Sat 18
1st Team
Tower Hamlets


By Fiona Mackay
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Bloods Scrape by Tower Hamlets After Dramatic Last-Minute Winner from Gavin Cockman

After a saved penalty and an injury-time goal at a packed Catons Lane this weekend, Walden were incredibly lucky to edge out Tomer Hamlets F.C. 1-0 in a high-tempo game and grab a colossal 3-points as the race for the top spot and promotion in the Essex Senior League heats up.

Walden are still atop of the table and have stretched to a 5-point lead over Hashtag Utd. as they overwhelmed Redbridge 4-1 at home and leapfrogged Walthamstow into second place after their match against Stansted was postponed.

But the Bloods have played 23 games so far this season in the league. More than any other club and 3 more than Hashtag and Walthamstow. And while Walden have only lost one game this season, too many draws could mean S.W.T.F.C’s fate may not rest in their hands come closer to the end of the season.

And if it wasn’t for some great resolve to get Gavin Cockman’s goal with the last kick of the game, Walden’s odds could have looked a lot bleaker. Especially after Nathan Scarborough’s second half spot kick was saved by an outstanding Kevin Manvel Bergkamp, who kept his team in the tie with some crucial saves throughout the game.

Both teams sprang into action as the match kicked off. In the first 10 minutes alone there were 3 chances, a Cockman cross into the box in the first moments of the game nearly deflects off Jesse Boatene, only for Marvel Bergkamp to scoop the ball up and out of danger.

A few minutes later, Tower Hamlet’s Pedro Carvalho plucks the ball out of the air with an amazing touch and chips a lovely pass onto Ezra Ndokvba in the box and on goal - but Spike Bell is there to make a good tackle in the area to avert the threat.

The first shot on target fell to Hamlet’s Benas Vavaida in the 9th minute, when he disposes a defender of the ball and is clear to make a shot just outside the box. He hits the ball hard to the left on goal, but Nicholas Eyre tips the ball wide and out for the corner

15 minutes in, Cockman nearly slides the ball home at the far post after Ross Adam knocks the ball on with a header from a Scott Pethers long-throw. A few moments later another long-throw from the Walden captain again finds Adam’s in the 6-yard-box, but he can’t get the angle on a good header and the ball loops to Manvel-Bergkamp.

The game then settled down a bit and it took 19 minutes for the next clear effort. Enock Vavaida gets the ball from deep and drills the ball from 30-yards out along the ground and on goal. Eyre has to fully extend and dive to his right to get a hold of the ball.

And moments later, Walden get a free kick with a chance on goal. Steven Carvell steps up and strikes the ball low, past the wall and at the right side of the goal, causing Manvel-Bergkamp to make an excellent save to parry it away. The ball gets cleared for a throw-in and Scott Pethers gets ready to deliver the ball in the danger area. He launches the ball in and it beats all the Hamlet defenders at the near side. Only issue was the ball also whizzes past Walden’s Tyger Smalls and Carvell, who weren’t ready to attack the ball as they didn’t expect it to reach them.

Just before the end of the half, Smalls makes a scorching sprint to chase the ball down the left wing but other shoots his run. Using some quick thinking he back heels the ball to Carvell, who takes the ball up to around 27 yards out and fires the ball towards the target. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have much angle on it and the ball goes straight into Manvel-Bergkamp arms.

The whistle blew for the end of the first half and both teams would have been annoyed they haven’t had the finishing touch to pull ahead. Walden were being muscled off the ball in midfield and couldn’t string together more than 3 passes a lot of the time. The fact they had to play in the direction of the low-lying winter sun probably didn’t help but they always looked like a threat when they used their pace in the counter.

Tower Hamlets were giving Walden a run for their money by playing some technical, close knit football and were looking a major threat from open play - but they kept making the wrong decisions where it mattered and the Walden defensive were able to read their plays far too often to foil any risk.

Just before the start of the second half Jason Maher decided to inject some more offensive options up front by subbing on striker Nathan Scarborough to replace central midfielder George Pullen.

This nearly paid off in the first opening minutes, when a free kick is taken quickly by Ryan Fleming to Cockman at the right side of the last third. Cockman flicks the ball into the middle for Scarborough to work the ball into the box. He takes one to many touches and gets swamped by the Tower Hamlets’ defensive. He still manages to get off a shot, but it lacks any oomph as it strikes a defender and out for a corner.

And like the first half things didn’t seem like they would slow down as 4 minutes later it was Tower Hamlets who looked like they could get ahead with a set piece. Darnell Goather-Braithwaite hits one about 30-yards-out from a free-kick but his effort goes a foot wide at the left post.

Just before the hour mark Cockman clasps onto a ball from a deep pass makes a run into the right side of the box. He offloads the ball back to Carvell who strikes cracks one off on goal, forcing Manvel-Bergkamp to dive and put the ball past the right post for a corner. Carvell whips the resulting corner into the box to find Jake Nobel, but he can’t keep the header down and it files over the crossbar.

Only minutes later Tower Hamlets had two chances, Suaibo Balde takes the ball down the left wing and places the ball to B. Vavaida in the box, who turns and takes a shot on goal. The ball is blocked by Bell, who manages to get the ball under control and clears to safety. Then Badle was at it again when two minutes later he runs down the left, cuts back in and unloads the ball to Ezra Ndokvba in the box. Ndokvba takes a touch too many and Nobel slides in to make a well-timed tackle to stop him before anything could happen.

In the 71st minute, Carvell dribbles with the ball up into Hamlets’ half on the counter and passes to ball to a recently subbed on supporting James Crane to the left of him. He runs up with the ball and gets into a shooting position. He gets off a solid shot on target and Manvel-Bergkamp can only block the ball, causing it to ricochet back to Crane. He fires off another shot, but it goes just wide at the right post.

A minute later, Smalls puts the ball into the box from a corner to find Nobel near the penalty spot. This time his header is on target but Manvel-Bergkamp displays some great reaction time to tip it over for another corner.

Walden were really pressing at this point and just after the next corner they were awarded with a penalty after Pethers is deemed to have been bundled over in the area by Deo Lindo.

Scarborough steps up to take the kick. He runs up and places a low shot to the left corner of the goal. The effort lack power but still Manvel-Bergkamp demonstrations some amazing agility and manages to get a hand to the ball and push it away. It comes back out to Crane, who was chasing up, but he blasts the ball over the goal and out of play.

The last twenty minutes after the missed penalty saw a flurry of chances. Scarborough shows some fancy footwork to get into the box, but the ball runs away from him and into the path of Carvell. He manages to let a shot off, but Manvel-Bergkamp rushes out and jumps on the ball.

It was Tower Hamlets turn to put on some pressure as Yoan Edouko puts the ball across to the back post of Waldens goal, but Balde can’t extend enough with his slide to connect with the ball. Moments later E. Vavaida has an effort go just wide at the right post.

And just before the start of injury time Ndokvba tackles Pethers deep in Walden’s own half, leaving the Walden defence on the back foot. Ndokvba releases the ball to Edovko to the left of him, who then tries to place the ball into the back of the net only to be denied by an outwards running Eyre.

And with the last play of the game in the only minute of added-time, Walden broke the deadlock to score the only goal on the game and win the match. Bell latches onto a ball played from deep at the right side of the box. He brings the ball up to the edge of the box and pops off a fierce effort on target. Manvel-Bergkamp can only deflect the effort and the ball falls kindly to Cockman in the 6-yard box, who displays some flexibility as he lifts his leg high to tap the ball home into the net.

The huge home crowd of 293 erupted into celebrations as the Bloods finally beat the stalemate so late into the game. Soon after the restart the referee blew for full time and the fans at Catons Lane were in a party mood. Let’s hope the team can come back down to earth when they next face Cockfosters this Tuesday at home for a huge match in the semi-final of the Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy.

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Match details

Match date

Sat 18, Jan 2020






Senior Division

League position

Saffron Walden Town
Tower Hamlets