town defeat basildon
to stay in the bostik league
Witham secured their place in the Bostik League North by virtue of a second half performance in which they scored twice without reply. After a long season they survived on goal difference as Romford finished with a four-goal deficit.
Witham had gone into the game knowing that even a one-goal victory would almost certainly be enough to ensure their survival. Sam Ashford was included in the starting line-up with Luke Foster dropping to the bench.
The blustery conditions made ball control difficult and neither side looked impressive in the early stages. This was a meeting of the two lowest scorers in the division and there were few quality attacking moves on display. Witham goalkeeper Luca Collins had to run outside his area and save with his feet in the ninth minute and five minutes later Joseph Turpin headed over from a corner when he should have hit the target for Basildon. The home side looked marginally more dangerous than the visitors but both teams struggled to keep possession in a generally poor first half. Collins was alert enough to sprint from his area again to frustrate a Basildon attacking move and Ashford headed a high ball out for a corner during another attack by the home side.
Witham’s first promising attack ended with a good shot from the busy Jack Lelliott that went over the bar. Johnny Ashman was all industry but there was little to show for it. At half-time the most likely outcome seemed a goalless draw as neither side has showed any scoring potential in the first half.
Witham made a lively start to the second half with a positive attitude that had been missing earlier. The turning point of the game came in the 54th minute when Patrick Ahern
scored with a header. It was Ahern’s first goal of the season and it came when Witham needed it most. Almost immediately the pattern of the game changed and the visitors looked a lot more dangerous. Basildon were struggling to cope with Witham’s attacking pressure and were unable to respond. Eight minutes later, after a shot by Ashman had gone just wide, Witham scored again with Ashman involved as always. He broke on the left and his attempted pass inside was briefly intercepted by Robert Hodgson who then lost control of the ball. It was picked up by Ashford in the D adjoining the penalty area. His first two attempts to shoot were blocked, but he showed great determination to force his way into space and shoot home.
There was still plenty of time left but the outcome was never in doubt after the second goal. Basildon had no creativity and on the few occasions when the ball reached their forwards in promising positions, the bluntness of their attack posed no threat to the visitors. Callum Taylor saw most of the ball in the Basildon attack and his cross-shot flashed across the Witham goal in the home side’s only real threat in the second half.
Tom Monk replaced Odelusi in the 74th minute and made an instant impression with three powerful runs on the right as Witham continued to dominate proceedings. A third goal for Witham looked likely and Ashford snatched at an excellent chance to extend the lead. He blasted he ball over the bar when a lighter touch would probably have been successful.
That did not matter on a day when Witham secured safety by the narrowest of margins. It has been a generally bleak but confusingly mercurial season for Witham. Only one league win before December was followed by six wins in eight games in December and January. After that they only won twice. Ultimately the details are less important than the fact that the club will remain in the Bostik League North next season.