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Northwood 2  Burnham 1

Saturday 21st April 2012

  • Line-ups
  • Match Report
  • Photos

Northwood
EvoStik
Southern League

Chestnut Avenue, Northwood
Burnham
James Reading
1
Kick Off
1
Andrew Bayliss
Scott Raper
2
3.00 p.m.
2
Tom Mcreadie Jon Munday
Warren Gladdy
3
Attendance
3
Jonny Gray
Lee Grant
4
127
4
Tom Willment
Liam Fowler
5
H/T
5
Tom Baddeley
Kwasi Frempong
6
1-1
6
Lee Togwell
John Christian
7
Scorers
7
Ashley Smith
Craig White
8
Northwood
8
James Keeble
Spencer Bellotti
9
Christian 39,
Bellotti 93
9
Gavin James
Oliver Hawkins
10
10
Ryan Bird
Romaine Walker
11
Burnham
11
Lewis Driver
   Substitutes
James 23
Substitutes
Harry Wright
12
Bookings
12
Tyler Christian-Law (8, 75m)
Garry Senior (5, 80m)
14
Northwood
14
Harry Pearse (9, 75m)
Wayne O'Sullivan (11, 72m)
15
n/a
15
Matt Flint
Adamson Ajayi (6, 62m)
16
Burnham
16
-
Mitch Swain
17
n/a
17
Jordan Dawson
 
 
RIVERSIDE MAN OF THE MATCH:
xxx
 
 
Referee: Mr Andy Aylott

Assistants: Mr Tom Ratheram
& Mr Jeffrey Aldous



Northwood came into their final home game of the season knowing only a win would keep them in contention for a play-off place come the end of the campaign. Gary Meakin had to once again reckon without suspended duo Reece Yorke and Jonathan Constant, but top scorer Oliver Hawkins was fit to partner Spencer Bellotti up front. Prior to kick off, a minutes silence was held in remembrance of Phil Hatcher – a popular figure around the club – who lost his battle with illness earlier in the week.

Burnham in truth had little to play for, but they were on the attack very early into the game with Gavin James turning Liam Fowler, although the defender recovered sufficiently to clear the ball out of play. Moments later the ex Hillingdon Borough centre half was again called upon as Ryan Bird broke free – to his credit he stayed with his man and once more managed to snuff out the danger.

Northwood’s first opening came soon after with Bellotti flicking on for Hawkins who hit his effort first time. Unfortunately he didn’t strike the ball as cleanly as he would have hoped and Andrew Bayliss was there to gather. Burnham then created a decent opportunity out wide but Ashley Smith pondered over whether to deliver the ball into the box and he was dispossessed by Kwasi Frempong. The clearance found Romaine Walker, who cleverly picked out Bellotti in the box, and although he did well to create some room, his shot wasn’t hit cleanly and it rolled harmlessly out of touch for a throw in.

The pressure did not subside. John Christian found an opening and curled a beautifully flighted cross towards Hawkins and he rose well, only to see his effort go just wide of the post. Moments later and Northwood had the ball in the net only for the referee to come to Burnham’s rescue. Warren Gladdy showed neat footwork by the touchline and sent a testing ball into the area. Bellotti collided with the goalkeeper who proceeded to drop the ball, but the man in the middle deemed it a foul and blew his whistle just as Hawkins had turned it home.

Up the other end of the field and the visitors very nearly made the home side pay for a lapse in concentration. A long throw into the area was flicked on by Bird to the feet of Lewis Driver, yet he showed a lack of composure as he flicked the ball over James Reading’s crossbar – a big let off for Meakin’s side as he should have scored. Then after Hawkins had done well to win a corner, he very nearly gave the Woods the lead. A superb out swinging delivery by Walker was met brilliantly by Hawkins who witnessed his header come back off the crossbar – the hardworking front man was inches away from giving Northwood the advantage.

The Woods had every reason to feel annoyed when Burnham took the lead from something out of nothing. A long ball was met by Bird and Northwood keeper Reading moved momentarily off his line but James’ finish was sublime as he lobbed the ex Blues goalkeeper to give his side the lead on twenty two minutes. A massive blow for the hosts whose home form has stuttered in recent times. Despite appearing shell-shocked at having fallen behind, Northwood very nearly levelled immediately; Walker’s swirling cross was met by Craig White but he failed to keep his header down.

Then, goalscorer James was close to getting a second for his side as he forced a terrific reflex save from Reading in the Woods goal. The home side were upping the tempo in a bid to get themselves on level terms, yet Walker showed too much to Tom Willment as his run was halted, and that instigated a counter attack as the dangerous James again raced clear but once more was thwarted by a good, strong hand from Reading who had certainly kept Northwood in the contest.

Burnham would rue that miss when barely a couple of minutes later Bellotti – in recent times so often the scorer – turned provider as his clever ball found Christian in the box and he dinked it over a stranded Bayliss to level the match on thirty nine minutes. Suddenly, Northwood had something of a spring in their step as White found Walker, and he opened up his body however his curling effort never threatened the visitors’ goal. Their attacking play didn’t die down and Hawkins did well to tee up Christian, although he struggled to get over the ball and his effort was comfortably saved.

The visitors then sought to re-establish themselves within the match, and very nearly grabbed another goal before the interval. Appeals for handball after the ball had struck Northwood captain Lee Grant were turned away, but the ball in that followed found a Blues player and his effort at goal again forced a decent save out of Reading. No exaggeration to say that the 21-year-old goalkeeper was a key reason why the Woods went in at the break level.

If the first half was anything to go by then we were in for an entertaining second period. With the scores level at the break, Meakin would no doubt have told his players that it was do or die in terms of their play-off chances, as they knew they needed the three points to keep their slim hopes alive. It was a bright start to the second forty five minutes for Northwood as – for one of the first times in the game – Walker went on one of his trademark runs before appearing to take one touch too many.

Fortunately, the referee Andy Aylott deemed the tricky winger had been fouled with a free kick being awarded to the home side. Christian managed to get his effort up and over the wall, although over the crossbar too. Then Kwasi Frempong released Bellotti and he found some space but his attempt was seen out of play by Bayliss. From a long goal kick, Bird muscled his way past Fowler and unleashed a stinging shot which was palmed away well by Reading who did enough to get it away from danger.

The game was now becoming increasingly stretched, and Meakin set about trying to exploit this by taking off Frempong and replacing him with winger Adamson Ajayi – Christian who had played on the right now slotted in the middle alongside White. The game ebbed and flowed as both sides shared periods of possession yet neither side thus far had found a goal in the second period. Northwood were lacking the final ball and this was epitomised when Walker and Hawkins exchanged passes only to see the ball evade the latter and roll into touch. A few minutes later and Northwood were presented with the best opening of the half. Bellotti was played through in and behind, one on one with the Burnham goalkeeper – the former Oxhey Jets striker took it early – but Bayliss stuck out a strong right arm to tip it past the post. 

Gary Meakin then made his second substitution replacing Walker with Wayne O’Sullivan, and he was involved immediately as he got in and behind the full back before playing a neat ball square across the box. Bayliss tried to deflect the ball away, but inadvertently teed up Ajayi, who missed his kick and then White coming behind him had the simplest of tasks to tap the ball home, yet somehow he managed to steer the ball over the visitors’ crossbar. O’Sullivan was causing the away side more problems as he replicated a ‘Walker-esque’ run forward, although the general consensus from the Woods support was that he took a touch too many and should have fed Ajayi out wide – almost inevitably he was intercepted.

Northwood’s third and final substitution soon followed as Meakin took off Fowler and threw on Garry Senior in an attacking change. He was in the thick of things from a free kick but the Blues managed to hack it clear. Then another free kick – this time from the left side – was awarded and although skipper Grant connected well with his head he could only divert it straight down the throat of a relieved Bayliss who gobbled it up. Northwood were literally parked firmly in Burnham’s half which did leave them vulnerable to the counter attack, and Martin Stone’s side nearly grabbed a late winner. Harry Pearse’s cross evaded everyone and was recovered at the back post by Driver but his shot went high and wide.

They were made to pay dearly for that miss as James Reading frantically released O’Sullivan by virtue of his quick distribution and he was caught cynically, enabling Northwood to throw their bodies forward for one last attack deep into stoppage time. The free kick was blocked away for a corner, with Woods’ play-off hopes resting on one last chance. O’Sullivan’s corner kick was nodded back across goal by Grant and Bellotti pounced to steer the ball home at the back post and seal a dramatic win. The young striker’s excellent form of late evidently continuing – it’s now five in his last seven games – and it appeared Northwood were bowing out at home with a win!

That was virtually the last kick of the match, as Northwood had sealed a narrow 2-1 win over a Burnham side who will feel hard done by not to have gone home with something. For the Woods, though, it’s a result which keeps them in the hunt going into the final round of fixtures although they will need to beat Leighton Town and hope for an unlikely Daventry Town win at Beaconsfield. Nonetheless it was fitting that Meakin’s side rounded off at Chestnut Avenue in the manner that they did, and whatever happens I guarantee we will be reflecting for a long time yet at what a tremendous season it has been. Their opposition next week will provide a stern test and they will be buoyed having beaten Slough Town 3-0 away from home this afternoon, but this Northwood side rarely fails to deliver and will head to Bell Close in good spirits following their injury time winner today.

A very difficult decision as to decide who I believe merits the man of the match award this afternoon. Three people stood out in particular: Spencer Bellotti for his assist and the last minute winner which won Woods the game, Liam Fowler who made several important interventions to thwart Burnham in both halves, and goalkeeper James Reading who made three of four key saves to ensure this game remained a contest. As always every Woods player gave nothing short of 100%, but my MotM goes to ex Oxhey Jets striker Spencer Bellotti as he continued his blistering run of form which has seen him net five times in his last seven appearances. He linked up well with Oliver Hawkins, brought the midfield into the game, held the ball up effectively and provided the assist for John Christian’s equaliser in the first half. And if that wasn’t enough (like all good strikers do) he found himself in the right place at the right time to nod home Northwood’s winner on 90+3 minutes to keep his side in the hunt for the end of season play-offs!

After the conclusion of the game, manager Gary Meakin gave his thoughts on the action. He was asked about whether presumably it was a nice feeling to win the game in the last minute of time. “Yes, I wouldn’t say we deserved it but the result or results are more important than performances.” His players were then praised for their resilience and team spirit especially to come from behind today, and also to keep working even when Burnham had them under the cosh and whether that showed today. “It does and it’s a real credit to them. We have got a bunch of lads who all want to work hard and in particular for those sat next to them in the dressing room. It’s great that they work hard and actually want to achieve something, they’re great lads.”

And finally, he was asked that despite Biggleswade being beaten by Uxbridge in a result which sees Northwood climb to sixth, Beaconsfield won which means his side need to beat Leighton Town and hope Daventry beat Beaconsfield (a point would be enough for SYCOB to secure a play-off place) next weekend; and whether it was just a case of winning next week and then seeing what happens?

“We can’t worry about results elsewhere, before today we simply focused on this game and nothing else and it will be the same next week. We will sit and wait and if the luck shines on us then who knows, but the minimum we want to finish is in sixth place. If we get into the play-off places then great, but if not we’ve done well to get where we are.”

Report by MATTHEW FORD

Photos by James Brown