Beaconsfield Town 2 Blackfield & Langley 0
Rams Man of the Match - James McCluskey
To say that Blackfield & Langley’s first ever visit to Holloways Park was not a fixture that will live long in the memory is something of an understatement. Had I not made notes I’d have already forgotten most of this scrappy error strewn untidy and increasingly petulant affair.
The prospects for the afternoon were good. The Watersider’s, enjoying a good start to their campaign following last season’s championship winning heroics, arrived at Holloways Park with scouting reports that suggested their style of pacey attacking play would provide a strong test for The Rams who are now showing signs of recovering from their abysmal start to the league season.
Conditions were good with pre match rain squalls subsiding to leave a perfect surface for football
with a stiffish breeze favouring the visitors in the first half.
Enter Referee Alastair Higgs who set the tone for his and everbody else’s afternoon on two minutes. Mayowa Balogun slid into challenge overlapping fullback Adeoye Clumuyiwa. Balogun took the ball cleanly through the legs of the lanky full back, in the act of receiving the ball on the half turn. Clumuyiwa went down like a sniper had got him and lay motionless like a felled Redwood.
It was not a reckless or dangerous challenge Mayowa even retracted his kicking foot after playing the ball to minimise initial contact as he slid through. The direction of the ball indicated clean contact. So much so that, the assistant stationed four yards from the incident simply indicated throw in. Presumably he saw, what most with a decent view saw, a well-timed challenge under control, with an element of ‘from behind’ and decided to give the defender the benefit of the doubt.
Mr Higgs egged on by the disproportionate protestations of the visitors saw not only a free kick but also an early chance to brandish a yellow card. Without so much as raising an eye-brow at the assistant who subsequently didn’t raise a flag in anger for 80 minutes beyond staying in his obvious allotted lane, throw ins and off sides.
Thus was the dispiriting tone of the afternoon set. Exaggerated falls, arm waving, squeals of pain and vocal protestations at the officials punctuated play throughout.
Clearly attempts to game the ref into further impetuous decisions.
The hapless Mr Higgs instead of stamping authority simply compounded matters as he displayed such a poor grasp of ‘playing advantage’ that it was hard to fathom how he could be so wrong so consistently without doing it on purpose.
In his defence he was as bad for both sides, as his increasingly fussy interventions effectively destroyed the flow and to a large extent the spirit of the encounter as everyone present - players officials and supporters - became increasingly frustrated .
Most of football that was played in the first half was played by the visitors. Clumuyiwa, mercifully recovered from the terrible early assault on him, combined well with the half’s best player James Orvis down the right and provided a number of highly presentable opportunities for Lerone Plummer who stood out as much for his willing and incisive running as for the Karate Kid headband he chose to wear throughout.
The home side survived on a meagre diet of possession but defended with discipline and application and on the occasions that they were breached keeper Myles Bowman was on hand to repel the visitor’s efforts. Most notably when tipping away a stinging drive from Orvis and later somehow blocking Plummer at close range with his shins when the striker seemed certain to open the scoring. In between Plummer again found himself in splendid isolation six yards out in front of goal but found only an air shot after Orvis again picked him out with a low cross.
By then though the Rams were already ahead as Brendan Matthew and James McCluskey finished a quick break from defence with a beautiful exchange of passes culminating in Matthew applying a delicate first time finish, shaping a curling shot around and above the despairing dive of the advancing Lewis Noice.
Everything good that Beaconsfield did in the first half went through McCluskey whose astute passing and positional sense saw him create further opportunities for Matthew and Bajram Pashaj which neither was able to trouble Noice with.
So whilst the visitors enjoyed possession and created good opportunities the home sides lead did not have the feel of ‘against the run of play’ about it. Everyone was doing their job maintaining their discipline and protecting the lead. The visitors will have gone in at half-time feeling that they deserved to be at least on terms but they had no one to blame but themselves.
Half time 1-0
The second half was as drab a 45 minutes as it has been my misfortune to witness in the last three seasons. Beaconsfield sat in a little and protected the lead as the visitors became increasingly desperate in their pursuit of the equaliser they were increasingly convinced they deserved.
At times their desperation got in the way of their football. When they needed to show a little composure they allowed their frustration with the officials, The Rams and the universe to get in the way of their football.
Only the lively and direct running of Luke Rae, introduced just before half time when the excellent Orvis limped off, carried any consistent threat to the home defence. On the one occasion he managed to wriggle free of the attentions of the home defence, Bowman was equal to his effort.
There were a succession of corners and pressure but by and large the Rams had few alarms whilst creating very little themselves either.
As the game wore on one sensed that if the visitors got one goal they would likely go on to get more as the racked up the pressure in pursuit of an equaliser. It looked even more likely in the 80th minute when Mr Higgs who was having a quietish second period stamped himself on the contest again.
Shaquille Gwengwe was introduced as a substitute in the 75th minute and was immediately booked for a deliberate pull back on Mayowa Balogun. Again it was a foul but having just been introduced as a sub perhaps some leeway for youthful exuberance and a word could suffice.
The next time the two players came together, challenging for a flicked on throw in, Gwengwe threw himself to the floor waving his arms. The linesman, on this occasion looking through Balogun’s back, flagged for a foul. Is was hard to say what contact there had been but Higgs was happy that there was enough there to brandish a second yellow and a red to the unfortunate Balogun who will now miss the FA Cup trip to Royston Town.
Having already made all his substitutions Gary Meakin re-organised his troops with Jordan Ajanlekoko dropping into right back whist Alex Nolan swapped sides to play down the left.
Tyrell Mitford was left to plough a lone furrow up front as The Rams settled in to withstand the expected siege on their goal. Again, The Watersiders huffed and puffed and ran about but created little by way of actual clear-cut chances.
It just about summed up their afternoon when as they over pressed for the equaliser they left themselves short at the back and a chip over Josh Harfield allowed Tyrell Mitford to nip in between the centre half and Noice to steady himself and apply what is becoming his trademark gentle lob over the advancing keeper.
2-0 was harsh on the visitors who will probably play worse than this and win but a confidence boost for the Rams who showed resilience, discipline and togetherness to build on as they prepare for their trip to Royston and FA cup action next week.
Come On You Rams
1. Myles Bowman
2. Alex Nolan
3. Mayo Balogun
4. Reece Yorke
5. Luke Neville
6. Wes Daly © (Sub 12. Tyrell Mitford 64)
7. Jordan Ajanlekoko
8. Ade Shokunbi
9. Brendan Matthew (Sub14.Jon-Jo Bates 75)
10. James McCluskey
11.Bajram Pashaj (Sub16. Kane Guy-Seifert 75)
Subs Not Used:
13. Borja Loeches Teixeira
15. Kaine Kennedy-Sinclair
Manager: Gary Meakin
Blackfield & Langley
1. Lewis Noice
2. Adeoye Clumuyiwa
3. Connal Morrison
4. Jordan Ngalo
5. Harry Medway ©
6. Joshua Harfield
14. Leronne Plummer
7. James Orvis (Sub12. Luke Pae 42)
8. Charles Gunson
10. Fatah Makhloufi (Sub15.Shaquille Gwenge 75)
11. Sam Griffin (Sub 9.Hisham Kasimu 61)
Subs Not Used:
16. Devane Bongou
17. Georges Cathline Yobo
Manager: Glenn Howes
Ref: Alistair Higgs - Assistants Simon Weston - Derrick Laing