As we move into a crucial part of the season we entertained Maldon & Tiptree 10 days ago for a key game in the promotion push. Maldon, like us, have had a mixed bag of results but with the game important for both teams it was a match I was looking forward to.
On a heavy pitch the game started at quite a pace and both teams had chances in the early stages with our guests probably having the better of these exchanges. It was no surprise when ex Marketman Aaron Condon opened the scoring mid-way through the first half.
Our reaction was a good one with a change in formation helping this and certainly for the rest of the half we were on the front foot. We carried this theme on after half-time and carved open a number of chances early in the second half. Unfortunately this progress was halted when Darryl Coakley received his second yellow card and was sent to the showers.
We had a bit of a reshuffle which gave Maldon their best period of the second half but our determination to get back into the game turned things around and we pressed on. Chances came and chances went, it was looking like one of those days.
The turning point was the introduction of debutant Adam Mills following the Referee leveling things up by showing Danny Johnson a second yellow. Millsy has been getting good reviews from the Academy staff and he certainly ‘stepped up to the plate’, his first run left 2 Maldon defenders in their wake and this injection of youthful exuberance gave us an extra edge.
With time running out and the Blues defending deeper and deeper Millsy picked up the ball wide and blasted a shot that was goal bound until Centre Half Harrison saved the ball on the line giving us a penalty. The debacle that followed this summed up the most inept refereeing performance I have seen for years, as the red card was shown to Jay Nash the No 9 instead of the No 6!!
Anyway Jamie Guy stepped up to take the penalty but Jason Willis did what he had done all afternoon and made an excellent save!! Not to be out done though from nowhere Millsy appeared again and smashed the ball into the net – Well done young man!!
Will the real Darryl Coakley stand up?
It was the minimum we deserved I felt and again showed our desire to not be beaten. We would need that on the following Tuesday night against Brentwood Town.
The Sky Blues have had a tough season, which resulted in a change of manager with Les Whitton giving way to Danny Dafter and Adam Flannagan. This had brought an improvement in performances and they came to us on the back of a 4-1 victory at Wroxham.
To be honest this game was not only a really poor one, we were really up against a number of issues on the night that again tested our resolve. Richard Logan made his debut for us and was probably one of the plusses on the night, particularly in the second half. In short we had the vast majority of the possession but by halftime we had lost Ian Westlake and Jamie Guy to hamstring injuries and Lee Townrow to an early bath.
Despite that we still had all the play with a player short but just lacked any punch in the final third so the 0-0 scoreline was not a surprise.
Going to Ware last Saturday the target was simple, just get the win and get it comfortably. We played with a 3-pronged attack of Loges, Ryan Crisp and Spider Charles (who would have a great game!) and had a great, very positive start.
Crispy put us in front following Spider and Coaks combining well to cross the ball where a Crisp shot from Crisp (sounds like a Walkers advert?!?!) nestled nicely into the bottom corner. We doubled our lead 20 minutes later with another great cross from Coaks that Crispy again smashed home.
During the break leading by the 2 goals we knew that playing up the Ware slope would be different. The half started with The Blues showing a bit more invention and they pulled a goal back from the penalty spot.
This kicked us into action again and with Kem Izzet driving us on from midfield we scored again 6 minutes later through that man Coakley who was more than making up for his under par match against Maldon the previous week. From this point we kept the ball well and in the end it was a comfortable win that we more than deserved.
This little run has brought us to the edge of the play off positions and fits in with my aim for a gradual improvement as our new team continues to ‘gel’. I understand the frustration from some of our supporters at the Brentwood match; I have already stated it was poor. The message I would have to all our excellent fans is that we are on a journey, which is about evolution not revolution. If we are to take the club forward this will be done following a process and in year one it is building a team that has the right attitude and desire, experience to help the younger lads and legs to help the old gits!! Our target was to make the play offs this season and I believe we are on track so keep the faith!
This week we have added another striking option with Russell Malton joining us from Heybridge Swifts. Russ is a lad I have monitored for a while since his release from Colchester United. He has just turned 23 and has agreed a deal for this year and next which I believe will be longer than that as he is a great lad with the right attitude. I would like to register my thanks to Heybridge Swifts Director of Football Wayne Bond who conducted himself in a totally professional way in this transfer.
It was great to see that Brightlingea Regent get through in the FA Vase in addition to their successful first season in Thurlow Nunn Prem Division. I am really pleased for their manager James Webster as he has worked hard and the club has really come on in recent years. Great also for my old centre-half Kev Hughes, who was with me at Needham and Sudbury. One of the best defenders I ever worked with and a top man.
I also really pleased for Brantham Athletic (my local team) for an excellent win on Saturday to also get into the Vase last 32. Well done to Paul ‘Abes’ Abrahams and Steve Downey and to my great mate Chairman Pete Crowhurst. I witnessed their incredibly victory against Whitney Bay last season plus they gave us a hell of a game in the FA Cup this year. Best wishes as well to the other local team Hadleigh United who are also through and are probably one of the favourites. I really hope that I can watch one of these teams in a Wembley showpiece final.
I would like to finish by wishing my old mate and ex head coach Steve Ball all the best in his career as manager at Leiston. I made no secret of my feelings regarding Steve Pitt dismissal but that has now gone and I feel that Bally is a decent choice as is his selection to bring in Robbie Bate as his number 2. Rob will be the solid part of the duo, well organised and a really good guy.
As for Steve, we had so many great times together at Leiston, so many laughs and he is as ‘mad as a hatter’. However he is also a football man through and through, I hope he develops into a good manager. He knows his old ‘Gaffer’ is always available for a chat or a bit of advice if required.
HAPPY DAYS - I ALWAYS HAD THE BETTER TASTE IN SHIRTS!!!