Monday 6 April 2009
Isthmian Veterans Cup Semi-Final

Northwood Vets battled their way into the Isthmian Veterans Cup Final on Monday night with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Redbridge. The visitors came to Chestnut Avenue with a strong side that included ex-Fulham players Glen Thomas and Kevin Hoddy as well as former Northwood midfielder Paul Rogan who had been amongst the goals in an earlier round.

The Woods added two players to the squad that had beaten Met. Police in the last round with current Hillingdon Borough manager Steve Hale and one-time Woods midfielder Paul Flynn being recruited and they made a significant contribution.

The home side made the early running, and after just seven minutes a ball from Terry Hall released Elroy Richardson but his shot whistled past the far post. Redbridge were hit by injury just three minutes later as goalkeeper, and Redbridge Chairman, Jim Chapman pulled a calf muscle and had to leave the field, replaced by outfield substitute Darren Bennett.

This seemed to have a positive effect on the Redbridge side, who stepped up their game at this point. Rogan had gone close with a shot before Clive Shepherd lifted his strike over Ken Lavender in goal but also just over the bar. After 19 minutes the visitors took the lead with a well-worked goal. Ashley Marsh split the defence with a superb pass and Billy Read showed his old scoring prowess with a cool finish that gave Lavender no chance.

Four minutes later Steve Newing knocked in a great cross that should have produced an equaliser, but Andy Edey steered his header over the bar. Lavender made a good save to deny Read a second goal after 26 minutes as Redbridge continued to have the upper hand and Thomas headed wide after a well-flighted Rogan free-kick.

Hale came off the subs bench and was soon involved, setting up Martin Randall for a near-post flick which was well saved by Bennett but with half-time approaching it was still the visitors in charge with Shepherd heading wide from a Read cross and then Read himself going close after being set up by Lee Antoniou.

Manager Geoff Foster rang the changes at half-time with Steve Collinson, Garfield Blackman and Paul Flynn all introduced to the fray for Steve Payton, Gary Collinson and Paul Ripley. The Woods started the second period well, with Dave Nolan having more input and thirteen minutes into the half, Randall provided an accurate cross to the far post for Hale to head the ball back across Bennett and into the far corner for an equaliser.

Just a minute later, Flynn turned provider with a superb ball onto the head of Randall but his header proved less accurate. The Woods were well on top at this stage and a quickly taken free-kick by Hale had Bennett diving to save well soon after.

Northwood took the lead in the 58th minute with an excellent goal. Starting from the back, Gary Williams played the ball out wide to Hall, who made quick strides up the left flank before sending over yet another accurate cross, which Hale gobbled up with a cracking volley past a stunned Bennett.

Two minutes later the Woods were denied a penalty when Thomas appeared to have blocked a Randall strike with his hand, but the pressure continued and a four man move involving Randall, Richardson and Hale ended with Flynn hitting a great left-foot shot which Bennett did well to push round the post at full stretch.

Despite this, Redbridge rallied and they levelled the scores with nine minutes to go when the ball ran loose after a corner and Marsh’s shot looped up over Lavender and under the crossbar. The Woods needed a quick response and it came within two minutes as Flynn again produced an accurate cross from the left and Hale pounced to head home, complete his hat-trick, and put Northwood back in front.

Newing continued to test Bennett with two trademark 40-yard strikes, which forced the stand-in ‘keeper into action, while Redbridge went closest when Rogan tried an overhead kick which Lavender saved comfortably. Just before the break a run from Richardson saw him set up Hale for what looked like a fourth goal, but this time Bennett was equal to his shot and palmed the ball wide.

The Woods go through to a Final against either Bromley or Thamesmead Town sometime later this month and left the old-boys checking their diaries for availability.

Northwood: Ken Lavender, Steve Payton, Terry Hall, Gary Williams, Steve Newing, Dave Nolan, Garfield Blackman, Martin Randall, Elroy Richardson, Andy Edey, Paul Ripley, Steve Hale, Steve Collinson, Gary Collinson, Paul Flynn, Ged O’Loughlin.

Redbridge: Jim Chapman, Elliott Davidson, Justin Shepherd, Glen Thomas, Micky Rogan, Ashley Marsh, Kevin Hoddy, Clive Shepherd, Paul Rogan, Billy Read, Darren Bennett, Lee Antoniou, Paul Downes, Bill Bailey.