At the Brookwood Country Park on Saturday North Greenford extended their recent unbeaten run to five games with an impressive, hard-working display against Knaphill, winning the contest by the narrowest of margins thanks to an Alfie Cain penalty scored just before the interval. The win takes the Blues up to tenth position in the CCL Premier Division with a sixth-placed finish now a realistic target.
United made a lively start with a Sandro Costa effort coming close in the opening minutes and Anthony O’Connor, as he was to do throughout the game, using his pace to get behind the Knappers’ defence. Carl Bower and Tayo Coker-Davies were working well together down the right flank, helping set up several good scoring opportunities for O’Connor, but the Blues striker was denied on each occasion by Knappers’ keeper Richard Shelley.
In comparison the home side’s attacks on the Greenford goal were few and far between and their prolific strikers Charlie Postance and Jimmy Norman, who between them have found the net over forty times this season, were well marshalled by the United defence. They knew all about Postance, who scored a hat-trick and was the difference between the sides when Knaphill visited Berkeley Fields back in November.
United broke the deadlock on 38 minutes, deservedly taking the lead when referee Andy Mawby had no hesitation in awarding a penalty for a foul on Sandro Costa after the Blues left midfielder had made a penetrating run into the Knaphill box. As he had against Guildford City, Alfie Cain took responsibility for the spot-kick, making no mistake with a powerful strike down the middle that sent Shelley the wrong way.
Greenford came close to extending their lead just before the break when another well worked move between Bower and Coker-Davies ended with the Blues full-back delivering an accurate low cross to Daniel Vincent who, challenged by a Knappers defender, was unable to keep his shot down, his effort skimming the wrong side of the home crossbar.
With the blustery wind strengthening after the interval, play became scrappier. Predictably Knaphill raised their game and began to put more pressure on the Greenford back line in their efforts to wipe out the visitors’ narrow advantage. For their part United continued to create chances at the other end with O’Connor again using his pace to make threatening runs on the Knappers goal, and the home defence conceding a number of free-kicks in dangerous positions.
Just after the hour Knaphill created several good opportunities to level the score, but were unable to convert, when first a fine cross and then a well-delivered corner caused problems for the Blues defenders. A further string of corners followed on 70 minutes which were also repelled by the visitors. The hosts best chance in normal time came on 86 minutes when a ball fell to Postance with a clear sight on goal but, uncharacteristically, he blasted his shot over the cross bar. At that point it felt this definitely was not going to be Knaphill’s day!
The extended period of stoppage time allowed by referee Mawby led to another nerve-racking, nail-biting finale for the North Greenford contingent. But somehow, with continued resilient if at times desperate defending by the United players, and several match-winning saves by keeper James Harry, the Blues held out for an important win.
Overall this had been another impressive overall performance by all the Greenford players but particularly Guy Ansah-Palmer, Matt Travis, Ryan Murphy and Josh Lewis-Evans, often not getting a mention in match reports, for their vital defensive work which has been a key feature of the club’s fine recent run.
NGU Team: James Harry, Tayo Davis-Coker, Ryan Murphy, Josh Lewis-Evans, Guy Ansah-Palmer, Matt Travis (captain), Carl Bower, Daniel Vincent, Anthony O’Connor, Alfie Cain (Benjamin Zeqiri 88), Sandro Costa (Jamal Velinor 75)