Essex Senior League
Venue: Lower Road
Tuesday 26th March 2019 – 7.45pm KO
2018-19 Season: Match 62
Hullbridge: Blue & White Striped Shirts, Blue Shorts, Blue Socks
Saffron Walden: Red & Black Striped Shirts, Black Shirts, Black Socks
Hullbridge grab all-important three points over Walden at Lower Road
Report & Photo by Scott W [Twitter: @ScottMHC14] with additional photos by Neil H [Twitter: @ABridgeTooFar16]
The latest Essex Senior League midweek match took me to this match at Lower Road as top-three sides Hullbridge and Saffron Walden faced off. Hullbridge had boss Darren Manning back in the dugout though also had to contend with a number of players out, with Adebola Sotoyinbo banned, Luke Hornsley unavailable and Greg Frederick and Michael Salako injured. Lewis Greene got the nod between the sticks with a forward three of Adetokunbo Sotoyinbo, Joe Wright and Yemi Adelani. Nathan Scarborough and Tim Monsheju were on the bench. For Walden, they were well-backed by their fans as they have been quite often this term and named Spike Bell and Jack Mead as full-backs with Ryan Fleming skippering the side and a front two of Charlie Portway and Lewis Francis. Oliver Emsden was among the options on the substitutes’ bench.
It was the visitors who started strongly as the ‘Bridge boys had no choice but to be alert from the get-go. Even then, in the first minute, full-back Jack Mead surged forward and his low drive was well-turned wide by home goalkeeper Lewis Greene. Three minutes later, home defender Jamal Allen, playing in a mask due to a broken nose, headed away though the fall fell to Bloods forward Lewis Francis blazed his effort over the woodwork. Walden did have the better of a predictably tight contest, in terms of possession and half-chances as we got into the middle of the first half. Sports had the odd telling foray in attack, as a good ball in found Joe Wright who moved quickly to find himself almost in on goal, though a excellent recovery challenge by visiting defender Ryan Fleming denied him the chance of a one-on-one with custodian Neil O’Sullivan.
What followed just before the half-hour was two great chances for Walden. First, Mead’s stinging effort was again well-saved by Greene before Francis’ header cannoned off the crossbar following up.
A mere minute later, a peach of a cross by full-back Spike Bell found goal-hungry forward Charlie Portway though he powered a header wide of the far post. Perhaps sensing they were fortunate to still be level, ‘Bridge pushed forward again and only a brilliant save by O’Sullivan denied home forward Yemi Adelani good strike when one-on-one with the ‘keeper. Portway miscued another effort wide when perhaps off-balance a minute before the interval. Although it was the visitors who had more of the chances, on the score-sheet they had precious little to show for it.
Half-Time: Hullbridge 0 – 0 Saffron Walden
Life after the interval was quite a bit different. ‘Bridge did break the deadlock seven minutes in as a powerful run by the ever-consistent full-back Courtney Homans ended as he let fly from the edge of the area which beat O’Sullivan before it went low into the net. Two minutes later, Adelani broke free of the attentions of the Walden backline though O’Sullivan saved well once again. The central defensive partnership of Fleming, Frew and Pethers were characteristically firm with a combination of recovery interceptions, powerful clearances and the like. That mindset of ‘shutting up shop’ was on display again as anchor midfielder Dan Okah’s shot was well-blocked for a corner. The hosts’ concern was raised in the latter stages as after having used all three substitutions, combative defender Perry Dunn had to be assisted off the pitch after aggravating a groin knock. To be fair to the travelling support, fans of both sides applauded him off after another gutsy display.
Walden sensed they had to take advantage of the hosts’ defensive re-jig as Okah went back into defence. To their credit, the visitors piled forward and created pressure as Messrs Portway and Francis sought to pounce though chances were thin on the ground at this point. As we entered added-time, substitute Tim Monsheju had an effort blocked for a corner but that ended up being a prelude to a moment of quality. Monsheju powered forward on the counter-attack down the left channel and played in Adelani who powered a sweet strike past O’Sullivan and into the top corner to seal the points for Darren Manning’s side.
Full-Time: Hullbridge Sports 2 – 0 Saffron Walden Town
Without over-using cliches, the hosts roared back into the contest after being second-best, particularly in terms of chances in the first half. To their credit, Walden contributed a lot to the match and quite how Portway or Francis didn’t register on the score-sheet here is beyond me but that is how it can go. We’ve seen how much of an offensive threat Walden are and they showed what they will be going forward into next season as well if they keep this squad together.
In terms of performances, there were a number of players on both sides that shone in what was a tough battle. For the hosts, goalkeeper Greene, defenders Homans and Dunn and forwards Wright and Adelani all did well. For Walden, full-backs Bell and Mead showed a lot of purpose, energy and quality, with skipper Fleming showing his defensive nous and forward Francis didn’t stop running either.
Thanks to Hullbridge for their hospitality and it was great to see many familiar faces tonight, including a few Essex Senior League managers among them. It is a Non-League family after all and I’ll do well to remember that from this encounter. Thanks also to Malcolm for assistance with the stats tonight.
Hullbridge Sports | Manager: Darren Manning
Lewis Greene (GK), Courtney Homans, Matt Rose (Capt), Jamal Allen, Perry Dunn (Forced off injured 79′), Daniel Okah, Emmanuel Okunja, Matt Baxter (Joe Skeels 63′), Adetokunbo Sotoyinbo (Nathan Scarborough 59′), Joe Wright (Tim Monsheju 68′), Yemi Adelani
Goal-scorers: Courtney Homans [52′], Yemi Adelani [90′ +5]
Booked: Okah, Baxter, Scarborough, Homans | Subs Not Used: Marsh (GK), Dicks
Saffron Walden Town | Manager: Jason Maher
Neil O’Sullivan (GK), Spike Bell, Jack Mead, Ryan Fleming (Capt), Matt Frew (Tom Lakin 73′), Scott Pethers, Craig Calver (Joe Maybanks 84′), Ashley Skeggs (Oliver Emsden 68′), Greg Strong, Charlie Portway, Lewis Francis
Booked: Strong | Subs Not Used: Ledwith, Riley
Referee: Steven Marr