Break Blunts Blues edge in defeat at Enfield
Match report & pictured is Craig King. Image courtesy of Steve McCarthy
The postponements over the last eleven days appeared to cost the Blues as they attempted to resume their recent impressive away form at Enfield. Jim Cooper was able to name an unchanged side as no one has played for eleven days so no injuries or suspensions to worry about!
Neil Barrett played for the reserves to get some minutes under his belt along with Mekhail Mclaughlin who was returning from a slight knock over Christmas. This meant an `appearance` on the bench for our recently appointed first team coach Jon Nurse as he also looked to continue his own personal unbeaten run since taking on the role.
The Blues started lively enough with Charlie Collins volleying narrowly past the post after 5 minutes from a good cross by Andre Dacosta. A few minutes later & Leon Smith was sent clear by a defence splitting pass by Joe Turner, but as he closed on the penalty area & the advancing keeper, he had a heavy touch that just ran the ball into the keepers’ hands & out of his reach.
The action switched to the Blues penalty area and they needed a timely sliding challenge from Will Salmon to deny the dangerous Harry Ottaway as he raced into the box onto a through ball. The opening goal was largely against the run of play after 17 minutes and went to the home side. A ball down the Enfield right found the pacey Tyler Campbell and he managed to get beyond Ollie Treacher just enough to clip a cross into the Blues 6-yard box. Bobby Devyne rose unchallenged to direct a neat header into the corner giving Craig King no chance.
The goal appeared to stun most in the ground as it came from nowhere and Enfield almost doubled their lead a few minutes later when Ottaway raced clear and Craig King made a great stop to deny him. Rob Bartley then picked up a justified yellow for a challenge in the 35th minute.
The Blues raised their game for the closing ten minutes of the half after the goal appeared to knock them out of their stride. They created several chances as the half closed when Leon Smith again closed in on the area but was blocked by the keeper. The ball fell to Charlie Collins and he rounded the keeper but was too wide to finish and squared the ball back to Joe Turner just on the edge of the box. The powerful front man drove a right foot shot towards goal with the keeper scrambling back but a covering defender header clear.
As the half closed, Andre Dacosta found Billy Crook on the edge of the box and his accurate cross found Leon Smith unmarked in the box but his header was placed just over the bar.
Half Time Enfield Town 1 Met Police 0
The Blues started brightly enough and Tom Hickey drove a left foot volley from 25 yards out narrowly wide after 50 minutes. The Blues looked to be slightly off their stride throughout the game and the 11-day break had clearly impacted on their free flowing passing game.
The pivotal moments came in the next 15 minutes as the match referee took centre stage. Steve Sutherland raced alongside Harry Ottaway inside the Blues penalty area on the left hand side. He slid in and cleanly took the ball from in front of the player but his trailing leg just caught the heel of the attacker and he fell to the ground. The ball was already out of play when the contact occurred but in answer to some very hopeful appeals the referee pointed to the spot and awarded the penalty. It would seem you cannot challenge in the penalty area if this is the criteria for penalties but up stepped Ryan Doyle to drive the ball home.
The Blues were clearly very aggrieved by the decision and the game seemed to be drifting away from them as several other decisions went the way of the home side. As Jim looked like he was preparing to make the first substitution the Blues were reduced to ten men with the dismissal of Rob Bartley. The challenge itself by Barts was mistimed as he slid in to tackle Ottaway and looked a certain yellow card, but was not high or malicious, and definitely not a goal scoring chance as it was some 30 yards from goal & two covering defenders.
Astonishingly, the referee made another strange decision as he showed a straight red and dismissed Barts. In any event he was going to be sent off, but the punishment is different for a straight red and it will be interesting to see the video of the incident. The referee apparently stated post match that he thought the challenge was `high & dangerous` however my recollection was it was a sliding tackle along the ground.
Going down to ten men effectively ended this as a contest & aside from the introduction of three subs for the Blues there was not much more to write about from the 70th minute onwards.
Leon Smith had another great chance in the 85th minute when he shot over the bar from about 14 yards out in front of goal with just the keeper to beat but it summed up the Blues in front of goal in this game.
A disappointing result but failure to take chances was the true story of the game for the Blues compounded by one questionable decision for the penalty. Going down to ten men was always going to happen as soon as Barts made the challenge, but the straight red looked very harsh and caused a further sense of injustice for the players.