On May Bank Holiday Monday against near-neighbours and local rivals AFC Hayes at Farm Park, North Greenford followed their impressive victories over CB Hounslow and Horley Town with their third win on the spin to take the team over the 50-point mark to definitely secure 14th position in the CCFL Premier Division and ensure safety from any possible relegation threat.
Apart from a period of play in the second half which enabled AFC Hayes to get back into the game fifteen minutes from time, this was another impressive overall performance by United. Indeed the team would have won the contest by a wider margin had it not been for a magnificent man-of-the-match display by the Brook keeper Cameron Kennedy.
Greenford were quickest out of the traps when play began, dominating the opening exchanges and taking an early lead on 5 minutes when Stuart Muldrew, again captaining the side in the absence of Daniel Vincent, played a telling ball out to Sandro Costa on the left. Costa drove into the home area before firing a shot across Kennedy into the far corner.
Two minutes later Muldrew himself unleashed a brilliant strike from outside the area that, heading towards the top corner of the Brook net, looked a certain goal until Kennedy pulled off the first of a number of top-drawer saves he was to produce throughout the match to tip the ball over his crossbar.
He was though unable to do anything to prevent Greenford doubling their lead on 20 minutes when Muldrew again fed the ball out to the left, this time to Anthony O’Connor who scored with another clinical finish into the far corner – virtually a carbon copy of the earlier Costa strike.
On the half hour Kennedy was back in action, denying O’Connor a second with another fine save. He then did the same on 38 minutes in a 1 v 1 against Carl Bower, after the United midfielder had been played through on goal by an excellent Sean Hillier cross-field pass.
However, despite controlling most of the play during the first period, Greenford were nearly caught out just minutes before the break when Sekani McCalmon was played in behind the visitors’ defence. With a similar opportunity to reduce the deficit, McCalmon was unable to get the better of United keeper Bailey Mulhall, whose turn it was to pull off a fine save, blocking the Brook striker’s shot and crucially protecting his team’s two-goal advantage.
That close call clearly lifted the Hayes players during the interval and they raised their game at the start of the second period, giving the Greenford players far less time on the ball and competing far more effectively. They still though needed to defend well to prevent United extended their lead.
On the hour a brilliant block prevented O’Connor, then Arash Abdollahi from scoring from close-range, after Abdollahi had made a fine run into the box. This was followed two minutes later by further excellent goalkeeping by Kennedy to deny Costa.
The home side’s hopes of getting back into the game were further raised when McCalmon finally succeeded in reducing the deficit on 74 minutes, taking advantage of some careless Greenford play at the back and setting up a thrilling, nail-biting finale.
As it happened the goal provided a wake-up call for United who, clearly recognising the importance at this point of scoring a third goal, came agonisingly close to doing just that after referee Alperen Nayir had turned down a strong penalty appeal for what appeared a clear foul on O’Connor.
First Charlie Connor from a free-kick and then Carl Bower from a strike in open play struck the cross-bar. Kennedy then once again denied O’Connor his brace, followed by a world-class goal-line save at the end of a goal-mouth scramble which looked certain to make the win safe for the visitors.
In the end though the third goal wasn’t needed and Greenford held on reasonably comfortably up to the final whistle. The team will now be looking to round off this positive end-of-season run with a win in their final game on Wednesday against Godalming Town. Another win would mean the Blues would finish 13th – above Horley Town – and, after the disappointingly poor sequence of results in April, this would lift the spirits of everyone at the club.
NGU Team: Bailey Mulhall, Austin Schofield, Sean Hillier, Jack Roper (Tom O’Regan 75), Michael O’Neil, Charlie Connor, Carl Bower, Stuart Muldrew (captain), Anthony O’Connor, Arash Abdollahi (James Barnett 75), Sandro Costa