Following the team’s important victories over two of the league’s struggling sides, Raynes Park Vale and Bedfont & Feltham, North Greenford welcomed second-placed Westfield to Berkeley Fields on Saturday and produced an even more impressive all-round performance to notch up their third win on the bounce.
It was a win that moves United up to 13th in the Premier Division table and, midway through the season, takes the Blues over the 30 point mark just seven behind fifth-place Epsom and Ewell. Achieving a top five finish during the second half of their campaign could now be clearly seen as a realistic target for the club.
As against Bedfont & Feltham last week, Greenford were the sharper and quicker of the two sides during the opening exchanges and the Blues took an early lead with just three minutes on the clock. A neat move ended with a ball crossed to Daniel Vincent in space inside the Westfield area. In their efforts to clear Vincent’s sliced shot Field defenders Shaun Elliott and Dale Burnham miscued and the ball bobbled over the goal line out of the reach of keeper George Ennor.
The goal provided a wake-up call for the visitors and within five minutes they had levelled the score with striker Max Blackmore finishing off a swift counter-attack with an excellent strike into the corner that gave United keeper Bailey Mulhall no chance.
On fifteen minutes the Blues excellent young defender Nik Muller needed treatment following a strong tackle and, when it became clear that he would be unable to continue, was replaced by Sandro Costa, himself only recently having recovered from an injury. With Carl Bower reverting to full-back Greenford retained their defensive balance, a factor that would prove significant with regards the eventual outcome of this contest.
United regained the lead on 23 minutes when Ennor was unable to get to a George Moore free-kick driven low and hard into the corner of the visitors net from some thirty yards. Although no further goals were scored, the remainder of the half proved highly entertaining with both sides continuing to mount potentially dangerous attacks, and both defending well.
Greenford’s best chance of extending their lead came just before the interval when clever play from debutant midfielder James Simmonds set up a good chance for Moore. Moore came close again within five minutes of the resumption followed by a swift Westfield counter-attack which earned the visitors another corner.
United also attacked at pace and on 52 minutes Costa, looking sharp on his return from injury, made an incisive run in from the left and played the ball out to Moore. Moore’s shot across goal was met by striker Jamal Velinor who had made a well-timed run into the danger area, and Velinor was able to grab a crucial third goal for the Blues with a simple tap-in.
Three minutes later Costa and Simmonds combined to set up another great chance for the home side to further extend their lead, on this occasion falling to Charlie Conner whose shot on target was well saved by Ennor. Ennor was again called into action ten minutes from time after referee Alperin Nayir had awarded the Blues a penalty for a foul by Field full-back Luke Beale on Costa, when he pulled off another comfortable save to deny Daniel Vincent.
As a result the final minutes of the contest were unnecessarily tense but, as they had throughout the game, the entire Greenford team continued to defend with commitment and resilience to protect their lead. It did though need an outstanding Mulhall save to keep out a point blank header on 85 minutes.
The significance of Mulhall’s save became apparent when, as the game entered stoppage time, Westfield finally succeeded in reducing the deficit with a second goal, with substitute Patrick Kirby finding the back of the Blues net from a corner with a strike from close range.
North Greenford successfully held on until the final whistle to earn what, on the overall balance of play, had been a thoroughly well-deserved victory, and one that ensures the club can now look forward to the second half of their season with a great deal of optimism.
NGU Team: Bailey Mulhall, Anthony Rowlands (captain), Ryan Murphy, Nik Muller (Sandro Costa 21) (Oluwatobi Shopido 87), Matt Travis, Charlie Conner (Georgie Brown 72), George Moore, Daniel Vincent, Jamal Velinor, James Simmonds, Carl Bower