SLOUGH TOWN   Saturday 17th August 2013   NORTHWOOD FC

Calor Southern League Central Division

  Slough Town 0  Northwood 1  


Dennis 87

Team line-up  

  Team line-up
1 Jake Somerville     1 James Reading
2 Sean Fraser     2 Danny McDonnell
3 Ryan Lake     3 Ryan Phillips
4 Guy Hollis     4 Brad Hewitt
5 Adam Foulser (70m)     5 Steve Brown
6 Dave Woosley     6 Craig White
7 Ollie Burgess (74m)     7 Jon-Jo Bates
8 James McClurg     8 James McCluskey (84m)
9 Victor Osobu     9 Niko Muir
10 Darren Wheeler     10 Garry Senior (59m)
11 Warren Harris     11 Joakim Ehui (69m)
Substitutes     Substitutes
12 Wes Harrison     12 Lee Close
14 George Short (74m)     14 George Nicholas (84m)
15 Ben Edwards     15 Sonny Bailey Aird
16 Aaron Couch (70m)     16 Oliver Sprague (69m)
17 Ed Smith     17 Ronnel Dennis (59m)
      Referee: Guy Poynter; Assistants: Alex Lewis & Michal Fogt      
  REPORT by Alan Evans      PHOTOS by James Brown  

A determined Northwood side notched an opening-day away victory for the first time in five years, with one late goal enough to account for new-look title-favourites Slough Town. Having lost out in the play-offs for the past few seasons, Slough have had a mass change in staff during the summer and the former Godalming Town management duo of Neil Baker and Jon Underwood had brought many of their personnel with them. The starting line-up included seven players who had made the move from the Surrey club, three left from the Slough Town team and one newcomer in Victor Osubu, a late recruit from Hemel Hempstead Town to cover for the loss of three of their formidable strike-force through injury.

The Woods were facing their first league game after the loss of star players Reece Yorke and Oliver Hawkins to higher-ranked clubs in the summer and were also without manager Mark Burgess and his brother James; unavailable for a few days, but a solid sequence of pre-season matches had given the young team plenty of confidence.

Northwood settled quickly and a ball threaded into the box put Garry Senior in on goal but though he appeared to be bundled over as he shaped to shoot, the Referee was in no mood to award an early penalty. Joakim Ehui was enjoying some early success down the right and a searching cross found Senior whose shot was blocked and soon after, Danny McDonnell stormed forward with a strike that deflected over the crossbar. From the resulting corner, a well-worked effort saw Brad Hewitt stab a shot wide at the far post.

It was a bright start for the visiting team but the Rebels began to make some inroads with Adam Foulser, pushed up into an unfamiliar role, working some space and notching the first shot on target but James Reading blocked well. Reading also plucked a deep cross off the head of Foulser as Slough attempted to knock the ball long and catch the Woods off-guard while Sean Fraser sliced an effort well wide and Darren Wheeler chipped just over the top.

At the other end, a marauding run from Jon-Jo Bates forced a free-kick in a dangerous position but James McCluskey was unable to beat the defensive wall and the danger was cleared. It was more of an open game at this stage, with play switching from end to end. A run into the box from Ollie Burgess almost drew a challenge from McDonnell but he went down too easily and failed to convince the Referee, who produced a yellow card after the midfielder’s protestations. Ehui had switched wings but again managed to get the better of his marker to knock in a dangerous cross on 34 minutes but it eluded the lunge of Senior and Slough cleared their lines once again.

Two minutes later, a long throw from Guy Hollis was allowed to bounce in the box and Wheeler was onto the loose ball but fired wide of the target. Before the break, Niko Muir did well in a midfield tackle, turned and made an attacking run before slipping the ball across to Bates. He hit a first-time shot but without the power to beat goalkeeper Jake Somerville.

The Woods showed no sign of dropping the pace of their performance at the start of the second half and Ehui did well again before cutting the ball back to Bates whose strike was blocked.  Soon after, a corner was only half-cleared and when worked back in, Muir tried a first-time volley which looped over the top.

The Rebels pushed forward again, with Reading forced into a low save after Osubu tried his luck from distance and then a free-kick was met by a firm header from Burgess that was always going well-wide.

Northwood made their first substitution on the hour with newcomer Ronnel Dennis replacing the hard-working Senior up front. Dennis had only signed the previous day on a dual-registration basis with Harrow Borough having joined the Woods’ Middlesex neighbours from Sutton United in the summer.

But it was Slough who went close again a minute later, when a good ball saw Osubu get ahead of McDonnell and get a shot away but Reading was equal to it with a fine save. The best chance of the game to date came on 68 minutes and it came from the Woods. Bates burst forward again before feeding Ehui out wide and when his accurate cross picked out Muir in space, a goal seemed on the cards but he swept the ball over the top. A minute later Dennis robbed a defender and the ball was quickly moved across the park through Muir to Ehui and he cut in to fire a curling shot which flashed over the bar.

Oliver Sprague came on in place of Ehui after 70 minutes to introduce some fresh legs, and the home side clearly began to get frustrated as they struggled to make any real impact against the Woods defence, with both Hewitt and debutant Steve Brown looking solid. After 81 minutes Muir let fly with a low strike that Somerville did well to get down to and equally well to hold onto with Sprague ready to pounce on any loose ball.

George Nicholas replaced McCluskey with six minutes remaining, and Slough went close almost immediately as another long-throw from Hollis saw David Woozley rise unchallenged for a header but Reading was there to keep it out.

After 86 minutes a sweeping move involving Dennis, Bates and then Sprague led to an excellent ball in and Nicholas met it well but Somerville made an excellent save, deflecting the ball with his legs up and over the bar. But the home side’s luck finally ran out. Ryan Phillips found Hewitt, whose header caused panic in the Slough defence and after a couple of touches, it was new boy Dennis who provided the close-range header that put the Northwood in front. The defence’s desperate protests of a possible offside brought a late discussion between the Referee and his Assistant but the goal stood.

Slough had but the one chance to salvage a point as they were awarded a free-kick centrally just outside the box, surprisingly as a result of an assistant’s flag; the usually accurate Wheeler was unable to get his effort past the defensive wall and then Jamie McClurg fired across the goal and wide from the rebound.
Having been beaten 5-0 at Slough on the opening day of last season, this was a welcome boost to the start of the new campaign and the Woods will now look forward to the visit of league newcomers Dunstable Town on Tuesday night. Dunstable had won the Spartan South Midlands title unbeaten last season and are well-fancied to challenge at their new level but they did fall to an opening-day last minute 2-3 home defeat at the hands of Beaconsfield Sycob with former Woods manager Gary Meakin in charge for the first-time.