Essex Olympian League – Premier Division
Venue: Len Forge Centre 3G
2021-22 Season: Match 45
Attendance: 25 (Est)
Saturday 4th December 2021 – 2pm KO
Catholic Utd: Green & White Shirts, Black Shorts, Green & White Socks
Harold Wood: Claret & Sky Blue Shirts, Claret Shorts, Claret Socks
Harold Wood produce excellent second-half showing to win well at Catholic Utd
Catholic Utd 1 – 3 Harold Wood Athletic
Match Report & Photos by Scott W [Twitter: @ScottMHC14]
This weekend, I was pleased to end a five-week break from watching Essex Olympian action with a short trip to the Len Forge Centre to see Catholic Utd welcome Harold Wood Athletic in the EOFL Premier Division. Athletic were bottom of the table pre-match after one win so far this campaign & Utd were keen to keep up the pressure on the top three. Simon Thomas’ hosts had a full-strength side to choose from here, and Louis Godwin-Green was again the glovesman, with Alfie Whiteaker and Cameron Lemar the full-backs. Michael Sammut skippered the side, and Utd also had a front three of Aaron Baldwin, Franklin Craik and Alex O’Leary. Options from the bench included the attack-minded Harrison Day, Pablo Passenda and Jay Nash. Harold Wood were missing stalwarts Matt Donovan and Jacob Roberts but did have Steven Reynolds in goal, with a back four of Tommy Harber and Jack Baines plus centre-backs Harry Clifford and Ben Gibbons. Another long-standing player in Reiss Kingsley captained the visitors, with a forward line of Max Shepherd, James Pottle and Billy Reed. Gary Willis’ side also had Freddy Shepherd, Emmanuel Olaniyan and Lee Dann as substitutes.
The match started with both sides looking to set their stall out, with Utd looking to create chances early and Athletic looking to deny said chances and build a base from there. Simon Thomas’ ‘Super Hoops’ had early sighters at Steven Reynolds’ goal as forward Alex O’Leary narrowly struck over the woodwork and skipper Michael Sammut also sent a header off-target. Catholic continued to have a good share of ball rentention as the first half went on, with Franklin Craik and Aaron Baldwin both having strikes on goal that kept Reynolds alert.
Harold Wood did have the occasional foray in the hosts’ defensive third, with forwards Billy Reed and James Pottle making good runs, Reed’s whilst in possession to turn past his marker but there was little in the way of clear-cut chances to test Utd custodian Louis Godwin-Green. That being said, what Gary Willis’ side were doing well was stifling their opposition’s attacking rhythm as Utd didn’t have the ball for long enough in the last few minutes before the break.
Half-Time: Catholic Utd 0 – 0 Harold Wood
It was fair to say that the visitors would be the happier of the two sides at the break, as Utd really did need to find another gear to bypass a commendably solid Ath backline, led well by centre-back Harry Clifford. In the first part of the second half though, the hosts’ passing did go astray somewhat, despite that Craik had another decent effort denied by the visiting defence. Harold Wood brought on substitutes Freddy Shepherd and Emmanuel Olaniyan at the restart and they soon had an impact on proceedings. Shepherd made a good run into the penalty box and was well-poised to strike at goal, only for full-back Cameron Lemar to tackle well to send the ball out for a set-piece.
Pottle also had a strike off-target but there was a sense that Athletic were building momentum. Even so, it was a bit of a surprise when Harold Wood broke the stalemate on 63 minutes. A good floated centre from the right flank by full-back Tommy Harber found the six-yard line area, and Freddy Shepherd rose in the air ahead of Godwin-Green to nod home well, although the Utd ‘keeper will have been disappointed that he mistimed his leap to gather the cross.
Understandably, Catholic Utd sought to quickly get back on level terms. The home contingent were starting to voice their frustration from the stands but Ath were doing a decent job of once again stifling promising moves from the attack-minded Utd side, until we got to 76 minutes. Craik was clipped in the area in what looked a nervous challenge, and referee Daniel Mann showed little hesitation to point to the penalty spot. Harley Kee stepped up and blasted home high into the net, giving Reynolds little chance to save.
So, with the match tantalisingly-poised at 1 – 1, you may have thought that Utd would build more impetus to get another goal. Well that just didn’t happen. Harold Wood went straight up the other end to attack and Freddy Shepherd again had a crucial part in the goal as good passing found him and then continuing the move, he found James Pottle who found enough space to fire low into the net, beyond the grasp of Godwin-Green.
To be fair to the match, it had built up nicely since the half-hour mark and Catholic did respond well, putting in good crosses and passing, notably by substitutes Pablo Passenda and Harrison Day, who also made a few good surging runs down the channels though Reynolds didn’t have a great deal to do to be honest at this stage.
Whilst it’s true that Utd were threatening to respond with another goal, it was Harold Wood who really capped a fine afternoon’s work as with four minutes of the ninety remaining, another counter-attack by Ath found gaps in the Utd defence and Shepherd I think it was who found the impressive Billy Reed who fired home well to give Harold Wood a decisive third goal and complete a surprise win. Reed did deserve something from the game as on at least two occasions, the forward showcased his talents making tricky and rapid turns past opposition defenders.
Catholic Utd kept pouring forward looking for that important second goal but it wasn’t their day. Other results saw them drop to seventh after the day’s League action, while Wood climbed off the bottom, but are still five points off the top ten and relative safety.
Full-Time: Catholic Utd 1 – 3 Harold Wood Athletic
To summarise, Utd had a number of chances, particularly in the first period which they couldn’t make the most of. Harold Wood responded well after the interval to weather the storm and kept their hosts at bay before being fairly clinical in attack in the latter stages to claim a valuable win.
For stand-out performances here, we start with Harold Wood. Credit has to go to hard-working forwards James Pottle and Billy Reed who had moments of decent play before the interval. After it, they both showed good awareness, good passing and finishing as both also got on the score-sheet. Centre-back Harry Clifford was a towering figure at the heart of the Athletic defence, making several important clearances, particularly aerially. And a word too for the impact of substitute Freddy Shepherd who scored one goal and had a assist for another. His energy, passing and movement caused headaches for the tiring hosts backline.
For Utd, Tom Elliott put in a good shift, interchanging positions with skipper Michael Sammut at times. Elliott also had good presence to disrupt the visitors’ midfield passing at times. Harley Kee put in another characteristic display, and only good defending stopped him from putting in telling passes. Lastly, replacement Harrison Day showed his talent in the half-hour he had today, showing good pace and passing.
Best wishes to both teams for the rest of the campaign. My thanks to Catholic Utd boss Simon Thomas for his assistance pre-match.
Catholic Utd | Manager: Simon Thomas
Starting XI: 1 Louis Godwin-Green (GK), 2 Cameron Lemar, 3 Alfie Whiteaker, 5 Louis Robinson, 6 Tom Elliott, 8 Michael Sammut (Capt), 20 Harley Kee, 7 Tom Kearney, 9 Aaron Baldwin, 10 Franklin Craik, 11 Alex O’Leary
Goal-scorer: Harley Kee [pen 77′]
Subs On (Time): 12 Harrison Day (61′), 15 Jay Nash (61′), 14 Pablo Passenda (68′), 16 Tobias DeSouza (72′), 17 Temi Adebayo (80′)
Booked: None | Subs Not Used: None
Harold Wood Athletic | Manager: Gary Willis
Starting XI: 1 Steven Reynolds (GK), 2 Tommy Harber, 3 Jack Baines, 4 Ben Gibbons, 19 Harry Clifford, 6 Sam Tampkins, 7 Jordan Crane, 8 Reiss Kingsley (Capt), 9 Max Shepherd, 10 Billy Reed, 11 James Pottle
Goal-scorers: Freddy Shepherd [63′], James Pottle [78′], Billy Reed [86′]
Subs On (Time): 14 Freddy Shepherd (46′), 15 Emmanuel Olaniyan (46′), 12 Lee Dann (68′)
Booked: Kingsley, F Shepherd | Sub Not Used: None
Referee: Daniel Mann
Assistants: Brett Grant & Guy Pell-Ilderton