Essex Senior League – Premier Division
Venue: Burroughs Park
2021-22 Season: Match 6
Friday 30th July 2021 – 7.45pm KO
W Ensign: Red Shirts, Navy Blue Shorts, Red Socks
Stansted: White Shirts, Dark Grey Shorts, Dark Grey Socks
Stansted battle to earn a hard-fought win at Burroughs Park
White Ensign 1 – 2 Stansted
Match Report & Photos by Scott W [Twitter: @ScottMHC14]
Here we are, a new season began for me covering the Essex Senior for a sixth consecutive campaign with White Ensign’s first-ever match at Step 5, as they welcomed ever-gritty Stansted to Burroughs Park in one of two Friday night games on the opening weekend. Unsurprisingly, the hosts were keen to show exactly what got them to this level and before kick-off there was a buzz building amongst the crowd. I feel it would be remiss to not mention what a proud day this must have been for all at Ensign but particularly so for long-standing Chairman & President of Ensign, Alan Day. I’m sure the club will agree that a lot is owed to him for his role in keeping the club going over the years. Visitors Stansted of course were looking to get the season going with the points and the ‘Blue Brazil’ were cheered on by the travelling Stansted fans, who were a vocal presence from the get-go.
So onto the Teams then and Ensign boss Brett Munyard named a strong side with Tim Brown in goal, Carl Conway and skipper Andrew George at centre-back, with Luke Skinner and Thando Moyo in midfield. The forward line was led by Luke Woodward and Adu Odukoya with Connor Barnby the chief support. On the bench were new signings Ollie Bell and Zack Littlejohn alongside more well-known names in Charlie Buffin, Harry Skinner and John Hilliard. Stansted were certainly missing players here, but their forward line was led by Michael Salako and Jack Mitchell, with Sahr Bongay and the returning Connor Hammond on the flanks. Paul Clayton anchored the midfield, with Bryn Thorpe and Louis Monk as full-backs. Options from the bench for Paul Pittuck & John Watters’ side included forwards Nick Reynolds and Harry Bushell, alongside full-back Nathan Putt plus Jake Chaplin and David Salako.
The match itself began with some vigour as barely a minute elapsed before Stansted midfielder Daniel Okah had done well to deny Ensign forward Connor Barnby a sight at James Dillon’s goal. Moments later, it was the hosts’ turn to have a let-off as from a corner kick, Airportmen winger Sahr Bongay had twice failed to connect with the ball in what surely would’ve been the opening goal of the game. Barnby was the shining beacon of Ensign’s forward line and they were thwarted by a combination of a lack of a final pass and characteristic Stansted defending.
Stansted had the odd foray forward themselves and certainly gave the re-modelled Ensign backline some problems, with wingers Sahr Bongay and Connor Hammond being particularly tricky on the flanks and forward Michael Salako being the ever-willing runner down the channels. Just after the half-hour, after a promising run by Luke Skinner was blocked, the visitors counter-attacked swiftly, with Salako himself making a fine run down the left flank though his cross was thwarted by the ever-dependable Carl Conway, who did have a fine evening for the hosts.
Half-Time: White Ensign 0 – 0 Stansted
In fairness, the match was getting more absorbing and tense as the match went on and Ensign did put the visiting rearguard under some pressure towards the end of the first period. However, it was a ‘tale of two chances’ straight after the interval. First, two minutes after the restart, a fierce drive by Ensign’s Ayo Odukoya cannoned off the crossbar with Dillon beaten. Mere seconds later, Stansted went straight up the other end and forward Jack Mitchell did well to evade his marker before firing home into the left corner, much to the delight of the travelling support.
The likes of Odukoya and fellow forwards Luke Woodward and Connor Barnby were still posing a threat for Ensign with their movement and pace. Thankfully for the home side given the occasion, they were not behind for long. With 55 minutes gone, a fine solo run by Connor Barnby ended with a fine low finish into the left-side corner to level things up. Ensign then sensed an oppurtunity to turn the tables in this match but Skinner, Barnby and recently arrived substitute Ollie Bell all spurned good chances off-target.
It ended up being costly for the hosts as with thirteen minutes remaining, the Airportmen once again took the lead. A superb run by the impressive Connor Hammond down the right found Michael Salako with a good pass and Salako weaved his way past the defender and struck home a fine effort low into the far corner. It was a very well-taken goal but the tension continued to rise in the last few minutes as Barnby played in Odukoya who couldn’t get a strike in at goal. Soon afterward, substitute Zack Littlejohn powered home a curling drive from about eighteen yards which visiting custodian James Dillon did superbly to track and to claw over the crossbar.
Full-Time: White Ensign 1 – 2 Stansted
In tbe end, Stansted did enough to get the points and made the most of the hosts’ slight vulnerability defensively. Ensign still had enough chances to gain at least a point here and did learn a hard lesson that you have to be more clinical against good sides at Step 5. However, it is worth noting that the occasion itself was brilliant and Brett Munyard & Mark Healy’s side will win a lot of matches this season.
In terms of stand-out performances, for the Airportmen, Connor Hammond and Michael Salako had fine matches and gave the home defence a headache & a half. Winger Sahr Bongay had a promising match too, stretching the opposition defence, while forward Jack Mitchell and goalkeeper James Dillon also deserve a mention. For Ensign, forward Connor Barnby had a very good game with his pace and movement. Centre-back Carl Conway was also very good indeed, making numerous important clearing headers and interceptions. Luke Skinner and Luke Woodward also deserve a mention, as does new signing Courtney Justin.
Thanks to the hosts for their hospitality and it was great to see a number of good people at the match. Best wishes to both teams for the rest of the campaign.
White Ensign | Manager: Brett Munyard | Assistant: Mark Healy
Starting XI: 1 Tim Brown (GK), 6 Courtney Justin (11 Zack Littlejohn 82′), 12 Charlie Adams, 14 Carl Conway, 5 Andy George (Capt), 3 Thando Moyo (17 John Hilliard 87′), 10 Luke Skinner, 7 Dominic Locke (16 Ollie Bell 69′), 9 Connor Barnby, 19 Luke Woodward, 18 Ayo Odukoya
Goal-scorer: Connor Barnby [55′]
Booked: Justin | Subs Not Used: Buffin, H Skinner
Stansted | Joint-Managers: Paul Pittuck & John Watters | Assistant: Neil Tillotson
Starting XI: 1 James Dillon (GK), 2 Bryn Thorpe, 3 Louis Monk (15 Nathan Putt 56′), 4 John Clarke, 5 Joe Clark (Capt), 6 Paul Clayton, 7 Sahr Bongay (13 Nick Reynolds 71′), 8 Daniel Okah (16 David Salako 69′), 9 Michael Salako, 10 Jack Mitchell, 11 Connor Hammond
Goal-scorers: Jack Mitchell [47′], Michael Salako [77′]
Booked: Mitchell | Subs Not Used: Chaplin, Bushell
Referee: Nathan Kitteridge
Assistants: Robert Collins & Joe Lannon