Isthmian League Division North
Venue: Lower Road
2019-20 Season: Match 48
Boxing Day (Thurs 26th December) 2019 – 3pm KO
Hullbridge: Blue & White Striped Shirts, Blue Shorts, Blue Socks
Wakering: Yellow Shirts, Black Shorts, Black Socks
Wakering earn win in a big battle at a sodden Lower Road
Hullbridge Sports 1 – 4 Great Wakering Rovers
Report & Photos by Scott W (Twitter: @ScottMHC14)
It was only a ‘blink of an eye’ since Christmas Day had passed but in a very rare break from the usual family tradition on Boxing Day, I ventured out to continue the Non-League season with a welcome return to Lower Road to see two former ESL sides in Hullbridge Sports and Great Wakering Rovers in a Isthmian League Division North clash. Well I say that, though a hefty rain shower in the hour or so before kick-off nearly knackered the chances of there being any match to write about on this occasion. Without being over-the-top, it had left its mark but more on the conditions later.
Hullbridge named regular stopper Lewis Greene in goal, with a back four of Cortney Homans, Matt Rose and centre-backs Jamal Allen & recent signing Mike Agboola. Liam Nash made his first start since rejoining the club, alongside Adebola Sotoyinbo and Tim Monsheju in attack. The likes of Joe Wright, Callum Fitzer and Daniel Gilchrist were among the replacements. Wakering were just below the play-offs before kick-off and named the experienced Bobby Mason in goal, a central defence of Oliver Woodhouse and Joseph Heath with a front three of Jake Gordon, Martin Tuohy and Kojo Apenteng. Billy Johnson, Alfie Hilton and Dan Walker were some of the options on their bench.
As we got underway here, the rain was still adding to an already sodden outfield, with standing water accumulating in several areas altering the bounce of the ball and therefore making it more awkward to discern its path. Needless to say it wasn’t a slow start either, as barely a minute in forward Liam Nash tried a lob into the top corner which didn’t find the target before being cleared. Rovers went straight on the counter-attack through forward Jake Gordon’s surging run through the middle, though the conditions had a say in holding up his weak effort which was then bolted away from danger.
Hullbridge responded again, as tricky forward Adebola Sotoyinbo had a piercing drive deflected wide for a corner after only four minutes in. Both sides traded chances as they found it tough-going to really get the better of the elements though as the first half progressed, it was the visitors who gradually had the more impetus. Moments after having a goal chalked off for off-side, Wakering did take the lead on 22 minutes as Gordon broke free of the home backline before confidently slotting home low past ‘Bridge stopper Lewis Greene. The visitors were then foiled by a combination of the conditions and poor finishing. Firstly, on the stroke of the half-hour, a searing cross in from the right nearly found energetic midfielder George Cox at the back post though he couldn’t get a telling touch. Skipper Adalberto Pinto, who will shortly depart for a new adventure abroad, then headed wide when well-placed from a free-kick. Then with seven minutes remaining before the break, a good Waketng move saw Cox play in pacy forward Kojo Apenteng who didn’t gamble to compete with ‘keeper Greene, who gathered well.
Rovers did get the telling second goal though as four minutes from the interval, evergreen forward Martin Tuohy found half a yard of space before stroking home calmly in a congested penalty area. At this point, it was the perhaps more experienced visitors who could settle and execute their plans better though the home side were hardly out of the contest, despite being below-par.
Half-Time: Hullbridge 0 – 2 Great Wakering
The flow of chances continued into the second half. Two minutes after the restart, GWR forward Apenteng getting past his marker well though his drive at goal lacked the power needed and Greene could gather at a comfortable height. The hosts started to find their rhythm soon after, as from a Tim Monsheju corner, centre-back Jamal Allen fizzed a header just off-target. Darren Manning’s side then made the most of a defensive lapse from the visitors on 55 minutes which saw substitute Callum Fitzer race clear from the halfway-line to catch the visiting defence napping and coolly finished low into the corner, beyond the reach of Wakering custodian Bobby Mason.
In the following phase that followed, the visitors showed their desire to triumph as challenges got more difficult (see photos above) which resulted in numerous bookings. In the latter stages, Rovers looked to secure the points and the ever-threatening Gordon broke clear of the home defence and with only Greene to beat, his effort drew a good save from the Hullbridge number one. Following a set-piece, Wakering midfielder Jack Stevenson weaved his way past his marker before his teasing cross evaded two teammates on the six-yard line before being cleared. Stevenson would go one better though with six minutes left to play, as his low strike beat Greene and covering defender Matt Rose to once again give Steve Butterworth’s side a two-goal advantage.
It was increasingly apparent that tensions were boiling over between the teams in the last few minutesand after dynamic midfielder Emmanuel Okunja had seen red following a lunging tackle, Wakering boss Butterworth also was dismissed from the touchline for two yellows, a quirk you don’t often see. It was that kind of all-action match though, and Wakering added more gloss to the score-line as Pinto netted with a firm header in added time.
Full-Time: Hullbridge Sports 1 – 4 Great Wakering Rovers
Wakering it was then who emerged from a truly physical yet engrossing battle between two former Essex Senior League champions with a deserved victory in what will go down as a match that for multiple reasons will live for some time in the memory. That is because there was so much to take in, for one thing, both teams adapting to horrid conditions which made both tackling and forward play tougher than usual. Both sides deserve great credit for showing so much determination and at times quality despite the odds not being in their favour.
In terms of stand-out performances, Wakering had a number of them with midfielders George Cox and Jack Stevenson putting in a big shift and showing good intent supporting their forwards. Forward Jake Gordon was also a real threat, unsettling the home defence with pace and movement while centre-back pairing Oliver Woodhouse and Joseph Heath also really contributed to a stern defensive showing for Steve Butterworth’s team. Forward Liam Nash stood out on his return to the Bridge Boys here, and full-back Courtney Homans and forward Tim Monsheju also contributed to their play in attack with neat passing and energy.
Finally, I’d like to thank Non-League colleague & Essex Senior President Rob Errington and Hullbridge themselves for the welcome & hospitality they gave us today. It is a real beacon for how clubs could be and it is warmly valued. Thanks also to Colin Webb.
Hullbridge Sports | Manager: Darren Manning
Goal-scorers: Callum Fitzer [55’]
Booked: Gumbs, Rose, Allen | Sent Off: Okunja | Subs Not Used: Hornsley, Okah
Great Wakering Rovers | Player-Manager: Steve Butterworth
1 Bobby Mason (GK), 2 Louie Hay, 3 Reece Conway, 4 Adalberto Pinto (Capt), 5 Joseph Heath, 6 Oliver Woodhouse, 7 Jake Gordon, 8 George Cox, 9 Martin Tuohy (14 Billy Johnson 69’), 10 Jack Stevenson (15 Jack Lelliott 89’), 11 Kojo Apenteng
Goal-scorers: Jake Gordon [22’], Martin Tuohy [41’], Jack Stevenson [84’], Adalberto Pinto [90’+1]
Booked: Heath, Pinto, Cox, Mason | Sent Off (from dugout): Butterworth | Subs Not Used: Artemi, Hilton, Walker
Referee: Craig Pullen
Assistant Referees: Dean Markwick & Charlie Roberts