Festive derby ends with point apiece for Witham and Coggeshall
as town continue fine run
Witham Town came from behind to open their festive fixtures strongly and extend their unbeaten run to six games with a 1-1 draw against local rival Coggeshall Town.
Coggeshall, who came into the Friday night game sat fourth in the Bostik League division north table, opened the scoring with an early Sam Bantick strike and had the lion’s share of scoring opportunities over the 90 minutes.
However, the early goal was cancelled out by a luke mallett penalty as Witham showed every bit of the recent upturn in form that has got them clear of the relegation zone and they secured another valuable point.This was the fifth meeting between these two sides so far this year and the crowd of 197 at the Village Glass Stadium was treated to a thoroughly enjoyable derby clash.
Out of the four previous encounters, it had been pretty even, with Coggeshall winning two, Witham one and one had been a draw.And the start of this game was fairly even in the opening stages.Coggeshall perhaps edged the forward threat, though, and had a sight of goal on four minutes when the ball was fed into the feet of Sam Bantick in the Witham box and he had space to turn but fired well wide of the target.
The closest Witham went was from a powerful run into the Seedgrowers’ box by Toby Aromolaran when he fed the ball to Johnny Ashman and it took a good block to deny the hosts a goal.
However, Coggeshall’s forward incursions started to become more telling and after Bantick headed over the bar, they did take the lead on 14 minutes.
It came when a ball through the middle opened the Witham defence and Bantick made no mistake this time as he drilled a low shot in across Witham keeper Luca Collins.
It was a setback for Witham, but they looked to respond and, three minutes later, won a free-kick in a dangerous area on the right of the Coggeshall area.Ashman fired the ball into the Coggeshall box and it was deflected off a defender so former Witham keeper Danny Sambridge had to make a smart save at his near post.Other than the goal, there was not too much between the sides at this stage, but Coggeshall continued carving out the more threatening openings.
A good run down the right by another ex-Witham player, George Cocklin, ended with him getting a good cross in only for Ross Wall tglance his header wide of the home goal, before Correy Davidson - yet another former Witham player – shot high and wide after snatching at a shot in a good position.
Meanwhile, at the other end, Aromolaran looked the hosts’ most effective outlet going forward and his quick feet were troubling the visiting defenders when he ran at them.
And the hosts found themselves level again on 32 minutes.
Referee Jack Willmore had no hesitation in awarding a penalty when Ashman was felled in the Coggeshall box and luke mallett show nerves of steel to step forward and fire home the resulting penalty.
It was a soft penalty for the visitors to have conceded, but it meant the game was back level and Witham tails were up.
They almost went ahead when Mallett found space to get a shot away in the Seedgrowers’ area, but he rushed his effort and sent it well over the crossbar to make sure it stayed level at the break.
Things stayed fairly even after the restart, with both sets of players working hard while not really threatening the other’s goal.
However, Witham carved out a great opportunity on 55 minutes when Ashman and luke foster combined down the left but Ashman's end product was straight into the clutches of Sambridge.Following the initial exchanges, though, it was the visitors who really started to build consistent pressure and they had a superb chance to regain the lead on 61 minutes.Some great movement of the ball by the visitors kept Witham on the back foot and a cross into the home area fell at the feet of Bantick, but he snatched at his shot and sent the ball over the bar with the goal beckoning.
A thunderous goalbound shot by Hubble was then blocked by Sam Owusu as Witham’s defence stood firm under pressure.
Their resilience allowed the home side to see out the awkward spell and they started to reassert themselves at the other end again, with Witham substitute Ayo Odukoya being denied by a last-ditch tackle after coming on for the hosts.
The game really was on a knife-edge and it started to open up as the players tired on the heavy pitch in the final ten minutes.
Coggeshall were impressive in pressing on the edge of the Witham box and a curling effort by Davidson flashed past the post with Wall just unable to get a touch to the ball that would have turned it in.
The visitors maintained their pressing until the final whistle but there was no way through and both sides opened the festive period with a point apiece.
By Simon Spurgeon