First's end losing run
Two stunning goals from Liam Holden and a first for the club for Stefan Joseph gave the first team all three points at Badshot Lea.
The result confirmed that for the first time in four season, the lads will go into the last month of the season without the threat of relegation hanging over them, and in fact will be looking to push on for a top half finish.
Conditions at Badshot Lea were tricky to say the least, a bobbly hard pitch (which you will get anywhere at this stage of the season) and blustery swirling winds made keeping possession of the ball doubly difficult, and both sides struggled to do this in a fairly dull first half.
The hosts started brightly with the wind at their backs, and put ou back line under some early pressure, and in the opening stages decent play on the left saw the ball reach Ainsley Everett, but his shot from distance went over the crossbar. Badshot continued to hold the upper hand and on 11 minutes good work between Benga Ogunseye and Danny Patterson forced Keano Robinson and Jeff Addo-Dankwa into some solid defending, eventually clearing the ball for a throw in, which we cleared.
We were gradually getting into the game, but were still struggling with the wind, and all too often our passes were going astray. Stefan Joseph did well on the quarter hour to find Jay Jones, but he was shut down before he could get a shot away and Badshot were able to clear.
Badshot's Darren Blake fired a low shot wide from 30 yards on 20 minutes, as Badshot pushed for an opening goal. Our first real chance on goal came on 23 minutes, Jones linked up well with Joseph on the left, and from the set back Jones fired wide of the left hand post from just outside the area.
Three minutes later and Matt Auletta almost set Joseph away, but he was crowded out by the Badshot backline and at the other end Addo-Dankwa did well against the Ogunseye and cleared the danger. On the half hour we probably should have taken the lead. Robinson pressurised the Luke Whiddett into a mistake and squared to Joseph, who was unable to get a shot away, Badshot half cleared and Joe Mead saw his effort comfortably gathered by Brendan Norris in the Badshot goal.
Davies found his way into the book on 33 minutes, when he was penalised for a foul on Everett, and from the free kick by Whiddett, the strike curled high over the crossbar. Back at the other end and Robinson and Auletta linked up well, with Auletta opting for a pass back to Robinson, rather than taking on the shot which would probably have been the better option and the chance was gone.
Davies pulled down Everett again on 38 minutes, with a challenge more warranting of a booking than his first one, which he was booked for, and survived with a final warning. From the free kick by Whiddett, Craig Bradshaw made a great save away to his left, even though the officials gave a goalkick.
We were then forced into our first change, when Jones went down injured (and is likely to miss the rest of the season) and was replaced by Anson Cousins.
Holden opened the scoring a minute before the break. Cousins found Jordan Johnson-Palmer, who in turn found a suspiciously offside Auletta took advantage of no linesman flag to find Holden, who thumped the ball beyond the despairing dive of Norris. We almost increased our lead a minute later when Auletta saw his low shot well saved by Norris. Half time came with us holding a 1-0 lead.
We started the second half brightly, looking for that early goal that would give us some breathing space, and in the opening minute, a throw by Robinson found Auletta who in turn found Joseph, but he was just off target with his strike.
Cousins fired a volley over the crossbar on 49 minutes, having been picked out by a great Johnson-Palmer free kick, and a minute later we did increase our lead through that man Holden again. A corner on the right was only half cleared to Auletta, he linked up with Johnson-Palmer to find Davies who in turn found Anson Cousins and his cross was expertly volleyed home by Holden from close range.
We almost gifted Badshot a way back into the game on 54 minutes, when a poor Robinson throw left Davies in all sorts of trouble, he was dispossessed by Ogunseye who then rounded Bradshaw, but from a tight angle could only fire wide. A minute later Johnson-Palmer found Auletta but his pull back found Joseph already on the floor having been bundled over, but play was allowed to continue.
We continued to hold the upper hand and on 61 minutes a deep corner by Holden was headed goalwards by Davies, and turned over the bar by Norris. We increased our lead on 65 minutes, Aaron Bogle won a challenge for the clearance by Blake and found Holden, his deft flick found Joseph who beat the keeper to the ball, pushed it passed him before rolling into an empty net and notching his first goal for the club.
Jack May went close for Badshot on 70 minutes, firing wide of the left hand post, having created some space for himself with a great turn on the edge of our area. We made our second change on 73 mintues, with Danny Fernandez replacing Addo-Dankwa.
Holden should have had his hat-trick on 75 minutes. Fernandez played a superb crossfield ball to Auletta, he took on Whiddett and beat him and saw his low cross tantalising just behind Holden, with the SCR man just unable to force the ball home. Auletta then fizzed an effort just over the crossbar, as we were now playing with confidence.
Darren Salmon made his final change for us on 79 minutes, replacing the excellent Joseph with reserve team leading scorer George Baker, handing Baker his debut.
Ogunseye hooked an effort wide of the right hand post on 82 minutes, after we had only half cleared a ball into our area by Chad Goulter. With the game in the bag, we stepped off the gas a bit and started to allow Badshot more chances, and the should have reduced the arrears with five minutes remaining, when a ball down the right was squared back to Cameron Blackie, but he dragged his effort horribly wide of the left hand post.
Ogunseye then turned Davies inside out, and set the ball back to May who fired wide from close range. Badshot pulled a goal back on 87 minutes. We should have made it 4-0 when Baker raced clear, but with Holden alongside he was caught in two minds of the the debut goal or a hat-trick for Holden and in the end shot tamely at Norris. From the break Ogunseye fired, via a deflection, beyond Bradshaw.
There was still time for James Pilgrim to curl a free kick round the wall forcing Bradshaw into a save, and full time came with us having a 3-1 win.