Eight changes to Tuesday’s team that bowed out of the Velocity Trophy at Haywards Heath meant that only Harrison Male, Davide Rodari and James Beresford kept their places, as the likes of Darren Budd, Ty Mthunzi, Dean Cox and Luca Cocoracchio missed out altogether.
So, a more regular-looking line-up started a game that saw the top two in the Premier Division face-off against one another, with the two leading goalscorers, our very own Ollie Pearce and the visitor’s Mo Faal also sitting in first and second places before play got underway.
A tentative/patient opening had the hosts calmly keeping possession and their opponents seemingly happy to sit back and let them try to break them down.
This was achieved after only eight minutes, thanks to Rodari hooking Callum Kealy’s quickly taken throw-in near the right-sided corner flag across the six yard box, for Jasper Pattenden to power home via his dome.
Town’s response came a short while later, when Jake Cass turned Jesse Starkey to hit a dipping, twenty-five yard volley to a high ball that bounced once and only dropped over the crossbar by the narrowest of margins.
Roles reversed a tad as Pearce had his first sight of goal, in the wake of Bilal Sayoud inadvertently nodding Starkey’s long crossfield pass into his path but unfortunately Ollie, on the eighteen yard line, was off target on this occasion.
A rare attack by the North Londoners then led to a moment of merriment, when Percy Kiangebeni’s promising run on the right came to a rather abrupt end. Capitalising on a defensive mistake, he embarked, briefly, on a forward charge before his attempted cross gifted the initiative back to the hosts, as he kicked more turf than ball but, in all fairness, did at least see the funny side.
Less comical from a traveller’s perspective though was Kealy having a chance to make it two, following Pattenden showing good strength to rob Rian Bray – on the left-hand touchline – in the process of trying to shepherd a seemingly harmless-looking huge Male Punt out of play. His delivery into the penalty area resulted in the Australian striker pouncing instantly on it’s partial clearance, only to bobble the opportunity past the far post as he couldn’t quite make a clean contact.
Another strong performance, this time from the goal netting, took the full force of Aarran Racine after the Skipper went full pelt to meet Starkey’s corner; missing it by millimetres.
Kealy came close to doubling the advantage again, when presented with an opportunity inside the eighteen yard box. Pearce released Beresford on the left who got the better of Sam Youngs to pick out Callum, who was denied by Bray’s block.
It then became the turn of Lee Chappell to do likewise, as the powerfully-built forward turned on Rodari’s short pass, before Joel Colbran brought down Starkey’s long range location finder with his first touch, knocked it past Sayoud with his second, only to curl too high with his third, moments later.
The early second-half exchanges resulted in ET(FC) forcing the best opportunity to bet back on level terms, thanks to Faal seizing on the loose ball – as Cam Tutt lost out to Adam Cunnington – and teeing up teammate Cass but the former Bishop’s Stortford man failed to truly test Male in the home goal.
That miss would prove to be costly shortly afterwards; Pattenden sending Beresford scampering to the byline, where he fizzed in a low one that Kealy effectively dummied, for Rodari to sidefoot in at the back stick.
A wonderfully crafted goal then effectively put the game to bed as early as the sixty-fourth minute, such was the league leader’s dominance.
Emanating via the tenacity of Danny Barker in holding off Cass, with the Yellows struggling to clear their lines and flowing through Colbran’s perfectly-weighted pass inside to Rodari who simply swivelled, exchanged a delightful one-two with Pearce on the edge of the area, then took his impish backheel and swept a sweet finish majestically home; aided and abetted by a delicate kiss off the upright. Made in Midhurst, illustrated in Italy.
Faal fell as he attempted to regain some respectability for a well beaten guest outfit and Rodari might have gone home with the match ball, had he headed Pattenden’s inswinger the other side of the far post.
Just when they thought things couldn’t get any worse, Town went down to ten, when Kiangebeni nudged the aforementioned M. P over as he burst towards the box. A straight red the result to add to his earlier yellow, meaning it wasn’t his day in particular.
The final five saw further fine link-up play on the right between Colbran and Rodari, leaving the former to find Kealy in the danger zone. He twisted to open up space for a shot that the recovering Bray did well to deflect over the top for a flag-kick.
Stoppage time conjured up one last effort for Starkey to strike some way out but without troubling the no doubt dejected number one, Nathan McDonald.