This defeat will not count


Epsom & Ewell FC 1-3 Fleet Town. ABANDONED AFTER 55 MINUTES. Combined Counties League – Premier Division. Saturday 13th April 2024.

An attendance of around 80 people gathered at the Madgwick to watch our penultimate League match at the ground before we move on to Corinthian Casuals for next season. However, it didn’t work out quite like that as the contest was abandoned in the 55th minute following a nasty injury to young Fleet defender Ed Scott and the fixture will now have to be rearranged back at the Madgwick, with Thursday 25th April looking to be the most likely date, due to our opponents currently having matches scheduled for both remaining Tuesdays. Please note that this is only speculation on my part and confirmation will follow in the near future.

Those present on a sunny day (but one which had brought swarms of flies out behind the far goal where we were standing) witnessed an hour of football that summed up our season really as we looked quite threatening in patches, only to part like the Red Sea at others and we were 3-1 down at the time of the abandonment.

We had a number of changes to the line up from the loss against Spelthorne Sports as Thompson Adeyemi, Jaevon Dyer and Callum Wilson were all unavailable. Worse still, Wilson confirmed that he is done for the season following a dislocated thumb. However, it wasn’t all bad news as Carl Oblitey returned from injury up front while Tijani Eshilokun was also back in the line up alongside Luke Taylor who made his first start for our club. Also back from injury was Ethan Brazier who relegated Ayran Kugathas to the bench and was arguably our best player on the day, making a number of marauding runs.

Now, I’m not a fan of playing three at the back, as regular readers will be aware. We started the season with that formation and we have recently tried it towards the end of recent defeats to Balham and Horley Town. However, this time we started with the three and on this occasion, I could see why. Clearly the plan is now to try and outscore teams in the knowledge that we do not do clean sheets any more!

It is sound logic based on the fact that we are now nineteen matches without a clean sheet, and this formation did enable us to play Oblitey up front alongside Will Kendall, which was a bit of a throwback, although it will only work if enough service is provided to our front two. It nearly paid dividends with just 32 seconds on the clock as Ethan Nelson-Roberts made tracks down the left and sent over a low ball, but it was just too far ahead of Kendall who couldn’t wrap his leg around the ball enough at the far post to keep the shot on target.

The opening minutes looked quite promising for Salts fans until a hopeful punt upfield from the visitors left our keeper Dan O’Donovan and our retreating defender Matt McGillivray uncertain of who should claim the ball on the edge of the area and while they dithered, Dan Bone nipped in to poke the ball away from both of them and roll the ball into the empty net in just the eighth minute.

This was horrible, but we were back on level terms just three minutes later after Eshilokun fed the overlapping Brazier on the right wing and his pinpoint cross enabled Oblitey to score with a diving header into the bottom corner of the goal from six yards out. Luke Miller was next to deliver a dangerous right wing cross but it was punched away by Fleet’s keeper Filip Chalupniczak. It was a fairly even contest to this point, but then we started to get pushed back by our opponents. McGillivray was forced into conceding a yellow card to stop an attacker breaking through.

We then had an extremely odd and contentious issue in the 24th minute. Chalupniczak made a routine catch and went to drop kick it clear, only for it to hit Oblitey on his back, just outside the penalty area and rebound straight into the net! It was surely a lucky break for us, but no! The referee consulted with his Assistant before then disallowing the goal and awarding a free kick against our man. This appeared extremely harsh, but having seen the video from our excellent Videographer Gary Jarman, you can see Oblitey jumping to block, even though his back was turned. On many occasions, the goal would still have stood, and I believe it should have still counted, but I can at least understand why it might have been disallowed. You’ll have to draw your own conclusions as to whether Oblitey really did enough wrong here!

The setback gave us momentum for a while and Miller sent a ball in that was just turned away from Eshilokun at the far post, but on the break Fleet struck a shot just beyond our own post and from this point until the end of the half you could see us being pushed back. Brazier had to head an effort off our own goal line but in the 39th minute they went ahead through the ill-fated Scott with an unmarked near post header from a corner that was a carbon copy of one we conceded recently at home to Horley.

We nearly equalised in the second minute of injury time after Nelson-Roberts did really well to reach the touchline just a few yards out and pulled the ball back for Adam Green to side foot it towards the goal. It took a slight deflection on the way, but even so, it was somehow clutched right on the line by Chalupniczak and we went in at the break a goal behind, but not yet out of the match. However, the writing was on the wall within two minutes of the second half after a long throw was flicked on and then volleyed in from about ten yards by Bone to make it 3-1 which left us facing a mountain to climb.

However, the game took an unfortunate twist in the 55th minute when Nelson-Roberts threatened to break through on the left, but was then brought down by a high and very clumsy looking tackle from Scott, which left the offender in a heap in the floor. It was immediately clear that he was badly injured and all those in the ground knew there would be the possibility of an abandonment, as happened to us eighteen months previously when Andy “Woody” Hall was injured in a goalless draw at Forest Row. Looking back at the incident itself, it’s possible that one of Scott’s feet got caught in or on the artificial surface, which was why the original challenge looked so awkward as he looked off balance when he made it. Either way, this became the second Combined Counties League match to be abandoned at the Madgwick since the artificial surface was installed back in August after an injury curtailed the Cobham v Abbey Rangers fixture back in the Autumn of 2023. We obviously wish Ed Scott well for the future and hope he is back playing the game he loves as soon as possible.

From a personal point of view, the Forest Row match I referred to was abandoned with the score level at 0-0 and we went on to win the replayed contest 2-0 which, although we didn’t know it at the time eventually gave us the pivotal second place finish and subsequent home advantage in the Southern Combination League playoffs last season. I wonder whether this replayed fixture turns out to be as significant. A new date for Fleet’s re-visit will be advised as soon as possible.

Epsom & Ewell: Dan O’Donovan, Ethan Brazier, Ethan Nelson-Roberts (c), Adam Green, Reece Tierney, Matt McGillivray, Luke Miller, Tijani Eshilokun, Will Kendall, Carl Oblitey, Luke Taylor

Subs: none

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