Written by Andrew Madaras
The Blues returned to home turf after an absence of four weeks and treated the home fans in a bumper holiday crowd of 304 to a dominant and victorious performance.
Head Coach, Joe Deeney started both debutants, Will McClelland and Ezra Forde, with both playing key parts in the 2 -0 victory, albeit at different ends of the pitch.
This has been a strange season for the Blues. Playing in fits and starts and looking for the elusive lost mojo, Saturday’s performance will have encouraged the Regiment and the staunch loyal support the Club enjoys that the beating heart of the Club is still alive and well.
Toasting victory has been a rare treat this season, and Saturday’s win came ten weeks since the last League success versus Arlesey Town on October 17th.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been games during that period that should not have been won, the home match versus FC Romania being a case in point. Joe Deeney has identified the problem and moved decisively to address it. Joe’s candid, honest and straightforward approach to football management is a privilege to be part of. His frustration at his side’s tendency to concede too many preventable goals and inability to find the back of the net enough times, despite creating the opportunities at the other end of the pitch has been a constant theme in his podcast interviews and and Thursday evening briefings.
His loyalty to his players has been steadfast but, in a results, driven business, under-performers have been put on notice that the season of goodwill to all is rapidly coming to an end and final handshakes and good wishes for the future are just around the corner for those who cannot deliver what Joe is looking for.
Enter Will McClelland & Ezra Forde. Both have been on Joe’s radar for a long time. In Ezra’s case, two years and three months to be precise. A goal-scoring sensation at Luton Town Cedars under Joe & Stuart Smith’s tutelage, Joe took Ezra to Step 2 Oxford City where still two months short of his 18th birthday he scored on his debut.
Spells at Hitchin Town, North Leigh, Aylesbury Utd & more recently at Thame Utd means the 25-year-old has bags of experience under his belt. He so very nearly repeated the feat of scoring on his debut on Saturday but was just narrowly wide.
Will McClelland is by Joe’s description a no-nonsense old fashioned centre-half. A player long admired by Joe & Kyle his transfer from Arlesey Town was long & tortuous due to FA rules around non-contract players moving between clubs. It’s a pretty archaic rule but it’s there in the rule book so the Club is grateful for Arlesey Town’s part in Will’s transfer.
Will had a good debut. He knew his script and remembered his lines. He looked accomplished and solid, rarely putting a foot wrong all afternoon.
With skipper Alfie Osborne still injured and a spectator behind the goal along with Kelvin, Ruairi and Connor, Benji Crilley wore the Captain’s armband and marshalled his troops in exemplary style, swooping low to meet Tolu Ikuyinminu’s inch perfect cross from out on the right to give the Blues a two goal lead in the 33rd minute.
The first goal had arrived only a couple of minutes beforehand. Good work out on the left by the ever reliable and impressive, Dylan Baker, who cut inside and squared the ball for Man of the Match, Danny Webb to claim his 12th goal of the season. Credit to Joe Sellers-West for his part in the goal’s creation.
Match sponsor PB Carpentry made Danny the Man of the Match narrowly beating off contenders, Harry Beaumont, Dylan Baker, Benji Crilley & Ethan Creary. In truth, this was a whole team performance where every player did their bit & a collective word of praise is thoroughly justified.
Crawley Green showed plenty of endeavour and as you would expect from one of Paul Blackman’s teams never gave up, chased and challenged at every available opportunity.
Their undoing was the danger from the flanks and crosses into the box for Blue shirts to attack. It’s straight out of the Joe Deeney playbook and on Saturday it paid dividends.
Former Blue & fan favourite, Dan Trif, skippered the away side and still showed all the qualities that endeared him to so many of us for the six seasons he wore the blue shirt. The Clarets were without danger man and leading goal-scorer Joe Hankins. Kai McCarthur another former Blue, who had played well in the Claret’s victory at the Brache was also absent.
Match referee, Nathan Currey and his assistants all had good games and allowed the game to flow freely cautioning only two players over the 90 minutes.
The win lifts the Blues up to 12th place and leaves the Clarets looking nervously over their shoulder in 18th place.
Half the season has now been played and a comparison with where we were at the exact same stage last season is interesting.
Last season after playing 19 League matches, we had won 10, drawn 6 and lost 3 (GF 32 GA 19 GD +13)
This season after playing 19 League games we have won 6, drawn 5 and lost 8 (GF 31 GA 33 GD -2)
Our home form this season has been impressive with 5 wins from 8 games, 2 draws and only 1 defeat.
With 11 of the final games at home and only 7 away from home, Joe & Kyle will be looking for a strong and resilient second half of the season and with 57 points at play, there’s still everything to play for.
Home and away support this season has been fantastic despite the indifferent results. Saturday’s gate of 304 was not just the highest in the Spartan but easily beat more than half the Step 4 games across the country and some at Step 3.
Average home attendance this season is 210 compared to 196 at this stage last season. It’s also worth noting that the figure of 196 was helped significantly by the 600+ that came to the match against Leighton Town in September.
The Blues are away at Colney Heath next Saturday before entertaining Potton Utd at Creasey Park on Saturday 13th of January.