|North Greenford United||4|
On Saturday at the Alfred Davis Memorial Ground, playing the club’s first Central Division league game since the end of January, two early Zak Joseph strikes set North Greenford United on the road to a well-deserved 4-2 victory in the first of two crucial back-to-back bottom-of-the-table contests against near-neighbours and fellow strugglers Marlow.
Having looked the sharper of the two teams in the opening exchanges, Joseph put Greenford ahead in the fifth minute when he made a typically mazy run across the Marlow area before firing a low shot past keeper Charlie Fanner at his near post.
The young United winger’s second goal, scored with still less than ten minutes on the clock, was even better – a definite candidate for goal of the season. From outside the Marlow box he unleashed a tremendous left-footed drive that flew into the top corner of the home net giving Fanner no chance.
Three minutes later Greenford player-coach Mark Nicholls came close to adding a third when, on the end of another incisive United move, his on target effort this time brought out a fine save from the Marlow keeper.
The home side came close to getting themselves back into the game on twenty-eight minutes when their lively left-sided midfielder Aaron Couch, after making a dangerous run into the United area, narrowly missed the far post with a fierce drive across the visitors’ six yard box which had Greenford keeper Andy Caesar well beaten.
The remainder of the half was played out in driving rain, a period during which United striker Ricky Pither and Nicholls had further chances to extend Greenford’s lead but were prevented from doing so by some more good goalkeeping from Fanner.
On the stroke of half-time Sean Hillier was injured following a clash with Couch, an injury that was to force the United right back to retire from the remainder of the game. Hillier was replaced by Jack Duffy and the Greenford back four, reorganised for the second period with captain Nick Turner moving to the right back slot, adapted quickly and United continued to look the more likely side to score.
On fifty-five minutes, midfielder Wayne Jackson, though now playing in a more defensive role, came close to extending United’s lead having got himself into a good goal-scoring position.
United finally succeeded in adding a third just after the hour mark, when Nicholls played a fine cross into the Marlow danger area that the home defence struggled to deal with. In their attempts to clear their lines, assistant David Jones ruled that the ball had crossed the goal line as captain Jon Case finally got it away. An own goal was awarded despite vehement protests from the Marlow contingent.
Greenford added a fourth on seventy minutes. On this occasion, from a more central position, Nicholls fired in a shot which was once again well saved by Tanner, but Duffy was quickest to react when the ball ran loose and, from a tight angle, made no mistake as he directed what proved a simple tap-in into the empty Marlow net.
In a late rally, the home side pulled two goals back to provide a more respectable scoreline. First, with five minutes remaining, full-back Case, after making a determined run into the United box, drove home from close range. Then, as the game moved into added time, referee Simeon Potter awarded a penalty for a foul on Case which was clinically converted by striker Adam Harman.
In the end, it was too little, too late for the home side and Greenford were able to leave the Alfred Davis Memorial Ground having secured three crucial points in their bid to pull away from the Central Division relegation zone. The two sides must now play it all out again at Berkeley Fields this coming Tuesday in a many times rearranged fixture. This is followed by another crucial home game next Saturday against Fleet Town, another side who currently find themselves at the wrong end of the Central Division table.
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