CLAPTON 2 GREENWICH BOROUGH 5: IN-DEPTH MATCH REPORT OF BOYCOTT-HIT CUP DEFEAT

image

The two teams playing in front of an empty Old Spotted Dog ground in picture tweeted by Greenwich Borough

Journalist Adam Slater of Newham Recorder fame was one of just 28 people (away fans, officials and stewards but ZERO home supporters) at the Old Spotted Dog on Tuesday night as the Clapton Ultras boycott hit hard. Here’s his match report for those who stayed away or protested outside the ground.

Clapton FC exited another cup competition this time the London Senior Cup at the hands of Ryman League south outfit, Greenwich Borough, in a 2-5 loss on Tuesday night at the Old Spotted Dog.

Once again the game was played in front of an empty scaffold as the Ultras continued their boycott of home games, in defiance at the hike in ticket prices and overall leadership of the club by chief executive Vince McBean.

Clapton were looking to avoid being knocked out of a third cup competition in just two weeks, following losses to Barking in the Gordon Brasted Memorial trophy and Hullbridge Sports in the League Challenge cup.

Their opponents, Greenwich Borough, are a club on the rise having been promoted out of the Southern Counties Premier league last year and currently lying third in the Ryman South.

image

Clapton fielded a strong line-up for the clash with Greenwich

Clapton began the game well against a Greenwich side that was littered with ex professionals and even an FA cup finalist, Peter Sweeney, who played for Millwall against Manchester United in the 2004 final.

The visitors soon settled into the game and came close to taking the lead early on from a corner, as Lanre Vigo was forced to clear a Michael Power header off the line.

Power wasn’t to be thwarted again on the 11th minute, as he was given space 25 yards out and promptly hit a screamer into the bottom corner to give Greenwich the lead.

The Tons got back into the contest on the 23rd minute in fortuitous circumstances. Ryan Reed’s initial shot across the keeper was saved with the ball falling to player manager and ex Leyton Orient forward Gary Alexander. His clearance was blocked by Domingo-Carrington and the ball rebounded in to make it all square.

image

Only stewards visible in the usually rammed Old Spotted Dog

Often the difference between players in the Ryman League and players in the ESL are the amount of mistakes, and Greenwich’s second goal was evidence of this.

A nervy first touch from Clapton centre-back Jamie Lyndon allowed Power to pick his pocket and charge into the box. Lyndon in his attempts to make amends dived in rashly and brought the attacker down, conceding a penalty. Power stepped up and scored to restore Greenwich’s lead on 31 minutes.

Just moments later it was three for the visitors as Billy Dunn fired home just inside the box, after a cross was only half cleared.

The second half couldn’t have started any worse for the Tons as midfielder Siao Blackwood was sent off on the 49th minute following an off the ball incident.

With their opponents down to ten men, Greenwich were in cruise control and Clapton were looking to avoid embarrassment.

On the hour mark Greenwich got a fourth as Dunn rounded Robins after his first effort bounced back to him and calmly struck home.

Mohammad Eisa shot on the 85th minute fount the back of the net to make it five for the visitors before Nathan Cooke got a consolation goal for Clapton.

The loss means Clapton are out of of all cup competitions, meaning they can concentrate fully on their efforts to get promoted in the Essex Senior League.

Speaking after the game, captain Lyndon said: “The first 20 minutes we matched them, and we had a decent work rate.

“The penalty killed us a bit and then once we were down to 10 we picked it up a bit and to get that late goal showed we didn’t give up.”

“The atmosphere at the club has changed (since the boycott) but realistically every other team in the league struggles for fans and certain teams manage to go out and win most weeks. If we want to progress we can’t let it affect us.”

Up next for Clapton (4th) is a home match against Takeley FC (3rd) in the Essex Senior League, with a Ton’s win seeing them swap positions.

MATCH REPORT: ENFIELD 1893 1 – 2 CLAPTON

Clapton players and staff celebrate Fahad Nyanja’s late winner

Some games ebb, their story arc shifting subtly on key moments and individual contributions. Not this one. Enfield-Clapton hurtled by like a badly edited movie car chase, careering more and more out of control until it all went over the cliff. It was a big, daft, beautiful pile-up.

Any anticipation ahead of the game, at least from a Clapton point of view, was based on it being James Briggs’ first game against the Tons. At the same time we got to welcome another returning hero back in the red and white, as Fahad Nyanja made his latest (how many’s that now?) comeback.

Nyanja, who remained Clapton’s top scorer throughout his recent two-months at Ryman North Bowers & Pitsea, started on the bench. It was just one of a few surprises in the starting line-up given the lack of goals lately. The rare privilege of a flat surface provided by the plastic pitch might have suited Nathan Cook a treat, but he started as a sub as well. Instead, Andre Thomas, deputising for the unwell Jonny Fowell, picked the speedy Jonny Ashman and Ryan Reed as out-and-out wingers.

Both pestered Enfield all first half long. The impressive Reed had probably his best game yet on the left, pulling his markers all over the place with his tight control and cut-ins. On the other flank Ashman was skating past his fullback before whipping in a series of crosses. The plan was clearly to stretch the play and hit them at pace.

The fast, bouncy pitch still dictated the play, though. Time and again overhit passes ran beyond their target. For Enfield Briggsy hardly had chance to use his passing game, and you have never seen him win so many headers, mostly as loose balls popped up off the springy surface.

AJ Domingo-Carrington, meanwhile, seemed hungry, and he was unlucky with two great chances, especially when sliding wide after getting in behind Enfield’s back line. Siao Blackwood also clipped a header against the post from a deft Rafa Duyile cross.

But in between the waves of Clapton attacks, Enfield had capitalised on a much-changed defence (Dylan Ebengo, facing his former team, was partnered by young debutant Quincy Egbejale) to take the lead, Sivi Bao slamming home a loose ball clinically. Enfield somehow led at the break.

After a half time which saw Neil Ruddock, apparently a friend of manager Matthew Hanning, give the hosts’ half-time pep talk, Clapton struck the goalframe two more times in the first five minutes.

An equaliser was surely on its way. But then the loss of Egbejale to a hip injury meant a reshuffle. Nyanja came on up front, and the 3-5-2 formation gave Enfield space to exploit. Clapton lost momentum and the game became a tatty, if compelling, end-to-end affair. We probed desperately, but the hosts sniffed a second. Richie Robins had to pull off two amazing saves, but If anything, it was Enfield’s goalkeeper Josh Knight who emerged as probably the man of the match as Clapton threw the lot at him.

First he tipped a thunderous AJ effort onto the bar. Then he got down sharply to tip a low Sardinha shot past the post, before saving bravely at the feet of Rafa. Nothing was going to pass.

By now Cook was on, and Clapton were camped on the edge of the Enfield box, save for the occasional breakaway scare. But between Knight’s heroics, a pretty solid defence, and some wasteful set pieces, the hosts were holding on stoutly.

And then in the last minute Enfield backed off too far. Clapton flooded the hosts’ box. A shot, blocked, then a deep cross. Knight came, hesitated, and the ball fell for Rafa to the left of the goal. He pulled it back to the on-rushing sub James Steers, who drove it into the ground and up, via the desperate Knight and a goal-line thigh, into the roof of the net. Relief poured from the bench and the Ultras behind them.

Briggsy said afterwards that the equaliser had finished his team-mates. Only time could save the hosts, but they would come to rue the time-wasting that started the minute they took the lead. For Clapton, having looked once again like they were never going to score, a winner now seemed inevitable. And while Knight pulled off one more act of acrobatics to thwart AJ, the ball struck the bar, bounced down and sat up in the six yard box. All that Nyanja needed to do was prod it across the line. Every single member of Clapton staff, including the unused subs and Robins in goal, piled on with glee. Only the Ryman regulation-height fences prevented the Ultras joining them.

Clapton had, for the third time this season, pinched an at-the-death win from the jaws of defeat. Insodoing they notched a fourth successive away win against a team who had won four in five. The numbers are impressive in themselves, but they barely do justice to the latest had-to-be-there moment in the Ultras era at Clapton.

CLAPTON FC FANS FAVOURITE RETURNS WITH HAT-TRICK

image

Rafa Duyile in action for Clapton in the 2013/4 season

Former Clapton FC favourite Rafael Duyile returned to the Old Spotted Dog in style last night – scoring a hat-trick in an entertaining friendly.

Duyile starred in midfield alongside another ex-Ton, Dean Bouho, for visitors Non-League Chance, who won 3-2 against a Clapton XI.

Duyile was with Concord Rangers in Conference South and Heybridge Swifts in Ryman North last season, before spending the summer playing in New Zealand.

A pacy winger in his spell with Clapton, Rafa left in March 2014 to sign for Enfield 1883 as they chased the Essex Senior League title.

it is expected the Tons will attempt to bring him back to the club, while Non-League Chance tweeted that “4 players caught the eye & invited back tonight.”

image

A wayward clearance took a chunk out of the entrance to the Old Spotted Dog

The main talking point early on saw a Non-League Chance defender smash the ball into the entrance sign with a hefty clearance.

Recent signings Stefan Nielsen, Lanre Vigo, Sam Coe and Ajani Domingo-Carrington were also given some game time.

Much of the Tons squad, however, were given the night off as the game replaced the usual Thursday training.

TEENAGE KEEPER HAS DEBUT TO REMEMBER.

thumbnail_fullsizerender

Clapton’s debutant stopper, Robert Dogaru, completed an unlikely trio for his new club on Saturday, becoming the third different goalkeeper to save a penalty in as many matches in little over a fortnight. The Tottenham Hotspur youth player, whose 89th minute diving save turned the match, made an unforgettable first ever start in senior football, as the visitors then claimed victory just minutes later with virtually the last kick at Southchurch Park.

The score line was perhaps harsh on home side, Southend Manor, who tested the young ‘keeper on a number of occasions, particularly in the second half. Having to also contend with the swirling winds whipping off the English Channel just streets away, the seventeen-year-old’s composure held throughout the match leading up to his game changing stop and debut clean sheet.

Dogaru won a contract with Tottenham’s development squad in 2015, having moved to London from Romania just three years previous. The latest deputy for the injured Pape Diagne, Robert becomes the fifth goalkeeper to step in between the sticks for Clapton already this season. A hot topic for The Tons this week, following the controversy surrounding the registration of Yakup Seyer prior to the FA Vase tie with Hertford Town last Saturday.

It’s still unclear who, if anyone, will be available to play in goal for Clapton in the replay at Hertingfordbury Park this Tuesday night, as only players registered before the original fixture will be eligible to play. This complicates matters for Seyer, who saved a spot kick in the original contest and may mean that Jerry will have to put on the gloves again, following his own penalty heroics against FC Romania on Non-League Day.

ARE WADHAM LODGE JUST REALLY LUCKY?

Following the heated exchanges between Clapton and Wadham Lodge last season, Tuesday (23rd) night’s game at The Dog seemed relatively tame as both teams looked to steady themselves from troubled starts to respective campaigns. That was until Lodge were awarded their customary penalty, midway through the second half, and again on highly controversial terms.

Callum Hubble bundled in after an initial Diagne save prompting a minor pitch invasion from a boisterous Wadham bench. While Tons fans were obviously disappointed at losing the goal, the referee, seeking to share responsibility for the decision with his officials after lengthy consultation, confounded disbelieving Clapton players by failing to acknowledge the ball’s change of direction from what appeared to be a well taken challenge by Hussein Jaffa.

“These things even themselves out” responded Wadham’s assistant to nearby Clapton fans, although looking at the stats there’s a long way to go before the balance of decisions reaches equilibrium: Recorded on the FA website, the Walthamstow outfit converted 12 penalties last term, missing 2. To put that into context, all but three ESL clubs received less than half that number, just one was given more than 7, six totalled fewer than 3, while FC Romania didn’t record a spot kick all season.

Against Clapton the figures appear even more stark. Wadham’s record vs The Tons is played – 4, penalties – 4, points won as a direct consequence of penalty awards – 4. In all competitions Lodgelife have managed just one goal from open play against their Newham counterparts, a late consolation in the Gordon Brasted semi final. The reverse is that Clapton have accrued one penalty in these fixtures, in a league match that finished 2 – 0.

The imbalance and nature of many of these decisions must now give county referees and officials enough context to prepare for matches involving Wadham Lodge. The Wadham management emphatically gesturing imaginary yellow cards for what turned out to be a throw in suggested early on in Tuesday’s game that not all appeals were genuine; so far this season a third of goals scored by the ‘Black & White army’ have already come from the penalty spot.

Whether these decisions are just an amazing run of luck or something tactical, points accumulated on the back of mounting questionable calls seem to have given one team a clear advantage over its peers. Wadham take on a struggling Redbridge on Saturday, who will hope to get the rub of a few decisions and give the laws of probability something to think about. Clapton face Eton Manor and will no doubt look to see if things really do even themselves out.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 23.47.41

Former striker, Charlie Georgiou on the culture of diving at Wadham Lodge – liked by current manager, Neil Day.

Stansted (H) Report

Well that was bloody ridiculous. To come from behind to lead at half-time, before looking deservedly beaten with about 5 minutes to go, and somehow end up with all three points… no one really knows how this happened, but anyone who was there won’t forget tonight for ages. And if you weren’t, sucks to be you.

Not going to lie – Clapton were a disjointed shambles tonight. It’s not that the players selected aren’t all reliable, but there was not much evidence of the click we’ve seen in the the first two games, let alone the complete team performance that saw us thrash these opponents in the Brasted final in April.

Our starting line-up was one which made it look like Mike is still trying players out. Nathan Cook was missing (and sorely missed). No Geoff Ocran (still regaining fitness). Tony Cookey and Tom Webb on the bench. Reece Hewitt, a MOTM contender in the 10 role on Saturday, was filling in for Jerry (who’s OK, but in Mallorca) at left-back. Speedy new lad Johnny Ashman was deployed in front of him instead of down the right where he has created unparalleled havoc in his first two games. And the returning Roddy Lemba was on the right instead of up top.

It all felt a bit awkward and Clapton never settled. Stansted pressed high, moved quickly, and always seemed more comfortable. Their No7 had already exposed Hewitt’s ill fit a couple of times, spooning an absolute sitter wide, before capitalising on a mix-up to slide in the opener.

As with Bari’s equaliser at the weekend, we replied quite quickly with a well worked goal, Nyanja knocking down for strike partner Will Mowbray, on his first start, to finish confidently. It was a relief because Stansted not only had a goal, but the composure as well.

The relief became pure joy not long before half-time. Lemba’s attempt to bring a loose ball on the edge of the Stansted box under control saw a defender hoof it right onto his outstretched boot, and high, high over the stranded keeper. I wish Jerry had been there to see it – it was right out of the book of freak goals that Stansted ripped off to beat us at their windy place last season when Jerry filled in for Pape in goal. Still shudder at the memory.

So we were in front at the break, and the second half started with our defence looking a bit more composed than it had (we miss Peter Moore, full stop). It felt like it would take some quality to break us down. But that’s what happened. Within seconds of Freddie Morris half-connecting with a great opportunity, the Scaffold got perfect view of a Stansted free-kick that Briggsy would have been proud of. 2-2. And minutes later a really lovely team goal seemed to have settled it in their favour.

Clapton were stunned, and really didn’t look like they had any response. Stansted deserved their lead, and Clapton certainly deserved to be behind. All three subs were made, with Djibril taking over at left-back and releasing Hewitt from his shackles, the busy Scott Lawton on in midfield, and Cookey on for Roddy. But it was all a bit desperate and clueless. The game became niggly, with Stansted players spending a bit more time on the deck and (ahem) a few of us taking our frustration out on the ref.

But the visitors began to sit deep, and the din from the Scaffold, perhaps given a little extra nudge by the ref’s decisions, started to sting the ears. Hewitt, now freed up, was able to spray the ball around. Ashman was getting double marked and was still a nuisance (my money is him being at Brentwood by December). Then, with five minutes or so left, Cookey darted into the box. Defenders tried to shut him down, but whether by luck or design, the ball went loose across the 6-yard box. Ninja got to it first to stab into an open net. The Scaffold blew.

I reckon we would all have taken a point at this stage. I would’ve. It was already cheeky. And it looked like Mike concurred, cos when we finally got a decision out of the ref with a freekick out on the left, only four of ours went up for it. One was Cookey, though, and he rose sharply to flick on a wicked centre (it must have been one of Hewitt or Ashman) past their keeper.

4-3!

Scenes.

Absolute fucking scenes.

There wasn’t even enough time remaining to get nervous. Another amazing game which ranks alongside any of the outrageous comebacks in the last two years. And it should be acknowledged, there are only two consistent factors in Clapton’s recent history of digging deep and clawing points back from hopeless causes: the fans and the manager.

The last one of these, of course, was the last-minute draw against Bowers in April, and much like that game the celebrations went on long after the final whistle…

“Clapton in the morning and last thing at night. Singing in the Scaffold, you know it feels right.”