NORTHWOOD FC   Saturday 26th December 2015   KINGS LANGLEY

Evo-Stik League Southern Division One Central

  Northwood 2  Kings Langley 0   

Stead 35, Budden 59

Team line-up  
  Team line-up
1 Berkley Laurencin     1 Anthony Ladyman
2 Alex Nolan     2 Danny Hutchins (65m)
3 Andy Lomas     3 Callum Adebayi
4 Steve Brown ©     4 Dean Hitchcock (65m)
5 James Budden     5 Stuart Deaton
6 George Nicholas (90+1m)     6 Emmanuel Forlain
7 Joakim Ehui (74m)     7 Jack Stevens
8 James Burgess     8 Lorenzo Ferrari (65m)
9 Louis Stead     9 Mitchell Weiss
10 Myles Stephenson     10 David Hutton
11 Rob Hastings (85m)     11 Ryan Plowright
Substitutes     Substitutes
12 Max Holland (74m)     12 Luke Ladyman (65m)
14 Bayley Brown (90+1m)     14 Matt Bateman (65m)
15 Shane Cojocorel (85m)     15 Immanuelson Duku (65m)
16 Mark Burgess     16 Steve Ward
17 Georges Ehui     17 Rob Partington
      Referee: Michael Heavey; Assistants: F Costache & A Rafique      
  REPORT by Alan Evans    PHOTOS by James Brown  

After a run of four successive drawn games, the Woods enjoyed this Boxing Day success over play-off hopefuls Kings Langley, which remarkably was their first home win on a Saturday since the opening-day victory over Arlesey Town. At the same time, it now extends a run of just one defeat in their last eleven games.

Manager Mark Burgess had to cope with the loss of top scorer Michael Murray who completed a transfer to league leaders Chalfont St. Peter a couple of days earlier, while fellow striker Niko Muir was also unavailable for the Christmas break. To cover this he had brought in young striker Shane Cojocorel on loan from Barnet, who had a place on the bench alongside another new signing, midfielder Georges Ehui; a former Wycombe Wanderers youth who had arrived from Burnham. However, Burgess could welcome back skipper Steve Brown who took his place in defence for his first start in almost three months in place of injury victim Jon Munday.

The visitors had beaten the Woods 2-0 back on August Bank Holiday Monday and had won their last away game 3-0 at Aylesbury so it was no surprise to see them start brightly and with plenty of confidence. In just the third minute, an incisive attack saw the ball played across goal and recent signing David Hutton found space to hit a crisp and accurate shot that Berkley Laurencin managed to save low down to his left. Two minutes later Hutton turned provider with a good cross that saw Mitchell Weiss flick a header goalwards but it drifted just wide and then Weiss, one of the division’s top scorers, battled his way past James Budden and fired in a near-post shot that Laurencin kept out again.

After the early onslaught, the Woods did manage to get a bit of a foothold in the game with Louis Stead playing some probing balls forward but they was a lack of punch up front and after half an hour lone striker Myles Stephenson picked up a needless booking for persistent dissent that we would regret later. The Kings attacking thrust appeared to have abated, though Jack Stevens would have been through on goal had he been able to control Danny Hutchins’ clever channel ball on 32 minutes but two minutes later, it was all change.

A corner was played in by Stead and Brown was clearly shoved over in the box as he went to attack the ball, with a penalty being the outcome. With usual penalty-taker Murray no longer first choice, it was Stead who took the responsibility for the spot-kick and he tucked it away neatly to put the Woods 1-0 up against the run of play.

The visitors pressed again, looking to level things up before the break and they were given two opportunities to do so from free-kicks awarded just outside the box. First Brown was penalised for what was seen as a leading arm when clearing the ball but Hutton was always too high with his dead-ball effort. Then, George Nicholas was booked for a trip in stoppage-time and this time Hutton was on target but Laurencin was there to push the ball over the bar.

It seemed that Northwood still had plenty of work to do in the second half, but in fact the visitors attack appeared to have been blunted and the Woods managed to get a crucial second goal on 59 minutes. A free-kick was knocked in from wide on the left and Brown did really well to head the ball back across goal, where Budden reacted well with a low volley that beat goalkeeper Anthony Ladyman and crept inside the post for his first goal for the Woods.

The Northwood defence, led by Brown, looked in no mood to let a two-goal lead slip and after Laurencin had plucked another Weiss header out of the air, Kings Langley chose to make a triple substitution in an effort to turn their fortunes around. It had little immediate effect but just after Joakim Ehui had been replaced by Max Holland, Stephenson’s involvement came to an end after 73 minutes when a challenge in the middle of the park was deemed worthy of a second yellow card.

The Kings looked to take advantage but made little inroads until a rare slip-up from Laurencin after 83 minutes, presented Weiss with an almost open goal but his blasted effort from twelve yards resulted in an incredible block by Brown on the line and the ball was scrambled away from the danger zone.

On a couple of occasions, the Woods failed to take advantage on the counter-attack, with Holland never quite getting the right ball played to take advantage of his pace but the visitors never went close again either, with a shot from substitute Immanuelson Duku flying over the bar being their only effort on goal.

The win takes the Woods a little closer to the top positions that they have never quite been able to get amongst all season, and their long nine-match unbeaten away record is back on the line over the next week as they face two games on their travels in quick succession. Firstly they play at Petersfield Town on Wednesday night and then have a more local game at Hanwell Town next Saturday.