Sirak Negassi on for Jaan Stanley and Lewis Pearch.

Debutant Oblitey, with an almost instant impact, was put through on goal by Rory Edwards after he ran through a couple of defenders and put his shot just over the bar. However soon after this we went out of the match entirely, conceding soon after from a free kick which was originally saved, but the rebound was tapped in from close range in the 72nd minute.

Ten minutes later a great back-post ball from the right wing was finished back across the goal into the far bottom corner and the visitors did not let off the pressure having two more goals ruled out for offside where balls in behind were slightly mistimed. This was not the end of the action however as substitute Sirak Negassi found himself in possession of the ball after a sliced defensive clearance to curl the ball over the keeper into the top right corner in the 90th minute.

In conclusion this was a fairly poor performance all round, as we were too open at the back, not holding the ball in midfield and we weren’t creative enough in the final third but, at the end of the day it was a cup match and our main focus has to be staying up in the league this year.

Epsom & Ewell: Harvey Keogh (c), Ethan Brazier, Tommy Williams, Rory Edwards, Reece Tierney, Nick Wilson, Luke Miller, Thompson Adeyemi, Tijani Eshilokun, Jaan Stanley, Lewis Pearch

Subs: Carl Oblitey for Pearch (63), Sirak Negassi for Stanley (63), Jerry Antwi for Williams (80)

Epsom & Ewell 1-2 Cobham. Combined Counties League – Premier Division. Friday 26th January 2024

Landlords leave it late on Friday night

Subsequent to this disappointing injury-time loss to Cobham, the threat of relegation looms large as we are six points beneath Guildford and only three ahead of Sheerwater and four ahead of Colliers Wood United. I certainly think that we need to have an improvement in form soon or we may well be headed back into step Six and possibly back to Sussex, which would be unfortunate after the work we put in to get promoted last season.

Toby Colwell came in for a rare match between the posts as Harvey Keogh was away for a few days and we started off strongly in the 4th minute where a ball in found its way to the back post where it was poked over the line following a goal-mouth scramble. Unfortunately, it was disallowed for a foul against the Cobham goalkeeper which was probably fair. Two minutes later we had another good chance after Nick Wilson found himself in some space on the edge of the box, but he drilled his shot wide.

The next piece of action at either end came in the 14th minute as Luke Miller received the ball just outside the box and put us ahead with a low, curling shot that was reached by the keeper, but not kept out. At this point I was thinking back to the last match we had played against Virginia Water, where we had gone 1-0 up fairly early with a Miller goal but had let it slip by conceding four from that point. However, this looked different as there was limited action for much of the remainder of the first half with a few saves at each end, most notably in the 34th, with a great low save by Toby Colwell that went out for a corner that led to nothing.

Three minutes later our new signing (as of last week) Carl Oblitey had a shot from roughly 20 yards that went slightly over the bar. It seemed like we were playing the better football as we were approaching half time with one Cobham chance in the 44th minute that flew over the bar from 15 yards.

At the half we probably deserved the lead. In the 51st minute, Cobham got a player through onto a one on one with our keeper that was well saved by Colwell with the follow up being blocked as well. Soon after we had a free kick that was crossed to the back post and headed narrowly wide.

Nothing much else happened for 15 minutes except for Cobham seeming to be more in control of possession. This however, would count for nothing if they couldn’t create chances whilst they had most of the momentum. Unfortunately for us, they did take advantage of this period of good play with a goal in the 75th minute where a shot from Reis Stanislaus found its way across goal to Ryan Marklew who bundled it in.

At this point I could tell that it would be a matter of “when” rather than “if” as we were losing focus, losing control and we couldn’t string many passes together. We tried to make a couple of substitutions to change our fortune, but Cobham piled on the pressure after a few quick restarts and got chance after chance.

A brilliant opportunity opened up for Ryan Holt in the 92nd minute as our defence didn’t close him down and he was able to get his shot off to swerve which led to a corner. The corner was only half cleared and this would cost us as the ball was returned to the back post where Marklew got himself his and Cobham’s second when they needed it most – three minutes over the normal time

Although there were another eight minutes after the goal for us to score in, it seemed that we were trying to punt the ball long and win the header to score but it didn’t work and the game finished 2-1. I felt we were unlucky to lose but it still leaves us in a bad position, particularly if results elsewhere go badly.

Epsom & Ewell: Toby Colwell, Tommy Williams, Ethan Nelson-Roberts, Nick Inwugwu, Reece Tierney, Nick Wilson (c), Luke Miller, Thompson Adeyemi, Carl Oblitey, Tijani Eshilokun, Lewis Pearch

Subs: Jaan Stanley for Oblitey (65), Sirak Negassi for Eshilokun (80), Ethan Brazier for Williams (87)

Epsom & Ewell 1-2 Jersey Bulls. Combined Counties League – Premier Division. Tuesday 30th January 2024

A late loss, again

Our fifth home match in a row provided us with a fourth consecutive loss on Tuesday as we lost in the final minutes against Jersey Bulls. Although it was a narrow loss and late in the match it still leaves us without a point for 2024 so far; form that can’t continue if we want to stay up this season.

Our opponents came straight out of the gates at kick-off, putting us under some early pressure which we couldn’t escape from. It took them just nine minutes to score with a fantastic ball into the box from near the touchline that was poked in from close range by Lorne Bickley. This was not the end of their pressure however as for the next 15 minutes we didn’t get many chances at all whereas they kept on putting good balls into the box which were either missed, saved or blocked.

At this point in the half we were lucky not to be further behind, but the price of weathering the storm was just the one goal. We were starting to get a couple of chances at goal and in the 30th minute, Carl Oblitey headed a long ball down to Tijani Eshilokun who returned it to him for a shot towards goal. This shot looped up in the air, over the keeper and back into the box off the frame of the goal where Oblitey finished it back across goal at the second attempt, low to the keeper’s left to make it 1-1.

It was only a few minutes later when Jersey had another chance. Their forward got through on goal but the ball bobbled away from him and he landed on the ground apparently due to a shirt pull from a defender, but the referee didn’t give a pen for it.

The first half finished with two chances from Jersey, one was put over into the stand at that end and the second chance was a cross that went across the face of goal that no one could get to. At the half, we were lucky not to be behind after Jersey’s early pressure, but the score was one apiece at the half.

Early into the second half, we showed a bit of bright attacking play where Luke Miller got down the right wing and put a ball across but no one was far enough upfield to capitalise and give us the lead. There was very little attacking threat from Jersey for the next 15 and even less from us as the game quietened down. However Jersey then found a second wind and was pushing forward from about the 70th minute onwards.

I was surprised that we hadn’t made any substitutions by this point as we weren’t looking great up top, but we waited until the 86th minute to make replacements as Jaan Stanley and Sirak Negassi came on for Lewis Pearch and Eshilokun to try and create new ideas in attack. However, three minutes later, a penalty was awarded to Jersey for an apparent handball that our defenders were certain did not hit an arm. Nevertheless, the penalty was clinically converted by Bickley into Colwell’s top left corner to make it 2-1 to the visitors.

Three minutes into added time we had the final chance of the match with a free kick from about 20 yards out. Nick Wilson lined up to take it but it was parried by the keeper and the rebound was gathered. It is probably worth noting that the wall did not look like it was six yards back, let alone ten but it is not the reason we ultimately lost this match. We should have created a few more chances ourselves. At the end of the day, we could have lost the match far before that point and it still leaves us with four losses out of four for January.

Epsom & Ewell: Toby Colwell, Ethan Brazier, Ethan Nelson-Roberts, Nick Inwugwu, Reece Tierney, Nick Wilson (c), Luke Miller, Thompson Adeyemi, Carl Oblitey, Tijani Eshilokun, Lewis Pearch

Subs: Jaan Stanley for Pearch (86), Sirak Negassi for Eshilokun (86)

The Battle of Medway lost

Medway 37 Sutton & Epsom RFC 26. Saturday 27th January. Sutton & Epsom returned to a most happy hunting ground on Saturday as their only previous trip to Priestfields saw them gain promotion in 2016 with an Andy Matthews hat trick. There were two survivors from that famous afternoon being back row brothers George London and Matt Whitaker. If nostalgia filled the air it was also because it was a red-letter day for Medway stalwart Tom Beaumont who was making his 200th league appearance. For the veteran flanker the hosts obliged with a 37-26 win in a hard fought and entertaining encounter.

Sutton saw a welcome return to Ellis Rudder, last seen four years ago at Westcliff in National 2,
and Lawrence Eliott after injury breaks of vastly contrasting lengths of time. The Priestfield playing
surface was in excellent condition considering the recent vagaries of the weather as Freddy
Bunting kicked off on a dry but chill winter afternoon. S&E were on the attack immediately with a
surging break to the opposition 22 from the prolific Matt Whitaker after the initial line break from
Gareth O’Brien. An early riposte from the hosts gather the ball on the blindside on halfway with
great prospects the ball inexplicably fell to earth. After this entertaining start the opening score
was rather more mundane. The visitors conceded a penalty and were penalised for not retreating>
The second infringement lead to a lineout in the corner. It was third time unlucky as the referee
gave Owen Church-Mills the opportunity to open Medway’s account. The Number 10 assuredly
bisected the uprights to put Medway 3-0 up after five minutes.

Sutton & Epsom only took five minutes to not only open their account but claim the lead. Another
Whitaker carry and support by the forwards led to a penalty. It was the hosts’ turn to defend a
lineout near their line. The men from Surrey secured the ball and Alex Mount was the beneficiary
of their control as he forced his way over for a try. Freddy Bunting added the extras for a 7-3
advantage. Five minutes later the Black & Whites were celebrating a second try. Advancing into
the 22 Freddy Bunting’s probing kick behind the defence was gathered by winger Kyren Ghumra
who finished with panache. Captain Bunting made it 14-3 with a relatively simple conversion. At
the end of the first quarter the productive opening by the Rugby Lane XV was undone by a fatal
self-inflicted wound as a woeful clearance in their 22 was predictably charged down. Medway took
advantage of the retreating defence as Captain Antony Clement’s perfectly timed pass gifted his
centre partner, Sean Marriott, a try. Owen Church-Mills conversion made it 10-14.

The Black & Whites had a chance to reprise their opening score but Freddy Bunting overcooked
the penalty and instead of a 5-metre lineout his team set up to receive a drop out. As the half
continued to ebb and flow Medway were playing with great continuity and Sutton were indebted to
a splendid tackle from Kyren Ghumra and an over-eager forward going off his feet at the ruck.

Medway made their first change as Deji Oyesola replaced Ryan Eastley in the front row. S&E were
hampered by poor kicking from hand as two kicks in as many minutes found opponents with
perfect precision who gratefully called ‘mark’. As the errors mounted it was a great relief for the
travelling supporters when fluency returned from the familiar source of Matt Whitaker. Gareth
O’Brien and Tom Boaden continued the move that was only halted by foul play. The result was a
yellow card, Medway reduced to 14 and Sutton with the penalty. The forwards took control and
Chris Farrell burrowed his way over for his sides third try. Freddy Bunting’s precise kick left the
scoreboard reading Medway 10 Sutton & Epsom 21.

In time added on a long clearance kick unfortunately rolled through the dead ball area to the
advantage of the home team. Whether you view that as careless or unlucky is up to the generosity
of your spirit. However, this territorial penalty was compounded by then conceding a penalty.
Owen Church-Mills stepped up to conclude the first period with his second penalty of the afternoon
which took some of the gloss off the visitors first half performance but Sutton still led by 21-13 as
the teams turned around.

Medway seized the initiative early in the second period. They camped in the Sutton 22 and carried
relentlessly with powerful runs ably supported. However, defiant defence by Sutton averted the try
that seemed imminent as a frustrated home team decided to opt for the three points at the third
time of asking. Owen Church-Mills made it three out of three for penalties and his team were
within a score at 16-21. It was becoming one-way traffic in the third quarter with Captain Clement
at his influential best orchestrating the backs. But the stoic Sutton defence were a match for each
and every carry and it was a mark of their defence that again the hosts opted for a kick at goal. It
was rather a surprise when the latest strike slid wide. The despair of the home crowd was
immediately replaced by a joyous cheer. The drop kick was taken by Number 8 Todd Johnson and
the previously adamantine defence dissolved as he broke through a couple of tackles on his way to
the 22. Then Deji Oyesola exploded through the ruck to run in untouched under the posts. The
easiest of conversions was added and Medway had taken the lead 23-21.

This setback inspired Sutton who finally got some attacking ball having won a penalty at a scrum
they kicked to the corner. It was the turn of the Medway defence to face the music. Willem Ratu,
Freddy Bunting and the pack advanced to the line. One, two and three penalties were awarded.
From the third the irrepressible Matt Whitaker added another try to his record-breaking career
tally. The blustering breeze carried the conversion narrowly wide but a resurgent Sutton held a
slender advantage at 26-23. Suddenly it appeared to be anyone’s game with ten minutes left on
the clock.

After what had gone before the denouement of the match was most disappointing for the visitors.
Great credit must go to Medway who raised their game to play with urgency, accuracy and
potency. They declined a kickable penalty for the lineout in the corner. This time the sustained
pressure resulted in a try for lock Dan Jackson. Owen Church-Mills increased the gap to 30-26 with
the game still in the balance. But the hosts were in no mood to sit back on so precarious a lead. At
once they went in search of the bonus point and another try to secure the win. Ewan McTaggart
appeared to have won an important lineout steal but the he tapped back bounced cruelly away
from the visitors and was gathered by the alert Kent pack. Once more the hosts burst through a
ruck but this time it was an assist to Deji Oyesola who was perfectly placed to trot in under the
posts for his second try of the afternoon and an impregnable 37-26 lead as Owen Church Mills
made his personal tally 16 points. The hosts had no problem running down the clock to secure the
37-26 bonus point win.

It was the third game in a row that Sutton & Epsom had led in the second half but failed to hold
onto their advantage. For long periods their defence was of the highest quality but unfortunately
errors were punished. Medway, as they had at Rugby Lane, carried aggressively with great
continuity created by timely offloads to excellent support players. Antony Clement was at his
influential best whilst Todd Johnson and Deji Oyesola impressed in the pack. For S&E there was a
great sense of frustration despite a try-scoring bonus point they had the chance for more. For long
spells the defence was first rate but there was a sense that more than one of the scores could
have been avoided. In attack the Black & Whites conversion rate in the 22 was high and four tries
on the road should be the foundation for a victory. There is an urgent need to find a way of seeing
out these close finishes to win matches that are in the balance.

Next Saturday Sutton and Epsom entertain Gravesend, at Rugby Lane at 2:30pm, who like the hosts and
Sidcup have a 10-6 loss record in the rather congested nether regions of the league.

Sutton & Epsom:
Gareth O’Brien, Kyren Ghumra, Lawrence Elliott, Freddy Bunting ©, Ellis Rudder, Tom Lennard,
Steve Munford, Alex Mount, Chris Farrell, Tom Boaden, Josh Glanville, Ewan McTaggart, George
London, Rob Hegarty & Matt Whitaker.
Replacements: Callum Gibson, Ben Green & Willem Ratu.

Perry Macauley, John Sipawa, Sean Marriott, Antony Clement, Conor Chalmers, Owen Church-Mills,
Ben Dance, Ryan Eastley, Josh Knight, Jack Nickalls, Dan Jackson, Jordan Stubbington, Harry
Gibbons, Tom Beaumont & Todd Johnson.
Replacements: Deji Oyesola, Joseph Byrne & Robert O’Brien.

Local rugby team not blinded by Old Alley

Rugby action shot.

Sutton & Epsom RFC 15 – Old Alleynians 19. Saturday 13th January.

On Dulwich Common at the start of the league campaign the Old Alleynians won an
exhilarating encounter 29-25 with a Will Malins hat trick grabbing the headlines. Both sides were
much changed for the return fixture at Rugby Lane. After the Battersea Ironsides defeat Sutton and Epsom had mixed blessings from the physio hut as Tom Lennard had recovered from his back injury to
make his first start at 10 but Willem Ratu’s knee failed the fitness test. History repeated itself at
Rugby Lane as the OAs again triumphed by four points but this time they had to come from
behind to win 19-15.

On a cold but thankfully wind free afternoon Freddy Bunting initiated proceedings.
Alleynians put themselves under pressure from the kick off as a forward met the kick with a
technique better served for volleyball than rugby union. The unforgiving ball was spiked backwards
and snatched by the Black & White pack from the retreating visitors. Encouraged by this
immediate success Sutton stormed into the opposition 22 in search of the opening score. Excellent
work by the forwards saw Tom Boaden carry to within a couple of strides before the ball was
knocked on a couple of phases later. However, the backpedalling defence of the visitors had
incurred the wrath of the referee and Sutton had the bonus of a five-metre penalty. The simple
kick at goal was declined and the attacking option was chosen. Matt Whitaker rewarded the faith
of his captain with a vintage score as he stepped past the first defenders before his telescopic
reach stretched for the line. Freddy Bunting’s conversion drifted wide but Sutton led 5-0.

Alleynians went in search of an immediate reply and imitated the hosts by regaining the
restart. The men from Dulwich eagerly went through their phases and quickly entered the 22 and
looked likely to make amends for their early reverse. The determined defence of S&E managed to
prevent an equalising score as the visitors spilled the ball in contact with the line at their mercy.
Sutton failed to adequately clear their lines and moments later the OAs were attacking once more.
Again the referee awarded a penalty to the attacking side but on this occasion the kick at goal was
the more obvious option being some distance from the try-line. The attempt fell short and the
Black & Whites were able to clear their lines.

Buoyed by their early success Sutton were playing with confidence and a high tempo with
the halfback combination of Munford and Lennard orchestrating the attacks. The hosts were faster
in thought and deed than the visitors who were struggling to find their familiar rhythm. S&E on the
front foot were impressive as forwards and backs combined and they took advantage of a penalty
awarded at a scrum to kick to the corner. The hosts failed to capitalise dropping the ball but a
poor clearance from the subsequent scrum led to another S&E lineout on the 22. Excellent
continuity was matched by robust defence lthat ed to Tom Lennard floating a kick to the corner
where Ciaran Mohr under scrutiny just failed to catch the ball a metre from the line. Fortune
favoured Sutton as they were awarded a free kick for foot up in the scrum. Matt Whitaker carried
the ball to the line and Tom Boaden was rewarded for his support play to receive the ball and
score. Freddy Bunting converted for a 121-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

A vocal Old Alleynians XV huddled behind the posts and called upon a greater collective
effort after the second try and urged the team to match the S&E team’s pace at the breakdown.
From the restart Number 8 Gillam Crouch caught the ball and advanced at pace into the Sutton
half. From the next scrum they drove the Black & White pack off their ball. The OAs looked
favourites to score but tremendous tackling not only denied them but won Sutton & Epsom a
relieving penalty. The match ebbed and flowed as the clock entered time added on in the first
period. OAs continued to press for a vital score and belatedly got on the scorebioard. They kicked
a penalty to the corner and secured the ball at the lineout. Though the forwards were denied the
ball went wide and Robert Outram chose the perfect line to carve through the defence to score.
Josh Winduss added the extras as Alleynians trailed 7-14. All their good work was nearly undone
as they failed to kick the ball to touch on the final play of the half and conceded a penalty for an
accidental offside. Freddy Bunting failed to compound their misery as his penalty attempt went
narrowly wide and Mr Richardson blew for half-time with Sutton leading 12-7.

Sutton & Epsom were the first to score in the second period. Ten minutes into the half they
were awarded a penalty as the men from Dulwich strayed offside. Captain Bunting stepped up and
bisected the uprights to extend Sutton’s advantage to 15-7. Both sides looked threatening in
attack but equally the well organised defences neutered the offensive play. As the match
progressed it was Old Alleynians who began to have the majority of the possession and territory.
As the match entered the final quarter S&E were indebted to Gareth O’Brien who made a superb
mark in the corner that not only prevented a possible try but allowed the hosts to relieve the
siege. Stubborn Sutton defence was frustrating the visitors who conceded a penalty in the hosts’

However, it was becoming one-way traffic and only a cover tackle from Ross Parsons averted a
score. But the Black & Whites just could not find the comfort of the opposition half.

With ten minutes remaining after a rather scrappy sequence of rucks with each side turning
over the ball Old Alleynians were awarded a scrum lees than 10 metres from the Sutton posts in a
central position. From the perfect platform winger Rory Holford touched down and replacement
Ollie Hobman added the conversion. S&E’s lead was now by the narrowest of margins at 15-14.
The visitors were in the ascendancy and pressed ahead in search of the victory. Under pressure
the Rugby Lane men responded in style as they advanced to the opposition 22 with their best
sequence of the half. Sadly for the home supporters, unlike the first period, they did not come
away with points after their foray in the opposition 22. As the match entered time added on the
Sutton defences were breached near halfway. The visitors swarmed through and Ollie Hobman
scored the crucial try. Though the conversion never threatened the posts Old Alleynians had the
lead for the first time in the match, 19-15, with precious few minutes remaining.

The Black & Whites played with desperation trying to attack from deep in their half and
Ben Osuntokun charged down a clearance and was only thwarted by the depth of the in-goal area
from adding a fourth try. If that had been the case not only would Alleynians have secured a
bonus point it would have given them an opportunity to deny Sutton a losing bonus point. In so
evenly contested a match it would have been unduly harsh if the hosts had been denied the
solitary point for their endeavours. Moments later the referee blew the final whistle. A keenly
contested match concluded with Old Alleynians victorious 19-15 in a fixture that could have gone
either way.

If the first encounter in September was entertaining fare enlivened by an excessive error
count by both teams Saturday’s match was of a far higher standard reflecting the improved status
of both clubs. Old Alleynians gained promotion with a solitary blemish on their 2022-23 league
record and are thriving at the higher level rather than struggling to acclimatise as is the case with
many an elevated side. Their set piece scrummage was dominant in the first period and arguably
had the upper hand throughout. Their back division has pace and quality and from the first minute
they looked to play 15-man rugby. Ben Osuntokun was formidable and his ubiquitous presence
became more apparent the longer the game continued. For the Black & Whites there was greater
fluency and tempo in the first quarter which created the early advantage. In addition the
scrambling and committed defence in their 22 frustrated their opponents. It was a match that
could have gone either way but OAs finished the stronger side and at the eleventh hour broke
through the Black & Whites defences for the vital score.

For Sutton & Epsom next Saturday is a rest weekend before the league campaign resumes
on January 27th with the charabanc taking the team to Priestfields. In the reverse fixture an
impressive Medway ran away 33-15 victors at Rugby Lane but in this league prior success appears
to be almost irrelevant as a guide to form. In contrast next Saturday the Old Boys have to play
their postponed fixture against Cobham. The visitors took exception to the playing surface at
Dulwich Common and headed back to the Memorial Ground whilst the hosts enjoyed the afternoon
watching their 3 rd XV play on the unplayable surface.

Sutton & Epsom:
Gareth O’Brien, Kyren Ghumra, Ross Parsons, Freddy Bunting ©, Ciaran Mohr, Tom Lennard,
Steve Munford, Alex Mount, Chris Farrell, Tom Boaden, Josh Glanville, Ewan McTaggart, Rob
Hegarty, Josh Pulvirenti & Matt Whitaker.
Replacements: Callum Gibson, Ben Green & Matt Symonds.

Old Alleynians
Josh Winduss, Tom Williams, Robert Outram, Andrew Jones-Davies, Rory Holford, Henry Dewing,
Tristram Holden, Jeremiah Manning, Charles Thompson, Tom Weightman, Will Hinchcliffe, James
Mair, Ben Osuntokun, Hadley Eames & Gillam Crouch.
Replacements: Cameron Saunders, Brian Lennard & Ollie Hobman.

Photo credit: Robin Kennedy

Battersea power ahead of local rugby team

Battersea Ironsides 38 Sutton & Epsom RFC 29. Saturday 6th January.

In September at Rugby Lane Sutton & Epsom belatedly gained their first success of their campaign
with a last gasp 26-25 win over the then league leader’s Battersea Ironsides. Therefore the return
fixture was anticipated with great relish. Before the kick off there was much disruption from the
scheduled proceedings. Storm Henk had led to torrential midweek rains resulting in Battersea’s
Openview facilities being unplayable. Fortunately an alternative time and venue was found. The
match was rescheduled for 4pm at the splendid Grasshoppers RFC venue. The crowd enjoyed the
curtain-raiser at 2pm as HAC overcame Grasshoppers 22-14 in the parallel Regional 2 Thames
League before settling in for the main event. A thrilling nine-try match ensued with the lead
changing hands five times before Battersea Ironsides triumphed 38-29.

Sutton & Epsom suffered a setback in the warm up as Tom Lennard injured his back. The deck
was reshuffled and Gareth O’Brien went to 10 and Austin Bell, returning from University, came off
the bench to 15. The unfortunate Lennard, with all the mobility of an octogenarian, was ushered
to the bench and was unlikely to play any part in proceedings unless some miracle worker
happened to be strolling down Syon Lane. The game started under the floodlights with Battersea
Ironsides immediately in the ascendancy. A try in the opening minute was denied as the hosts
were held up over the line. Five minutes later blindside flanker Ollie Davies made the first of many
penetrating breaks. From halfway he broke through the first defender then palmed off prospective
tacklers who were scattered like skittles as he raced in to score. Charles Stuart regally added the
conversion for a 7-0 lead.

The high tempo opening from the hosts continued as Charles Stuart added a penalty to extend the
lead to 10-0. Moments later Sutton were on the scoreboard from the familiar efficiency of Freddy
Bunting’s boot as he added another penalty to his ever-increasing season’s tally to make it 10-3.
However, the errant Sutton defence yielded another penalty that enabled the hosts to regain their
ten-point advantage to lead 13-3 a couple of minutes later. At the end of the first quarter
Battersea Ironsides were rewarded for their dominant start to the match with their second try.
This time it was Number 8 Tom Jeffs who forced his way past flailing defenders from ten metres
out. The ball-carrying of Davies & Jeffs was to be the difference between the sides by the final
whistle. Though Charles Stuart’s conversion drifted harmlessly wide the Ironsides had a healthy
advantage of 18-3 with the visitors starved of territory and possession.

The early ascendancy of the SW17 outfit was replaced by a sterling Sutton comeback. At last the
Black & Whites put together some phases and excellent handling got them deep into the Battersea half. The opportunity looked to have been lost but the referee brought the game back for an earlier
offence. With the 15-point deficit Captain Bunting shunned the 3-point option and kicked to the
corner. The gamble saw a rich reward. Josh Pulvirenti scored from close-range and Freddy Bunting
added the conversion to trail 10-18. Though the S&E revival was soon deflated by another Charles
Stuart penalty that saw the score at 21-10 the Black & Whites had a foothold in the game and
were looking dangerous when they had possession.

With the interval rapidly approaching Sutton & Epsom enjoyed their best spell of the game as they
went in search of a score before the break. Resolute and powerful tackling by the Battersea team
held the line. However, under pressure the defence transgressed and they were reduced to 14
men. With the clock counting down in time added on in the first period finally flanker Rob Hegarty
forced his way over following a 5-metre lineout. Freddy Bunting’s conversion concluded the first
half with Sutton closing the gap to 17-21.

The second half began with the Black & Whites confident that they could repeat the come from
behind win they had enjoyed earlier this season. In contrast Battersea sought to regain the
dominance they had enjoyed at the start of the game. As ever the opening score of the half would be vital for the hopes of both sides. Ten minutes into the second period Battersea kicked into the
Sutton half. Fullback Austin Bell gathered the ball and looked for an advantageous 50-22 kick. As
the ball rolled towards the beneficial touch it trickled to a halt but Sutton’s initial frustration was
transformed into delight. Winger Kyren Ghumra arrived with the cover and his boot manage to
nudge the ball to the Ironsides 22. He regained his footing gathered the loose ball and ran in
unopposed. Freddy Bunting added the conversion and Sutton led 22-21.

If self-doubt had entered into the hosts it was soon dispelled as the redoubtable Tom Jeffs added
to his account with his second try of the afternoon. A penalty was kicked to the corner and the 5-
metre lineout was secured and ball was quickly transferred to Tom Jeffs who bulldozed his way
over. Though the conversion was missed Battersea lead once more by 26-22. Sutton refused to be
subdued and five minutes later they had regained lead. From a breakdown 15 metres from the line
lock Ewan McTaggart gather the ball, broke through and sidestepped the last defender to score by
the uprights. The towering second row is arguably S&E’s most improved player this season and his
try was greeted with joyous enthusiasm from the travelling support. With Freddy Bunting adding
the extras the Black & Whites led 29-26 entering the final quarter.

Once more the Ironsides went in search of a try. Another penalty was kicked to the corner for a 5-
metre lineout. The expectant home crowd bayed for a repeat dose of the medicine. Initially it
appeared that the Sutton defences had frustrated the hosts on the line. After much delay and
close inspection of the mass of humanity piled in front of him the referee raised his arm aloft to
signal the try. Prop Henry Warby was awarded the crucial score. The pendulum had swung back in
favour of Battersea and Charles Stuart’s conversion put the hosts 33-29 ahead. A couple of
minutes later the confused crowd saw Josh Glanville and a Battersea forward depart with yellow
cards. It came to pass that Sir had been unimpressed by some pushing and shoving though the
incident was less than what commuters experience boarding a rush hour tube and to onlookers it
seemed a rather draconian response.

The topsy-turvy nature of the second half had fifteen minutes to go and the outcome was still in
the balance. Sutton & Epsom went in search of the 22 and a platform to launch an attack on the
Battersea line. Freddy Bunting’s long penalty kick from hand, intended for the corner, was
gathered infield and a mark called. The threat was averted and the Ironsides set out their stall in
the visitors’ half. In a rousing finish multiple attacks followed as last ditch tackles frustrated the
hosts. Finally, Charles Stuart rounded off a fine performance as he dummied and sidestepped his
way over the line for Battersea Ironside’s fifth try of the afternoon. The score resulted in an
unseemly fracas in the in-goal area. No further cards were issued with only a couple of minutes
remaining but Battersea were awarded a penalty at the restart. For those who revel in the unusual
it was rather disappointing that Charles Stuart did not attempt the extra three points but Battersea
led 38-29 with a two score cushion.

There was no further addition to the score and the Ironsides had won a most exciting game 38-29.
Messrs Davies and Jeffs had been outstanding for the victors carrying numerous times collecting
considerable yardage as well as three tries. Sutton had looked dangerous in attack but their
defence lacked the excellence of their Cobham away win and ultimately that was the deciding
factor in a match played between two sides who were notably better than their earlier meeting this
season. Next Saturday Sutton & Epsom host Old Alleynians who have started 2024 in splendid
fashion by crushing London Cornish 50-17. When the two sides met at Dulwich Common in
September the Old Boys edged out S&E 29-25.

Sutton & Epsom:
Austin Bell, Ciaran Mohr, Willem Ratu, Kyren Ghumra, Freddy Bunting ©, Gareth O’Brien, Ross
Parsons, Tom Boaden, Chris Farrell, Alex Mount, Ewan McTaggart, Josh Glanville, Rob Hegarty,
Josh Pulvirenti & Matt Whitaker.
Replacements: Callum Gibson & Ben Green. Unused: Tom Lennard.

Battersea Ironsides
George Clair, Will Diamond, Ben Turner, Jacob Donovan, Mike Brennan, Charles Stuart, Jack
Moates, Harry Martin, Ollie Lewis, Henry Warby, Archie MacPherson, Sam Reeves, Ollie Davies,
Alex Chitan & Tom Jeffs.
Replacements: Harry Batson, Max Trickett & Cameron Baker.