-2 degrees, snow in the air and a pitch that was liable to cut up due to the weather greeted the two teams tonight. Surprisingly everyone I spoke to was keen to get the game on, such is the enjoyment of Friday night games. The only major concern was if the radiators in the dressing rooms could be turned on before the players arrival, cannot blame them there!
The opposition had taken 6 points in their last 6 games and had given us a beating in the reverse fixture of this season, a game we lost 5-1 and were lucky it was 5! However, much has changed since then, if memory serves, none of the players starting today played in that match! Esh coming in to the game with 3 wins out of the last 4 and in a confident mood.
Prior to the game there was a well observed minutes silence (Pictured above) for former player Malcolm Newton.
A bright start to the game by Esh saw debutant Kai Hewitson, Andrew Clarkson, Chris Mordue and Callum Boakes test the resolve of the supporters behind the goal, nothing quite falling for the dangerous Esh front four.
However, on the 20th minute after a long ball caught out the Esh defence, Willington number 10 Daniel Kent raced clear to face up to an advancing Mark Fish in the goal, Fish just getting to the ball quicker, Kent sliding in knocking the ball from the control of Fish and into the net, just after the Whistle from the referee ruled out the goal for the initial challenge. A let off for Esh
With hard, but fair tackles flying in from both sides a mistimed challenge was inevitable, Esh Winning number 5, Kieran Day, sensing an opportunity to nick a ball just inside the opponents half, went in hard and slightly losing control of his body and picked up a justified Yellow card.
Shortly after, on the 31st minute, after taking exception to a firm tackle resulting in a Willington free kick from Mark Bailes, Willington’s number 11 Jason Brazavskas kicked out at Bailes, right in front of the referee, who had no option but to send Brazavskas off.
On the 39th minute after a bit of pinball in the Willington box, the ball fell at the feet of in form striker, Clarkson who spun and struck a rocket that was magnificently saved by a pure reflex driven right hand hurled out from a despairing Stephen Robinson in the Willington goal. The ball came out to the penalty spot to find an acrobatic Kai Hewitson denied by some good work by the Willington defence mopping up.
HT: EWFC 0-0 Willington
The second half started in much the same vein as the first with tough tackling and chances at either end, Willington looking to come out strong with 10 men, Fish making a smart stop to deny former Esh player Damon Ellis early in the first half.
With the game getting fairly fractious, and a referee struggling to maintain control of the local derby, it would take a cool head to break the deadlock and on the 58th minute Esh found the answer.
GOAL 58 minutes EWFC 1 (Hewitson) – 0 Willington
After good work from Esh as a team the ball fell at the feet of Kai Hewitson, who receives the ball 25 yard out, he drops the shoulder, beating to Willington defenders, before striking a vicious a right footed shot from about 20 yards, past the despairing Robinson in the Willington goal.
The difference in the teams confidence levels and dare I say attitude, even from when these two teams met evident when a celebratory Esh team, whilst walking back to the half way line got a rallying call by captain Max Stoker, telling them to switch on and getting support from every single person on the pitch and the dugout, it was noticed by several people who have only seen a few games earlier in the season.
The next 15 minutes was end to end, both teams getting dangerous opportunities, but nothing clear cut, the only chance of note fell to Willington when a good save by Fish fell to the head of Damon Ellis who struck the base of the post before Kieran Day, on one leg after receiving a dead leg in the previous attack clears the ball to safety before going back to ground and receiving treatment.
On the 72nd minute, Day was caught shielding a ball out for a throw-in 40 yards from the Esh goal, realised it was not crossing the line and slightly impeded former Esh player Graham Stephenson, who managed to escape the falling Day right, running clear before the chance amounted to nothing. The ball remained in play for a further 3 minutes before leaving play for a throw in. The referee called Day towards him, and awarded him a second yellow card for the earlier challenge and ordered him off the pitch, much to the shock and surprise of everyone in the ground.
This led to a shift in the Esh formation, top scorer Clarkson now dropping into centre half adding experience and power to a back four that had looked solid throughout. After winning plenty of headers, and a Willington team looking short on ideas, thanks to good work from McArdle at right back, Huntley at the Left back, the two centre halfs and good coverage from both Arnott and Bailes in the middle, it looked like a 1-0 win was a possibility. Evidence of the nature of the rear guard action, and how long balls where dealt with below….. this was not the only ball that was recovered in the stream!
However, it was not to last, after a superb bit of skill from the Willington winger, finally beating Huntley for the only time in the game, he races down into the area level with the 6 yard box, he glances round and spies Huntley coming back at him, slowing to find the touch and going down. The linesman, 15 yards away shouts NOOOOOO, the referee from 25 yards away sees it differently and awards a hotly contested penalty.
GOAL 81 minutes EWFC 1-1 (Stephenson pen) Willington
From the resulting spot kick Graham Stephenson steps up, Fish dives the right way but fair play to Stephenson as it is just too good a spot kick and nestles in the back of the net.
The last 9minutes are very stop start, both teams looking exhausted after a hard fought game on a heavy pitch, one that has actually held up quite well given the conditions. The final whistle is blown after a couple of minutes of injury time.
Looking back on the game, a draw is actually a fair reflection of the game, both teams genuinely gave their all and deserve the point. Looking at the league table the win would have taken us above both Darlington RA and Ryton and Crawrook, but even the point takes us to level points with them and back in touch, something that looked a hard task over the Christmas period!
Finally, a big thank you to the 85 hardy souls that made the trip to West Terrace, on a cold night, I hope you enjoyed your evening? It makes all the hard work of getting the game on, and the decision to make it a Friday night, worthwhile so thank you.
EWFC: Fish, McArdle, Huntley, Arnott, Day (so), Stoker (C), Mordue (Embleton), Bailes, Clarkson, Hewitson (1), Boakes (Gray) – Gray, Allison, Embleton, Wilkinson, Hird
Willington: Robinson, Storey (C), Hunter, Brown, Milner, Stephenson (1), White, Conby, Ellis, Kent, Brazavskas (so) – Brown, Lazonby, Thompson, Preston
Referee: Mr C. Chatten – Mr P. Burt – Mr M. Katoroz
Report by Adam Wilding
Please note that any understanding of events and content are my views, and not necessarily those of the club.