1st Team v Cricklewood Wanderers
By Steve Goldfinch
In an action-packed, hard-fought and entertaining Buildbase FA Vase cup tie North Greenford eventually overcame Cricklewood Wanderers to earn a place in the First Round draw. But it needed a last minute United goal to take the contest into Extra Time with the spirited Middlesex County Premier Division side coming so narrowly close to holding on to their 3-2 half-time lead.
Greenford began the match confidently and took an early lead on 7 minutes when a well-delivered Michael Power-Simpson free-kick was headed on to Aaron McLeish by Dominic Rhone with the Blues striker making no mistake with a neat finish.
This should though have been McLeish’s second after, through on goal on the end of a fine move just two minutes into the game, he had driven a close range effort straight at Cricklewood keeper Nathan Dyos. A further gilt-edged chance for the Blues fell to Michael Lewis on 10 minutes when, from a good position on the left of the home box, he dragged his shot wide of the far post.
Greenford were soon made to pay for these early missed chances. With still less than 20 minutes played Cricklewood had levelled the score. An accurate long ball was played out from the back into the path of pacey right midfielder Karmani Thomas-Lyttle who drove into the space before delivering a low cross to striker Daniel Makowski who, as McLeish had done earlier, finished clinically.
Not surprisingly the goal lifted the home side as they quickly grew in confidence and put pressure on the United players in all areas of the park. It was definitely now ‘game on’ and ten minutes later, reflecting just how significantly the contest had changed at this point, Cricklewood took the lead. On this occasion, exploiting space down the right, a similar attack ended with midfielder Glody Kiyomba providing an equally emphatic finish.
Within ten minutes Greenford had responded with another McLeish goal after a fine run and cross by Chris Henry had provided him with a simple tap in, but further poor United defending this time from a corner allowed Makowski, unmarked inside the box, to score his second and restore his side’s lead just before the break.
Obviously fired up by some harsh words during the interval, Greenford started the second period clearly determined to quickly get back on level terms. Pushed forward, Dominic Rhone produced two decent goal-bound strikes that were very well saved by Dyos, who did equally well with a long-range effort on the hour by Blues captain Adam Louth.
With United having the upper hand throughout the half, more chances followed, with McLeish having several good opportunities to secure his hat-trick. But, to their credit, the spirited Cricklewood players continued to work incredibly hard to defend their narrow advantage and, with full-time looming, it felt the Blues’ equalising goal was never going to come.
What then followed was as dramatic a finale to normal time as could be imagined. Just before the 90-minute mark centre-back Nick Turner finally scored the goal Greenford had been striving for, converting a Blues corner with what has become a trade-mark header.
Then, within a minute, referee Mudiwa Manyange showed Cricklewood’s tall, dominant centre-back Libor Lecian a straight red card for what he and his assistant clearly considered a dangerous challenge. Mr Manyange then proceeded to play a lengthy period of stoppage time, the last moment of which saw United come agonisingly close to snatching a late, late winner, when McLeish get on the end of a fine cross from substitute Danny Glock
only for his powerful header to rattle the home crossbar and rebound into play.
With ‘normal’ time ending in this way, and with Cricklewood down to ten men, the momentum had clearly shifted in North Greenford’s direction as the mandatory period of extra-time began. And so it turned out, although the early exchanges saw the Blues again squander good chances with the best falling to Ryan Lewis who, from a good position, fired over the Cricklewood bar.
The crucial fourth goal was eventually scored by the visitors some three minutes before the end of the first period when, on this occasion, McLeish turned provider with a quality run and pin-point low cross to Glock who produced a well-controlled finish giving Dyos no chance.
Four minutes into the second period saw United make it five with an almost carbon copy of the fourth earning a brace for the Blues substitute and, with two minutes left to play, the persistent McLeish finally secured what had been a thoroughly well-deserved hat-trick to add to his two assists, with a firmly struck low drive that went under Dyos to find the back of the Cricklewood net.
To be honest, the final scoreline flattered the visitors. The immediate priority for the Blues is to get back to winning ways in their forthcoming league fixtures, another away game at Leighton Town this Saturday, two home games the following week against Oxhey Jets on the Tuesday (25th September) and Baldock Town on the Saturday (29th September).
Obviously it’s important that gilt-edged scoring opportunities are converted but of equal concern, if not more so, is the number of goals that have been conceded in recent games – in stark contrast to the three clean-sheets on the spin earned near the start of this season’s campaign. The management team and players will be keen to address both concerns.
NGU Team: Michael Power-Simpson, Sean Hillier, Dominic Rhone, Adam Louth (captain), Nick Turner, Joe Gritt, Courtney Austin, Ryan Lewis (Michael Barima 106), Aaron McLeish, Chris Henry (Danny Glock
65), Michael Lewis (Jake Nickless 46)