NORTHWOOD FC   Monday 29th August 2016   POTTERS BAR FC

Evo-Stik League Southern Division One Central

  Northwood 3 Potters Bar 2  

Stephenson 37, Debattista 51,
Bircham 67

Nathaniel-George 28, Forde 34

Team line-up  
  Team line-up
1 Montel Joseph     1 Ben Goode
2 Alex Nolan     2 Billy Baird
3 Julian Smith     3 Luke Warner-Eley
4 Filipe Anjos     4 Carl McCluskey
5 James Budden     5 Ishmael Thomas
6 Louis Stead     6 Ryan Forde
7 Louis Bircham     7 Ashley Nathaniel-George
8 James Burgess     8 Chris Doyle (73m)
9 Ryan Debattista     9 Michael Murray (65m)
10 Myles Stephenson (57m)     10 Adam Wallace
11 Callum Wright (87m)     11 Danny Hart (65m)
Substitutes     Substitutes
12 Luke Heneghan (57m)     12 Eoin Casey (65m)
14 Georges Ehui (87m)     14 Will Wambeck (73m)
15 Simeon Owen     15 Joe Bennett
16 Rowland Smith     16 Lamar Simpson (65m)
17 Thomas Spencer     17 -
      Referee: Robin Cox; Assistants: Brandon Haden & Kevin Bungay      
  REPORT by Alan Evans    PHOTOS by James Brown  

After having lost their two opening home games this season, the Woods were up against it for their Bank Holiday Monday fixture against a Potters Bar Town side who had made an unbeaten start to their season. Mark Burgess was still ruled out of playing himself through injury but James Burgess was back from illness to skipper the side, coming in for Georges Ehui while there was more of an attacking line-up as Myles Stephenson started alongside Ryan Debattista and Louis Bircham in a three-pronged attack with Louis Stead dropping back into a more defensive role.

The Woods started well enough with Bircham getting in a good strike that was pushed over the bar by goalkeeper Ben Goode before Stead played in Callum Wright and a good shot was always creeping just over the top. The Visitors showed that they were dangerous too though and after Ryan Forde hooked a shot over the top, two ex-Northwood players Danny Hart and Michael Murray combined to set up Adam Wallace for a shot which was well blocked. From the resulting corner Carl McCluskey got up well for a header which was well taken by Montel Joseph in goal.

Northwood might have taken the lead on 23 minutes as Wright clipped a good cross to the far post where Bircham met it with a diving-header but Goode got down low too to keep it out. Just four minutes later the Scholars were ahead as Ashley Nathaniel-George cut in from the left and found himself in plenty of space so tried his luck from distance and beat Joseph’s dive with a shot that crept inside the post.

When Potters Bar notched a second goal on 35 minutes, Forde again given too much space around the edge of the box and firing home, there seemed a mountain to climb for the Woods. But Northwood hadn’t been playing badly and a minute later, they went close again as Stephenson rose to head a Julian Smith cross just over the bar. It was important to get a goal before the break though and it came on 37 minutes as Stephenson showed good strength and control to fire past Goode from just inside the area. Ryan Debattista had a good shot blocked just before the break but at half-time, the visitors were still ahead.

After 48 minutes the Woods committed that sometimes fatal sin of conceding a free-kick just outside the box and in the ideal range for Murray. He had won the free-kick himself but was unable to take advantage as the ball cannoned back off the defensive wall. On 51 minutes, it was a similar situation at the other end with the Woods awarded a free-kick. Stead hit it well and when Goode couldn’t hold on to the shot, it ran loose and Debattista pounced to fire home from six yards and notch his first goal for the club.

Having lost their lead, Potters Bar hit back with a quick break. Murray played in Nathaniel-George but his shot was pushed over the top by Joseph. There was a bit of a blow for Northwood as the in-form Stephenson limped off with a slight hamstring problem and was replaced by Luke Heneghan and soon after that some stout defending from James Burgess saw shots from Nathaniel-George and Hart both blocked.

Northwood were still looking to build with their new found confidence though and after 63 minutes a good run from Heneghan led to a cross to Wright whose quick turn and shot crashed back off the crossbar. The Scholars responded with a couple of substitutions but on 66 minutes the Woods were in front for the first time. It was Stead who played a ball off to Bircham and the youngster, who only transferred from Potters Bar two weeks earlier, let fly with a great strike that gave Goode no chance.

There was still plenty of time left to have to defend the lead but the visitors looked deflated. Billy Baird tried his luck from distance but Joseph took it cleanly and then Wallace hit an angled shot well over the top. There was a real scare for Northwood on 72 minutes as a long ball was flicked on by substitute Eoin Casey and though Joseph was there to kick clear it struck Alex Nolan and the ball rebounded towards goal before Budden got back to clear.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic though and Wright set up Bircham for another shot that was saved at the near-post by Goode before Bircham turned provider with a cross that picked out Debattista but his header thumped against the crossbar to safety. A fourth goal would have been nice but in the end the Woods had done enough to return to form with a hard-fought and narrow victory by the odd goal in five. There is still plenty to do and learn for this fledgling team but there was plenty to like in the performance too.