Goalless draw with bottom side

Colliers Wood United 0-0 Epsom & Ewell FC. Combined Counties League – Premier Division. Saturday 16th December 2023.

On Saturday, two clubs; each placed in precarious positions in the League, met each other and showed everyone present exactly why they were down there! An extremely poor goalless draw was the result of this match, although the real memory of this one for me will be the scrappiness of this contest with the inability of either team to string more than three passes together, despite having perfect conditions for football.

This was obviously a pivotal match and was bound to be a tense occasion, particularly for the home side who really needed to close the gap on those teams above them, while we were obviously keen to produce a similar performance to the one that had resulted in a 5-1 Salts win back in Steve Springett’s first match in charge on 7th October, but the only players who will take anything positive from this contest will be the two keepers, not that either had a vast amount to deal with though, as both defences dealt with the limited threats on their goal fairly comfortably.

In goal for the opposition was Toby McKimm, and any supporters who went to Hailsham Town last year will have remembered him making an appearance for us, although it was a debut he would want to forget as he was unfairly dismissed after just twenty-five minutes, making him the possessor of one of the shortest playing spells in our club history. We also had a change between the posts as Harvey Keogh was away for this match on a pre-arranged trip, although for those of you who recall his collision with the fencing the previous week, a Club Official advised that he is now fine, which is good news for all. In his place, and making his second appearance for our club was Toby Colwell, who has been most reliable this season, despite having to spend a vast amount of his time on the bench, as is the lot of a substitute keeper. Taking the Captain’s armband in place of Keogh was Ollie Thompson who returned to the starting eleven, along with the suspended Tijani Eshilokun, with Steve Springett and Ethan Nelson-Roberts unavailable to play.

The hosts had an early opportunity when they dragged a shot wide from fairly close range in the second minute, although five minutes later we had what would prove to be our best opportunity of the half when Ade Batula sent a perfect ball through to Eshilokun just twelve yards out, but he delayed matters instead of shooting and McKimm was out quickly to clear the danger.

Soon after this Luke Miller put another great ball through to Jaan Stanley who tucked the ball low into the corner of the net, only to see the Assistant’s flag raised against him. Batula then blazed high and wide after cutting onto his left foot, before Colliers Wood sent a deep ball to the far post where a shot was blocked by a defender.

In the 26th minute Thompson picked up a facial injury, believed to be a broken nose and required quite a few minutes of treatment. He was able to continue but would not reappear for the second half. It is hoped the injury will not result in him missing much time. From this point the match became more attritional with few real chances and we went in at the break goalless.

Sirak Negassi came on for Thompson which led to a reshuffle of our back line with Nick Wilson dropping back there and taking on the armband. We already had Rory Edwards playing in an unfamiliar right back role, so it was becoming a bit of a makeshift back line by this stage. Within a few moments of Wilson moving back, a long ball went just beyond him, although fortunately Colwell had smartly anticipated the danger and was out just in time to gather it ahead of an incoming attacker.

We had another decent opportunity just after the hour when a decent move down the left was centred to Miller who struck powerfully with his left foot, only to see the ball deflected away for a corner by a defender. McKimm then dropped the corner but the danger was cleared. Then at the other end a Wood attack finished with a low shot, and I must remind people that I was a hundred yards away from this, so apologies if I have this wrong, but the ball appeared to go out for a goal kick off the foot of our post.

In the 73rd minute we got another chance after McKimm’s poor clearance went to Stanley thirty yards out, but he was unable to return the ball to what would have been a vacant goal at that point; instead he went down the left and squared the ball where Batula went in for the ball with McKimm, only for the keeper to lie almost motionless for a few minutes as a result of the collision which our man then picked up a yellow card for. From our angle it was hard to see what Batula had done wrong and protests were made to this effect while McKimm remained on the ground receiving treatment. Fortunately he was able to continue after another long break and the match continued to meander.

Finally, in what would become nine minutes of injury time there was a little more to write about, and the first chance involved one of our substitutes, Yannick Monga-Ebwa, who made tracks down the left and his ball was collected by Batula whose shot on the turn went just beyond the Wood far post. Then Eshilokun’s twenty yard drive wasn’t gathered by McKimm, although he was just able to recover the ball as Batula ran in. In the 98th minute another sub George Owusu was unfortunate to see his shot from eight yards ricochet off a defender and go wide for another corner.

From that corner we had a bit of controversy as a Nick Inwugwu header was fumbled by McKimm and looked like it was going to go over the line, but he reacted quickly to claw the ball away. There were appeals that the ball had crossed the line, but as with the earlier Wood chance where I was a hundred yards away, this time I was less than two yards from this one and I wasn’t convinced it had crossed, although admittedly it was close. Far more relevantly than mine or anyone else’s opinion, the Assistant was bang in line with the play and also felt it had stayed out. The final whistle blew shortly after this and Colliers Wood’s first clean sheet in the League this season, along with Colwell’s first for our club were confirmed.

It was a bit embarrassing to see our Club Secretary berating the Assistant over the goal line incident, purely on the basis of a phone clip he had taken (even though it was from a far worse angle) that he “claimed” had proven the ball had gone over the line. Further ridicule followed when he doubled down on this after the match by placing a picture on the club Twitter site that failed to show any clear view of the line or the ball! It was similar to the kind of grainy and inconclusive image that we’ve all seen in the papers whenever anyone thinks they’ve seen the Loch Ness Monster, and deserved the derision it received from a number of commentators!

Regrettably this ninety minutes proved about as fruitful as that peculiar Scottish hobby, but the draw ensures that we remain in a much stronger position than the two clubs below us. It must be said that one of the things we have failed to do this season is grind out a point from time to time, without falling to a late sucker punch as we have at Fleet Town, Eastbourne United and Abbey Rangers, so credit is deserved in that area, particularly with the personnel changes that were required at the back. Indeed, over the course of the match, we also had the slightly better chances close to goal, but by no means did either team do enough to say they genuinely deserved to win this match and hard work remains for both if they are to avoid being the one club that will make the drop to Step Six this season.

Epsom & Ewell: Toby Colwell, Rory Edwards, Nick Inwugwu, Nick Wilson, Reece Tierney, Ollie Thompson ©, Luke Miller, Thompson Adeyemi, Ade Batula, Tijani Eshilokun, Jaan Stanley

Subs: Sirak Negassi for Thompson (HT), George Owusu for Miller (89), Yannick Monga-Ebwa for Stanley (89), Tino Carpene for Batula (95)

Report Source: www.eefconline.co.uk