NORTHWOOD FC   Saturday 8th August 2015   ARLESEY TOWN FC

Evo-Stik League Southern Division One Central

  Northwood 5  Arlesey Town 0   

Scorers: Nicholas 20,
Murray 23, 57, 59
Holland 68


Team line-up  
  Team line-up
1 Chris Haigh     1 Nicholas Thompson
2 Omar Vassell     2 Osamu Allman
3 Andy Lomas     3 Tyrell Stratton (43m)
4 Jon Munday     4 Ashley Deeney
5 Steve Brown     5 Dave Deeney
6 George Nicholas     6 Luke Abraham
7 Liam Baker (73m)     7 Ben Ford
8 James Burgess (69m)     8 Christian Tavernier
9 Louis Stead     9 Jordan Appleton (74m)
10 Michael Murray (73m)     10 Aaron Morgan
11 Rob Hastings     11 Jack Vasey (41m)
Substitutes     Substitutes
12 Perry Dicker (69m)     12 Ennis Fyffe (41m)
14 Myles Stephenson (73m)     14 Anthony Wright (74m)
15 Max Holland (73m)     15 Andre Maltay (43m)
16 David Moran     16 Sean Beesley
17 Jordan Payne     17 Alfie Hickman
      Referee: Daniel Simpson; Assistants: James Barry & Mitchell Payne      
  REPORT by Alan Evans    PHOTOS by James Brown  

On a hot and sunny start to the new League season, the Woods recorded their best-ever opening-day result since becoming a senior club with an emphatic victory over newly-relegated Arlesey Town. In fact, you have to go back to 1957 to find a better scoreline – a 13-0 victory over the superbly named New Acme FC when the Woods were playing junior football in the Harrow, Wembley & District League – opponents who eventually withdrew from the League, so in fact the result didn’t even stand.

There were full starting debuts for four players in Mark Burgess’ first line-up of the season, led by summer signings Jon Munday in defence and Louis Stead in an attacking midfield role. Liam Baker made his first start after a handful of substitute appearances last season, while there was a late signing in goal as 18-year-old Chris Haigh joined the club following his release after a trial by Barnet when the two clubs met on Monday.

The visitors had been relegated in April after four seasons at Premier Division level and were amongst the favourites for promotion and a quick return as they arrived at Northwood Park.

Both sides settled quickly but it was the Woods who recorded the first effort on goal as a Rob Hastings cross picked out George Nicholas and his crisp strike was pushed out by goalkeeper Nick Thompson. Hastings was getting plenty of success down the right flank and Arlesey were feeling the pressure a little, though they did go close when Luke Abraham tried his luck from distance as he spotted Haigh off his line, but the shot sailed wide of the target.

The opening goal of the season came shortly after this as the ball rolled to Nicholas in space 25 yards from goal and he hit a trademark long-range effort that flew into the top corner to give Thompson no chance on 20 minutes.

Things got better just three minutes later as Hastings caused more problems on the right and when he cut across the defender, he was sent tumbling for a clear penalty. Michael Murray made no mistake from the spot-kick, beating the Arlesey keeper despite Thompson going the right way.

It could have been three on the half-hour when a well-worked corner routine saw skipper Steve Brown dummy and Murray, coming in behind, slightly miskicked and the ball flew just wide of the target.  The visitors had been overwhelmed by some classy football but found little joy trying to break down the Woods defence with former Boreham Wood youngster Jack Vasey poking a soft shot wide on 39 minutes.

Two minutes later Northwood spurned a great chance as another flowing move saw Murray and Stead combine to put Hastings in on goal and although he beat the keeper, the ball came back off the near post. Arlesey made two substitutions before the break in an effort to stem the flow and just before half-time a corner did cause a bit of a flap in the Woods defence but a Munday header bounced kindly off a visiting striker and Haigh was able to pounce on the loose ball.

Hastings continued to impress in the early stages in the second-half and soon put in an excellent cross that found the head of Murray and his header back across goal flew not far wide. On 55 minutes the Blues notched their first effort on target as a good long cross from Ashley Deeney was met by Christian Tavernier’s firm header but Haigh did well to get across and scramble the ball wide.

But it was still the Woods who were dominating and after Stead had struck an effort straight at the ‘keeper, some excellent work from Omar Vassell led to a cross that picked out Murray who timed his run to perfection and flicked it home from six yards. Just a minute later Ashley Deeney made a mess of an attempted clearance, only heading the ball on and Murray was there again to volley a fine shot past Thomson from just outside the box and complete his first hat-trick for the club. It was the third instance of an opening-day hat-trick for the Woods as a senior club following Scott Orphanou’s three in a 5-2 win over Bedfont Town in 2010 and the legendary Gary Cooper’s five in the Woods' 7-3 success at North Greenford United back in 1975.

Another newcomer, Maxwell Holland replaced the hard-working Baker on 65 minutes and Arlesey could have pulled a goal back almost immediately. James Burgess lost the ball in midfield and a quick break saw Ennis Fyffe drag his shot wide of the far post with just Haigh to beat. It was only a brief respite for the Blues though as Stead made good ground down the middle before knocking the ball wide to Holland in space. With virtually his first touches, he cut in and then curled a delightful shot across goal and inside the far post to make it 5-0.

Perry Dicker and the returning Myles Stephenson were introduced as fresh legs for the inspiring pair of Burgess and Murray and with Arlesey keen to keep possession and avoid further damage, the game did slow in the closing stages. There was just one chance apiece. On 85 minutes, the tireless Hastings robbed Andre Maltay out wide and then cut in to shoot with Nicholson just keeping it out by pushing the ball across goal.

Then, just before the end, an excellent strike from Ben Ford looked goalbound before Haigh earned plaudits by flinging himself to his left and pushing the ball wide of the post. At the final whistle, the side could reflect on a superb opening-day result and they will now look to take that form forward to difficult away games at North Greenford United on Tuesday and then promotion favourites Royston Town next Saturday.

Note – If the 13-0 win over Acme no longer stands then the 5-0 victory against Arlesey Town equals the 5-0 result achieved against Harrow Weald Athletic, also in the Harrow, Wembley & District League, some 66 years ago – back in 1949!