A Friday night game away at local rivals Brandon United in front of a decent crowd awaited the Stags this week, with both teams consisting of players who have played for both teams. Good weather and a team brimming with confidence after remaining undefeated in their last 4 games was the perfect combination for a team in need of a vital 3 points.
After last weeks 4-3 victory over Northallerton, it was always going to be hard for this game to be close in terms of excitement. It was, however, always going to be a close nervy game, but just as vital in ensuring survival in the Northern League.
A cagey start by both teams providing few chances on a pitch that was as hard as the concrete walkway around the edge. The ball never quite sitting for an Esh team pushing forward, or the counter attacks of Brandon.
The first chance of note came on the 23rd minute, with a Callum Boakes effort from the left hand edge of the Brandon area, testing Tom Orton who made a decent save.
31′ GOAL Brandon 0 – 1 Esh (Clarkson)
A hopeful ball is played to Andrew Clarkson running parallel to the goal some 35 yards out to the right of the Brandon area, the ball takes a favorable bounce sitting nicely for the striker to lash home a rasping effort that beats Orton all ends up and nestles into the back of the net. Clarkson having called a goal from outside the area against a club he represented earlier in the season.
The 43rd minute proved Brandon’s only clear cut chance after a tackle from Joe Wilkinson in the Esh area ricocheted to Daniel Quine who hit a snap shot from the edge of the area; Mark Fish getting down well to his left and guiding the ball for a corner.
HT: Brandon United 0 – 1 Esh Winning
The second half started in much the same way as the first had played out. Esh in control of the midfield with Arnott and Soulsby dominating and releasing players forward. Again the final passes just letting the team down. Any attacking balls forward by Brandon being comfortably swept up by Mordue and Chester, with both Wilkinson and Huntley again being impressive and never putting a foot wrong.
The 49th minute saw a penalty shout for Esh after good work from Kai Hewitson driving into the box saw him go over the outstretched leg of the defender, the ball already past the player. With nothing doing from the referee the ball was hastily cleared but only to Clarkson who hit a decent effort; unfortunately straight down Ortons throat.
It was Esh creating all the clear cut opportunities, with Hewitson hitting a stinging low effort from the edge of the 18 yard box after a good run; the ball flying inches past the despairing Ortons right hand post. Callum Boakes forced a superb save from Orton after a nice lay off from Nick Marley a few minutes later.
67′ Goal Brandon 0-2 Esh (Marley)
The pressure finally showing, Callum Boakes found himself in acres of space just in the Brandon half; he has Clarkson steaming to his left and Nick Marley to his right. With Marley doing superbly well to run the line and keep himself onside. Boakes releases a fantastic pass sending Marley into the 18 yard box, the second touch takes Marley to the right hand edge of the 6 yard box, he checks leaving the Brandon defender on his backside, Orton tries to narrow the angle but showing good composure Marley slides the ball under the advancing keeper.
The remaining twenty-five minutes pass without much incident, Brandon getting a footing in the game but a strong rear guard action from the Esh back 4, with the help of Matty Soulsby dropping further back to provide additional height and strength. The substitutes, Tom Young, Alex Hird and Dan Robinson providing the legs needed to pressure the Brandon team into mistakes.
Into injury time Esh, albeit being on the back foot, looked exceedingly comfortable and where not challenged in a way that could have been expected after breaking the attacking spirit of the Brandon team. A footnote in injury time was Tom Young having to be taken off following a late tackle after clearing the ball, Esh having used all three substitutes playing the last 2 minutes with ten men.
FT: Brandon United 0 – 2 Esh Winning
The result sees us move four points above bottom placed Ryton and Crawcrook Albion, Ryton have two games in hand the first of these being against Bedlington Terriors tomorrow.
Esh’s next game is the rearranged fixture away at Blyth Town on Wednesday. This will be the first time Esh have made the trip north, a match preview will be published on the day of the game.
Fish, Mordue, Huntley, Arnott (C)(y), Chester (Young), Wilkinson, Soulsby, Marley (g), Clarkson (g)(Hird), Hewitson (y) (Robinson), Boakes
Unused Subs: Day, Latham
Orton, Searby, Thompson, Turnbull, Burton, Todd, Phillipson, Duffy-Weekes, Wren (C), Quine, Clarke
Subs: Moore, Eltringham, Clarey, Marshall, Fingleton
All Views expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent those of the club