Tuesday 27th March 2018, 1945 KO
Metropolitan Police vs Needham Market
The Build Up
I regularly slate South Western Trains on here, so it’s only fair I give them a chuck up when they get things right. After a delay of over an hour getting to work in the morning, I was dreading trying to make it back to the South West in time for kick-off. However, despite odds being longer than those on Theresa May having an affair with Vladimir Putin, I made it uneventfully and on time to Imber Court for this Bostik Isthmian League Premier Division fixture. For that, South Western Trains, I thank you.
The Met Police have been on a difficult run of form of late, and it looks to the outside observer as if some of the squad have donned the summer flip flops early. Despite early season promise, their recent run of one win, three draws and two losses has seen them drop to 11th. Having lost top scorer Lloyd Macklin to Whitehawk in early March, the Met have been looking more and more to Jonny Wright for goals, who had nine going into tonight’s fixture.
Afyer a 5-2 defeat away to promotion chasing Folkestone Invicta, the Met would be looking to repeat last season’s scoreline in this fixture – a 2-1 victory over Needham Market. Richard Wilkins’ side were making the astonishing 280 mile round trip to Imber Court for this midweek game, with the supporters’ and players’ coach setting off at 1500 to ensure they made it on time.
Coming into this game on the back of a 3-0 loss to Dulwich Hamlet (which delighted everyone as they do their best to beat the Billericay Circus to the title…) Needham Market had struck a run of fine form through February and March. Winning three, drawing one and losing two of their last six had seen them move up to 17th in the table, and practically guaranteed their place in the division next season. Well, if they weren’t moving to the newly created Step Three league.
This was my fifth visit to Imber Court over the last twelve months, and to mark the milestone, I decided to indulge in double scran options. A cheeseburger and Diet Coke, and a hot dog and Diet Coke each set me back £3.50, but were well worth the expense on a surprisingly chilly late March evening. In fact, this cold weather seriously needs to fuck off now. I think we can safely add this to the list of things we can blame Russia for, and expel another couple of diplomats for the weather they’ve been giving us.
A £2 programme contained some decent information about the clubs, but it must be said, had some frankly bizarre highlighting on the front page…
Well, where to start. I think I’ll start at twenty five minutes, because up until that point, we may as well not have been there. It was a scrappy affair, which Needham Market were probably about shading. A few dodgy tackles (predominantly featuring the Met Police’s Aaron Goode – both for and against) were about as interesting as it had got, but the following sixty five (plus generous stoppage time) more than made up for that.
The Marketmen were exerting the majority of the pressure, but were unable to convert their possession into chances. As we approached the half hour mark and when a Needham Market cross was well claimed by ‘keeper Luke Williams, the thud of a player colliding (accidentally) with his ribs snapped me out of my dozing.
Which was good, because only three minutes later the Met almost scored. Recent signing Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick, formerly of Hampton & Richmond and Wealdstone, dribbled well across the box and worked a one-two with Jonny Wright. When he squared it, the Police had two bites at the cherry, but couldn’t turn the penalty area pinball into a goal.
On 31 minutes, Goode – who was featuring quite significantly – was robbed of possession by Jamie Griffiths sporting a Terry Butcher-esque headband. Griffiths got the ball wide to Luke Ingram who shook off his marker (and his jet lag post-return from Las Vegas in the morning) to drill in a low cross. Billericay loanee Brendan Ocran dummied the ball, and as it ran towards goal Goode almost turned into his own net, but was cruelly denied by a decent Luke Williams save.
There was nothing Williams could do six minutes later, though, when Ingram opened the scoring. A ball from deep found Ingram on the shoulder of Goode, and he got towards the byline and crossed. His whipped effort was dangerous, but Charley Edge in the middle couldn’t quite reach the ball. It looked as though the danger had passed, but Ocran recovered the ball on the left wing. He dug out a cross, and there was Ingram in space to rise and head in to the bottom corner, putting the Suffolk side ahead.
The visitors almost doubled their lead on 42 minutes when a good cross by top scorer Jamie Griffiths was well headed away by skipper Oli Robinson under pressure. A short four minutes later the scores were even, when an allegedly offside Jonny Wright equalised for the Old Bill. He did well in the build up, with some good hold up play and recycling of ineffective crosses. When the ball was smuggled out Will Salmon – looking more and more like Matias Almeyda – took a swing at it, and with the ball heading wide it reached Wright. The busting forward took a touch, set himself, and slid past Daniel Guy in the Needham Market goal.
One all at half time, and although the visitors had just about had the better of the first half, they hadn’t been able to convert that possession into either clear cut shooting opportunities or, crucially, goals. Half time brought news that the attendance was 86, a long way shy of the Met’s season average of 157, but still not terrible considering the home side’s fixture congestion (they play again on Thursday in the cup) and the away side’s exhausting travel.
Needham Market started the second half well, and Charley Edge received the ball in space on the right hand side of the penalty area. The Colchester United loanee crossed well, but yet another goalmouth scramble resulted nothing more than a raised heart rate. Again, it wasn’t long before Market would regret this failure to convert.
When the Met won a throw in deep into Needham territory, a long throw was well flicked on by Wright. At the back stick, left back Sam Williams was the right man, in the right place, at the right time, to calmly sidefoot a volley into the back of the net.
Only three minutes later, with 54 on the clock, the Met Police gave themselves a two goal cushion, when new signing Liam Enver-Marum got his first goal in the Plod’s colours. Formerly of Margate and Maidstone among others, Enver-Marum was a bustling presence up top, and complemented Wright well. When a clipped forward ball was headed towards goal, with Guy going one way in goal, the big centre forward diverted the ball the other, and made the score 3-1.
Needham Market certainly weren’t giving up though, and with an hour on the clock Ingram had a snapshot from the edge of the area deflected wide. I was impressed by Ingram throughout, and even more so when I realised that he’d been out on The Strip last night and only returned back at 1400!
On 65 minutes, the dangerous looking Ocran got the goal his performance deserved. Although he had wasted possession at times, the 20 year old is clearly still learning at this level, but has all the attributes to succeed. When a long ball was headed clear by the Met defence, Ocran chested down and volleyed from a good thirty yards. The shot was so unexpected I literally wasn’t even holding my camera. So, unfortunately, I have no evidence of the delightful top corner finish Mr Ocran. Anyway, 3-2 and all to play for.
At this point I’ll discuss the performance of the officials – and it isn’t positive. Messrs Lowe, Burt and Hobbs had a poor night, but their erratic decision both benefitted and hindered both clubs. And on 75 minutes came their most controversial moment. A long ball was flicked on by Enver-Marum amongst big shouts from the Market defence for offside. Not given. The ball reached the rapid Hippolyte-Patrick and he was unceremoniously brought down by Samuel Nunn.
The referee blew for a free kick and the away team went beserk. Having seen the linesman flag they were adamant he’d flagged for offside. Over trotted the ref, and they had a conflab, which was completely overheard by yours truly. During this conversation, the lino informed the ref that he’d actually flagged for the foul, the referee agreed, and as last man Nunn was given his marching orders.
After two or three minutes, with Needham Market now down to ten men and seething, Enver-Marum lined up the free kick. With all eyes on the striker, substitute Tom Bird struck a beautiful left footed effort, which crashed off the post.
On eighty minutes, and with the Marketmen pressing for an equaliser, a long ball was fought for, and won, by Hippolyte-Patrick. He showed good strength to wrest the ball off, and then beat, his marker, but with Enver-Marum screaming for it in the middle, elected to shoot straight at the ‘keeper. A similar chance a few minutes later after successive flick ons by Wright and Enver-Marum was deflected wide.
At the other end, and deep into stoppage time, Needham Market crafted two good equalising chances. The first fell to captain Gareth Heath who worked a good shooting opportunity just inside the penalty area, which was well saved by Williams.
Then, with time almost up, the visitors forced one final six yard box scramble. I couldn’t really see what was happening, but apparently there was a handball by the Met, and at least three shots/headers at goal by Needham Market, with all ten of their players in the box, even goalie Daniel Guy. Then, the final indignation – with the ball bouncing in the area Jeremy Arthur nudged the ball into the hands of Williams with his arm, right in front of the ref. Nothing given.
The referee blew full time shortly after, probably just because he was fed up of being called a c**t by the Needham Market players. He was literally escorted from the pitch by the security guards.
The Wash Up
A good result for Jim Cooper’s side, which sees them move up to 10th, in a match that could easily have swung either way. A crucial ten minute scoring spree either side of the half time break were enough to earn the points, although Needham Market will feel they did enough for the draw.
There were a number of good performances across the pitch, and for Needham Market, I thought Luke Ingram and Brendan Ocran were key. Both wingers caused problems down the flank, but lacked a little support from the centre of midfield. There was no lack of workrate from Edge and Griffiths either, who but both centre backs, but Goode in particular under pressure, and gave them now time to settle on the ball.
An element of this was because of the performance of Will Salmon, who was a strong and composed presence in midfield. I was also impressed by Luke Williams in goal, who always looks like a good ‘keeper for this level when I see him. The highest level Williams has previously played is at Aldershot Town, and I feel that he could play higher.
The key man for the Met Police though was again Jonny Wright. I commented on this blog before that with his high-waisted shorts and perma-tucked shirt he looks like a stereotypical 1950s footballer, but his work rate is exceptional. He cushions the ball with his chest so well I’ve heard Dunelm are considering a sponsorship deal, and I honestly don’t think he lost a single aerial duel. That’s not to paint him as one-dimensional, he’s also comfortable with the ball at his feet, and was influential in the build up to his goal. Which was a goal his performance deserved, taking him to ten for the season, and with a wedding coming up on Saturday he’ll be a big miss for Jim Cooper.
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