Essex Senior League
Venue: Lower Road
2018-19 Season: Match 75
Saturday 27th April 2019 – 3pm KO
Hullbridge: Blue &White Striped Shirts, Blue Shorts, Blue Socks
Stanway: Amber Shirts, Black Shorts, Black Socks
Hullbridge grab the win to secure their first ESL Title!!
Report & Photos by Scott W (Twitter: @ScottMHC14) with added photos by Neil Hunwicks [Twitter: @AbridgeTooFar16] & Hullbridge FC (@HullbridgeFC)
So this was it. The final day of the 2018-19 Essex Senior League campaign saw me return to Lower Road as part of a hefty crowd to see Hullbridge’s crunch match with Stanway Rovers, who have had an indifferent season. The equation was simple for Darren Manning’s team – win this match and Hullbridge’s first ESL title in nearly 30 years of being a member would be secure and with it, promotion to Bostik League North.
The anticipation for this one has risen in the last couple of weeks and the hosts fielded George Marsh between the sticks with George Whitby joining near ever-present Jamal Allen in central defence. The front three were Adebola Sotoyinbo, Joe Wright and Yemi Adelani with the likes of Nathan Scarborough and Luke Hornsley on an attack-minded substitutes’ bench. Stanway’s backline was comprised of full-backs Finn O’Reilly and skipper Tyler Kemp with Milo Grimes and Columbus Iyayi as centre-backs. Their forward line was led by target-man Mike Turner and the lively Amar Lewis.
To be fair to Rovers, they started the match well as they had an early sighter of goal though home custodian George Marsh was thankful to see sail wide. Forward Amar Lewis also presented a threat for Stanway, cutting inside from the left flank, reminding ‘Bridge that they needed to ‘stay on the front foot’ here. For the hosts, playmaker Matt Baxter certainly looked to set his team’s attacks going from deep, and on the quarter-hour, his ball fed full-back Courtney Homans whose telling cross was cut out well by Stanway skipper Tyler Kemp. Rovers ‘stopper Daniel Beeson was called into action moments later as after midfield engine Emmanuel Okunja scuffed his strike, forward Yemi Adelani struck the re-bound but to no avail.
The hosts were gradually asserting themselves on-the-ball though Rovers made it difficult for them to pierce through their defence. Forward Joe Wright was giving Rovers a bit of a headache with his pace and trickery, peeling off the left though efforts from him and Baxter couldn’t bypass Beeson. With half-time approaching and the nerves steadily rising along with it, tricky forward Adebola Sotoyinbo made a surging run down the middle though his effort on goal lacked power as Beeson denied him and following-up, Adelani somehow struck over though his blushes were spared by the assistant’s raised flag. The lack of a final ball was affecting Hullbridge though after Rovers had scrambled the ball clear from not one but two goal-mouth scrambles, Okunja’s neat flick on the edge of the area found Adelani though he fizzed the ball wide of the far post.
Half-Time: Hullbridge 0 – 0 Stanway
As the second-half got underway, the home crowd thought they had cause to celebrate though centre-back George Whitby’s lashed strike was chalked off for off-side barely a minute after the re-start. Rovers were still in this contest as forward Mike Turner twice struck wide and only an important goal-line clearance by captain Matt Rose denied Stanway a goal that really would have added pressure on their hosts. Soon after that, news filtered though that rivals Stansted had fallen behind at Leyton Athletic so that added to the home crowd’s excitement. The Rovers side were starting to tire, though full-back Finn O’Reilly made a couple of lung-busting runs down the right channel, the second of which was well-marshalled by Sports centre-back Jamal Allen.
The deadlock was finally broken with 20 minutes remaining, much to the relief of the home fans. Sotoyinbo broke through the Rovers backline and coolly slotted low into the corner past Beeson whilst one-on-one, much to his side’s obvious delight. Beeson did well to deny Homans minutes later though he could do nothing about the hosts’ second goal. Substitute Luke Hornsley strike from a narrow angle was kept out by Beeson though on the edge of the box, Sotoyinbo’s crisp strike flew into the net to cue rapturous celebrations, both in the stands and on the field.
Stanway did half the arrears in added-time as from Scott Kemp’s good centre from the right, slack marking allowed substitute Jordan Blackman to nip in and slot home from close range. But in the grander scheme of things, with mere moments left before full-time, it was too little, too late.
Full-Time: Hullbridge 2 – 1 Stanway
Hullbridge WIN Essex Senior League Title & promotion to Bostik North.
As far as the match goes, it probably wasn’t Hullbridge’s stand-out performance this season, though these types of matches are seldom easy. It was a team showing today, though the front three of Sotoyinbo, Wright and Adelani all did well, even if the latter could have had two goals himself on other day. Centre-back Jamal Allen and playmaker Matt Baxter also had strong games, along with the influence of substitute Hornsley. For Stanway, their back four stood up well at times, with centre-back Columbus Iyayi making a number of important interceptions. Winger Scott Kemp and Amar Lewis also stood out in my view today.
So, the match was done and the celebrations could begin, first with the trophy presentation. Both of which you could say the players, management and off-field team really savoured. To be fair, why wouldn’t you? It’s been a hard season, which shows the depth and quality of the league at times, four teams got more than 75 points so that says a bit.
To close this report, I am happy to see Hullbridge progress into a new chapter into their history and you have to recall the turnaround that’s happened after the tough season last time out. Manager Darren Manning has driven this club to those said new heights in his first full season in management so he & his management team deserve plaudits for that.
In a way, it is sad that they leave the ESL as they are a credit to themselves, the league and Non-League football in general. I sincerely wish them well next season, and it’s been good to partly cover their journey over the last three years in the ESL & beyond.
Hullbridge Sports | Manager: Darren Manning
George Marsh (GK), Courtney Homans, Matt Rose (Capt), Jamal Allen, George Whitby, Dan Okah, Emmanuel Okunja (Dan Okah 56’), Matt Baxter (Joe Skeels 86’), Adebola Sotoyinbo, Joe Wright (Nathan Scarborough 65’), Yemi Adelani (Luke Hornsley 57’)
Goal-scorers: Adebola Sotoyinbo [70’ & 87’]
Booked: Whitby | Subs Not Used: Morrisey (GK), Monsheju
Stanway Rovers | Manager: Danny Slatter
Daniel Beeson (GK), Finn O’Reilly, Tyler Kemp (Capt), Milo Grimes, Columbus Iyayi, Jett Hogan, Scott Kemp, Ruben Kennedy, Jack Puzey (Jordan Blackman 85’), Mike Turner (Niah Beecher 71’), Amar Lewis (Frank Tiffney 85’)
Goal-scorer: Jordan Blackman [90’+3]
Booked: Kennedy, S Kemp | Subs Not Used: None
Referee: Paul Newman