In the build-up to Saturday’s FA Cup preliminary round game at the Old Spotted Dog, manager Jonny Fowell was in the papers talking about his scouting mission to East Anglia to check out Saturday’s opponents, Norwich United, the week before.
One of the key differences between his team and Isthmian North opponents, he told the Newham Recorder, was on-field leadership.
By the end of the game, the manager will have been delighted with the return on his daytrip to Soham. Clapton won with an assurance that made you wonder if Fowell’s remarks were aimed precisely at getting a reaction from his side.
Till the weekend, Clapton’s standout performance this season had been the classy 4-1 win at Ilford. Like then, Saturday saw them go into the game as the outside bet. And like then, Clapton saw Jerry Jairette available again to run things in midfield.
The outcome of both games were uncannily similar, with the Tons absorbing long spells of first-half dominance from technically solid opponents before first stealing the lead and then shutting the game down.
And while captain’s shifts from Jairette were crucial in both matches, it is the energy and confidence that courses through the rest of the team in his presence that won both so stylishly.
This time Jerry was aided and abetted by Nathan Cook, making his first start of the season after some frustrating preseason niggles.
This and the speed and industry of fullbacks Lanre Vigo and Tayo Awoderu freed up Steven Sardinha and the livewire Ryan Reed to play their probing games.
But perhaps the biggest revelations were the huge performances by young centrebacks Zach Miller and man of the match, Quincy Egbejale.
Thanks to Fowell’s reconnaissance, Clapton knew to expect a physical game from Norwich focussing on their powerful attack pairing.
But Egbejale was equal to the lot with a commanding, competitive showing – probably his best in the red and white yet.
He might even have given the Tons the lead, hitting the side netting after a corner, but that honour went to Raphael Duyile, slamming home after a cheekily improvised free-kick routine on 42 minutes.
Clapton might have expected an onslaught from the visitors after the break. It never came. Rather the team continued to grow in stature.
And while it took a goalkeeping horrorshow to set up debutant Ikem Odeh for the clincher on 69 minutes, the second goal just confirmed the inevitable and notched another notable record in the club’s recent revival.
At the final whistle the players made straight for the gates to celebrate with supporters, who once again had amassed outside to provide vocal support from over the fences.
The joy was palpable, and the celebration a reminder of why the effort it worth it.
Fans, players and staff alike can agree that it was a reward made all the sweeter by the and sacrifices made.
As you’d expect for an FA Cup tie, there was more interest in the game than usual. So there was a match report in the Non-League Paper…
The Clapton FC website also carried a match report, while there was a gallery of photos on its Facebook page.
Meanwhile the game was mentioned in round-ups by the Unofficial ESL website, the Your Thurrock and Pitchero,
Finally, professional photographer Gavin Ellis published a great gallery of pictures.
Attendance: Declared at 122, counted at maximum 78.
CFC News man-of-the-match: Quincy Egbejale