SLOUGH TOWN   Saturday 18th August 2012   NORTHWOOD FC

Evo-Stik Southern League Central Division

  Slough Town 5  Northwood 0  

Sonner 13, Burnell 63, 67
Burgess 85, Abbey 89


Team line-up  

  Team line-up
1 James Warrington     1 James Reading
2 Ashley Deeney     2 Scott Raper
3 Danny Murphy (75m)     3 Ronayne Marsh-Brown
4 Alex Brown     4 Lee Grant (63m)
5 Nathan Bowden-Haase     5 Brad Hewitt
6 Dave Woozley     6 John Christian
7 Adam Logie     7 James Fraser
8 Dave Deeney     8 Craig White (63m)
9 Danny Burnell     9 Oliver Hawkins (72m)
10 Sean Sonner (72m)     10 Adamson Ajayi
11 Dominic Rhone (81m)     11 Romaine Walker
Substitutes     Substitutes
12 Oliver Burgess (81m)     12 Danny McDonnell (63m)
14 Ben Abbey (72m)     14 Ryan Phillips
15 Leigh Mason     15 Spencer Bellotti (72m)
16 Liam Fowler     16 Garry Senior (72m)
17 Stuart Swift (75m)     17 Dean Worman
      Referee: A Gillett; Assistants: N Evans & I Gelov      
  REPORT by Alan Evans      PHOTOS by James Brown  

The Woods went into this tough opening-day fixture away at title-favourites Slough Town on the back of a successful pre-season campaign but that wasn’t able to help them as they fell to their worst first-day result for over fifty years. With centre-half Reece Yorke serving the final match of a four-match ban held over from last term, he joined Sam Sharples, James McCluskey and Kyle Matthews as those missing from a squad that still looked strong enough to contest the points with the Rebels who have missed out on promotion in play-off games in each of the last two years.

It meant a starting debut for former Harrow midfielder James Fraser while Brad Hewitt returned to the defence after a couple of injury-hit years away at other clubs. Despite missing most of pre-season, Craig White was chosen to sit in central midfield while Spencer Bellotti, only just recovered from injury, was given a place on the bench. As usual, Slough’s side contained former Northwood players in Danny Murphy, Sean Sonner and Ben Abbey but the home side also included Liam Fowler on the bench with the defender having chosen to move on from Chestnut Avenue in the summer, flirting with Chesham United before moving to Slough.

On an incredibly hot afternoon, the game started at a steady pace and the first chance of the season came the way of the home side after just five minutes. A free-kick was only half-cleared and when the ball was played back in, defender Nathan Bowden-Haase cleverly chipped the ball over his head and it clipped the top of the crossbar. Northwood stormed straight back upfield a minute later and when Oliver Hawkins flicked on a James Reading kick, Adamson Ajayi raced through on goal. He had options but chose to go it alone with a low drive that saw goalkeeper James Warrington dive to his right with a strong hand to push the ball across goal. Romaine Walker was just short of turning the loose ball back in from an angle and it was cleared.

Slough were gifted the opening goal after 13 minutes. Dominic Rhone played a neat ball down the left for Danny Burnell to chase and when his centre came across, Lee Grant looked likely to clear but he simply left the ball to continue its journey and Sonner was lurking behind him to gratefully fire home. It was a real blow but the Woods came back strongly. Walker chipped a free-kick which Warrington claimed comfortably just under the crossbar and then a Scott Raper cross was flicked neatly by Hawkins to Fraser whose first-time volley deflected but only to safety.

After 32 minutes, Hawkins got on the end of a Ronayne Marsh-Brown centre with an instinctive strike from just outside the box and that flashed over the bar and the Woods continued to hold the upper hand with Walker beginning to cause the Slough defence problems. But that back-line always seemed to have just enough to prevent a clear shot on goal and that was repeated again on 38 minutes when Walker and Hawkins linked up to feed Fraser whose cracking drive was again deflected the wrong side of the target. With half-time looming, Slough finally got forward again when Ashley Deeney got the better of Marsh-Brown and his shot was saved by the feet of the diving Reading. The ball wasn’t cleared and Adam Logie hit a powerful shot which flashed the wrong side of the post.

There was still time for Northwood to go close to the equaliser again before the break. Marsh-Brown’s pass put Ajayi into the box again but once again his effort was well-defended and from the resulting Walker corner, Warrington had to tip his centre over the bar as it bounced dangerously onto the crossbar.

Two minutes into the second-half a Murphy cross was headed wide of the near post by Danny Burnell but then once again the home side were pinned back as Northwood again looked for a way back into the game. Walker’s run was once again checked just outside the box and a free-kick awarded. He took the kick himself and his strike took a deflection but Warrington was still able to adjust his position and take the ball comfortably as it lacked pace.

A run from Walker after 53 minutes saw him play a neat ball towards Ajayi. Murphy intercepted well with a header but the ball flashed across goal and he would have been relieved to see the ball drift wide of the far post for a corner. From that, a well-worked move saw Walker chip the ball to an unmarked Hawkins at the near-post and any sort of touch may well have levelled things but he missed out.

Still Northwood attacked and from an Ajayi run down the right the ball was worked across to Walker and then Christian whose shot was just the wrong side of the post. Then, after 57 minutes another good ball put Fraser into the box but he was denied by a timely tackle from Logie. It was a vital touch as the debutant was about to pull the trigger but the Woods should have scored from the resulting corner. The ball was knocked in and ran loose just outside the box for Christian, who had a clear view of goal but he blasted the ball wildly over the bar.
Slough hadn’t been in the game during that fifteen minute spell but the value of having strikers who hit the target consistently was to turn the game on its head in the next few minutes. The Rebels almost added a second when a poor free-kick from David Deeney crept through to an unmarked Sonner and his shot was turned wide by a diving Reading. But on 63 minutes, Hewitt failed to clear his lines, Sonner headed on for Burnell and the diminutive goal poacher flicked the ball in despite a hand from Reading and desperate attempts to clear the ball off the line.

Manager Gary Meakin immediately introduced the Woods' own fox in the box, with Bellotti replacing the tiring White and Christian went close to pulling a goal back with a neat, curling effort which was only just wide. Grant, who hadn’t full recovered from an ankle injury succumbed at Clevedon last Saturday then came off to be replaced by Danny McDonnell to give the former QPR youth teamer his debut. It couldn’t have been a worse start for him as within a minute a through-ball sent Sonner down the right with offside claims waved away. He squared the ball to his strike-partner Burnell but in attempting to get there first, McDonnell could only slide in and divert the ball into his own net.

Clearly it was game over for the Woods and Hawkins was put away for another day as he was replaced by Garry Senior while Slough made substitutions of their own. Northwood continued to attack well but the final touch continued to elude them as first Marsh-Brown’s whipped in cross failed to find a decisive touch and then Fraser hit a good strike but again it flashed over the bar. Finally Walker found space to get a clean shot at goal but he saw that crash back off the crossbar and yet another opportunity had been spurned.

That wasn’t the case for Slough, though, as they scored twice more in the final five minutes to wrap up an incredibly flattering 5-0 victory. They were two well-taken goals though against a Woods defence now in disarray. Dave Deeney’s cross picked out Oliver Burgess, who skilfully hooked the ball past Reading for his second of the game and then a long ball sent Abbey through on goal and he drove the ball in from eighteen yards past Reading who got a hand to it but still couldn’t push it wide.

A 4-0 defeat at Braintree Town back in 1997 had been the previous worst opening-day loss as a senior club. It was in 1961 as a Junior club, that Northwood lost 7-1 at home to Harrow Weald United on a first-day massacre and this was the worst starting result since. But this was far from a massacre and, though the Slough Town faithful will rightly celebrate their great start to the season, had the Woods shown more composure in front of goal it could have been a far different scoreline.
Northwood now entertain Ashford Town (Middlesex) at Chestnut Avenue on Tuesday and both sides will be looking for their first points of the season after The Ash Trees crashed 1-4 at home to another possible promotion contender in Rugby Town.