After a very rare weekend away from at least one match due to a special family occasion, I have had to wait a while between watching games but managed last night to visit Wadham Lodge, home of the newly renamed Walthamstow FC to see them entertain Ilford in the 1st Round of the Essex Senior Cup.
It was a game i was looking forward to as Walthamstow seem to have made a bright start to the season (only Takeley had managed to beat them so far – albeit twice!) and having seen Ilford myself a couple of weeks ago against West Essex, I had already seen they were a very useful side who like to get the ball down and play.
A few changes were made to the line ups, compared to the recent starting elevens’ in the league but both sides still had strong sides out and the game started at a decent pace with Walthamstow probably having the better of the opening exchanges and they tested the Ilford goalkeeper on a couple of occasions. However the visitors began to come more into the game and pushed their noses in front, with the opening goal midway through the first half, the home goalkeeper and defenders made a meal of dealing with a cross into the box and centre forward David Oyeleku spun sharply and fired low into the bottom corner.
The game continued in the same attacking vein, on a Wadham Lodge pitch that looks in the best condition it has for a long while and it allowed both teams to move the ball sharply and create chances.
After the break, Walthamstow again took control and will really still be asking themselves how they didn’t get on the scoresheet, they had several fabulous chances which on another night could have brought them 3 or 4 goals but sadly their finishing let them down tonight. Ilford remained dangerous throughout though and the midfield pair of Callum Maltese and Morgan Seaman were very impressive in terms of their creativity and general awareness and will cause a lot of problems for teams in this division.
After more Walthamstow pressure which again failed to yeald a goal, Ilford broke away in the last minute and after Maltese’s initial shot was saved by keeper Harkin, the hard working Yusuff Olajide followed in, robbed a defender of possession and fired goalwards, the ball was parried by Harkin and looped up and just crossed the line, despite the best efforts of a defender to clear the ball.
An enjoyable game to watch overall, two decent sides, a referee who let the game flow whenever he could and a refreshing desire to get on with things from both teams. 2-0 to Ilford was a strange scoreline on reflection though, you couldn’t say Ilford didn’t deserve the victory as they are an exciting side and played well but on another night Walthamstow could have notched a few goals if they had shown more composure in front of goal.
So Ilford progress to round 2 of the competition, where they face a trip to another Essex Senior League side in Southend Manor. Walthamstow now turn their attention to a FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round tie against higher level opponents in Beaconsfield Town, which should be an interesting game at Wadham Lodge this coming Saturday.
Overall though, I have been quietly impressed by Essex Senior League sides this season, it is a league that has lacked quality at times in the recent past but does seem to growing in stature and there are a few good sides knocking about at the top end of the table including these two, so despite Takeley’s great start to the season, i think there will be a few twists and turns before the end of the campaign, with Ilford definitely looking more impressive than they have for a number of years.