1st Team v Flackwell Heath
By Steve Goldfinch
An excellent all-round defensive performance by North Greenford protecting one of the quickest goals ever scored by the club, with a second added 20 minutes from time, secured a thoroughly well-deserved victory in this Extra Preliminary Round tie, earning the Blues an away trip to Bishops Cleeve in the next round.
Less than 30 seconds was the time recorded for United’s opening goal. From the kick-off the ball was played down the left flank and into striker Aaron McLeish who drove across the Flackwell box before opening his Greenford account with a clinical finish past home keeper Aaron Watkins.
Not surprisingly the goal stunned the Flackwell players and Greenford nearly grabbed a second, with Wayne Harvey heading narrowly wide on 11 minutes, before the hosts steadied themselves and, some fifteen minutes into the contest, began to seriously threaten to get back on level terms.
From an attacking of point of view Flackwell went on to dominate the half with United only coming close to extending their lead on one further occasion when, on the half hour, another McLeish effort which found the back of the home was ruled out for offside.
The pacey Flackwell forwards, most notably Mo Ceesay, caused the Blues back four problems and it needed some committed last-ditch defending to deny Flackwell an equaliser. The hosts also produced several shots from outside the United box which narrowly missed the target and it needed a fine save from Michael Power-Simpson to tip an excellent long range strike from Charlie Malin over his crossbar.
Greenford though managed to hold on to their narrow lead up to the break, but it was clear the Blues would need to be at their best throughout the second period to keep out their opponents, as there was no doubt the home side would be fired up and come out with all guns blazing.
As it happened United produced a near perfect second half display. Defending from the front each and every player, as well as using all their experience, worked tirelessly to force their opponents into making numerous overhit and mis-placed passes, and nullifying the impact their front runners had made in the first half.
Virtually the best chance Flackwell had came on 55 minutes after Greenford had been wrongly penalised for an alleged back pass when a Blues defender, running in behind Power-Simpson, who had left his goal-line, had mis-cued a clearance which the Blues keeper had then gathered running back. Fortunately for the visitors, the indirect free-kick was then fired straight at the wall and came to nothing.
If anything, apart from this moment, Greenford looked the most likely to add to their lead and just after the hour McLeish again came agonisingly close to scoring a second when, after making space for himself, he fired in a shot that narrowly missed the Flackwell post.
Ten minutes later, however, they did just that. New signing Tayo Davies-Coker – another returning Blue – was fouled midway in the home half after making a strong run down the right. Full-back Dominic Rhone delivered a beautifully flighted free kick into the danger area which Watkins could only punch clear. The ball flew straight up above the six-yard box and when it dropped Harvey was first to get to it, directing an accurate header into the back of the net from close range.
Given previous experiences of conceding at the end of games, the finale was inevitably a tense experience for the Greenford contingent watching behind the Flackwell goal. As it happened, any concerns proved unwarranted as Greenford finished the half as they had started it with every player determined their team would finish the contest with a clean sheet.
NGU Team: Michael Power-Simpson, Sean Hillier, Dominic Rhone, Tayo Davies-Coker, Anthony Page, Nick Turner, Luke Kenny (Danny Glock
78), Adam Louth (captain), Wayne Harvey (Ricky Pither 84), Aaron McLeish, Chris Henry (Petrit Krasniqi 60)