Battling Clapton were edged out in an end-to-end game but in truth impressive visitors West Essex deserved the 4-3 win that puts them top of the league.
Missing Nathan Cook, out for six weeks after breaking his collarbone, and Ryan Reed, who has twisted a knee in training, the Tons looked lighter up top.
However, winger Jeffrey Cobblah, Clapton’s top scorer this season after an Ilford hat-trick, returned to the line-up after recovering from injury of his own.
With first-choice goalkeeper Emmanuel Olajide also still out, summer signing Ignas Budvytis made his debut in goal.
While Clapton have started the season sluggishly, West Essex have improved massively since a decent debut Essex Senior season last year, and also boast the league’s highest scorer in Michael Mignot.
It was that man Mignot who scored a brilliant hat-trick to take his tally to 10, but Clapton stayed in the game with two Steven Sardinha penalties and a Jeffrey Cobblah goal straight from the restart.
1-1 – First Sardinha penalty
2-3 to West Essex
3-3 – Second Sardinha penalty
3-4 to West Essex
No one can fault the effort of the patched-up Tons side right now, but they’re not looking like repeating last season’s second place finish.
That’s understandable as several key players from last season’s runners-up side have moved on to paid football, while the uncertainty over the future of the historic Old Spotted Dog ground and the absence of fans at home games hasn’t helped.
For West Essex, it was a historic night and an ’emotional’ Dan Reading told CFC News: “When we first decided to apply for promotion back in 14/15, I started watching a lot of ESL games and was something of a regular at the OSD.
“I’ve always loved the ground and its extraordinary history. The extra dimension the Ultras have added in recent years has turned it into one of the best non-league days out around.
“Playing in front of a crowd of that size is such a buzz for players and fans alike. Like a cup final without a trophy if you will.
“Winning there last night was a special moment, but doing so when only being able to see the tops of the majority of the supporters heads made it feel perhaps a little hollow.
“Anyone that was present inside or outside the ground would surely agree that it was a magnificent advert for grassroots football and the ESL.”
CFC News man of the match: Steven Sardinha.
Attendance: Declared at 47, head count and these pics show 22. Seems that the official figure is routinely doubled now.