Seasiders home run continues

Felixstowe & Walton United made it 28 points from 30 at home this season with a 2-0 home victory over last seasons losing playoff finalists Brentwood Town. The stubborn and lively visitors had the best of the first half an hour but a George Clarke header on 33 minutes turned the match in Felixstowe’s favour and a Josh Hitter Free kick on 64 minutes settled the outcome and sent the Seasiders up to fifth place in the Isthmian North.

Felixstowe were coming into the game on the back of a magical start to 2023, victory at Stowmarket Town on Monday seeing the best possible start to a tough and busy looking January schedule. Brentwood had also run out winners on Monday, a 4-2 home win over lowly Tilbury their first win in 8 games, a run that had seen the Blues drop out of the playoff positions and sink to midtable.

The Seasiders started with a strong looking eleven, backed up by an incredible bench that boasted the likes of Zak Brown, Milo Grimes and the returning Callum Harrison. Brentwood had seen the departure of goal scoring machine Tom Richardson in midweek, but it was the away side that made all the early running in the game, winning free kicks in dangerous positions and dominating early possession without creating much in the way of goalscoring opportunities. Andre Hasanally had the home sides first chance of the match on 8 minutes, his shot from the edge of the box being charged down before troubling the goalkeeper. Brentwood continued to press and Felixstowe were saved miraculously by the woodwork on 12 minutes, full-back Folkes creating space from 20 yards and volleying towards goal, his superb effort struck the inside of the left post before somehow flying across the goal-line and out to safety. Hasanally fired just over the bar on 24 minutes from a dangerous free kick as Felixstowe’s chances remained limited by Brentwood’s possession and stubborn defence. That away resistance was burst on 33 minutes as the Blues were made to pay for not making the most of their hot half an hour, Henry Barley sent over a delicious cross from far out wide and George Clarke superbly met the ball, leaning back to send his looping header the opposite way to which the keeper expected and the ball dropped brilliantly into the top corner of the Colneis net to open the scoring in a half that saw no further chances of note from then on.

Brentwood missed their second best chance of the match on 49 minutes, a scramble in the box led to numerous stabs at trying to get the ball over the line, but the home defence held firm and Callum Robinson mopped up to grab the ball from the thick of the group of players and save on his line. George Clarke found himself through on goal on 53 minutes, in a position that he loves to score from, he cleverly beat his marker to latch onto the through ball and as he reached the edge of the area and let fly with his right foot, the ball seemed to take a slight bobble, sending his effort wide of the target. Brentwood again missed a golden opportunity two minutes later, a free kick on the edge of the area was palmed away by Robinson and into the path of the away front man, strangely he decided to take a touch instead of smashing the ball home, allowing him to be closed down and his shot deflected wide for a corner, the wide effort from that resultant set piece being Brentwood’s last real chance of the game. Felixstowe were fully aware that a second goal was required, memories of that hot August opening day afternoon in Essex at the reverse fixture still vivid for a Seasiders team that had seen a 96th minute equaliser grab an undeserved point for the home side on that occasion. Josh Hitter decided he was the man to come on and nab that crucial second, the popular midfielder coming on for Canfer and immediately making his mark on the match with his ever-running engine and neat touches, after just 8 minutes on the field he burst through a crowd of players and was brought down on the edge of the area, strong appeals for a penalty were waved away by the excellent referee and the ball placed directly on the 18 yard line, Hitter expertly diverted the ball under the wall and under the goalkeeper to nestle in the bottom right corner to score that vital second. Felixstowe comfortably saw out the remainder of the match and were unlucky not to score a third with their best move of the match on 69 minutes, Callum Bennett did well on the right to set up Henry Barley on the wing, he evaded the close defender to pass to Noel Aitkens in the area who laid it off to Josh Hitter who turned and passed the ball past two further defenders to Andre Hasanally who shot from 9 yards, his effort was cleared inches from the line by some desperate defending to save a certain goal. The three points moved Felixstowe into fifth place, Stowmarket seeing their match postponed on a day that saw the rest of the top six also win. Another highlight of the afternoon was the return of two key players to the side after lengthy injury layoffs, Henry Barley making his first start since 1st October and playing 73 minutes before being replaced by Callum Harrison who saw his first action since late October.

Seasiders Manager Stuart Boardley spoke after the game. “I thought it was a very close game, I felt they were probably played the better football if I’m honest, they were very direct as usual, winning a lot of second balls and putting us under pressure at times, but ultimately our quality in that box, that final finish, that final ball, won us the game because Brentwood certainly created some chances. We’ve been on the receiving end of not making the most of our good spells over the past couple of years, and it was great to see the tables turned today with Brentwood not making the most of that first half hour and great to see George Clarke get his goal, he’s been excellent the last two games, leading the line incredibly well and he deserved his goal today. Josh Hitter was disappointed he wasn’t in the starting line-up but has shown the right attitude, came on and shown that quality with his free kick so that’s great”. Boardley went on to say. “The strong squad we have is a real headache for me! but is something I have been striving for, for the past two years, it takes a long time to build a squad like we’ve got and I think we are finally there, we now have a group of players that I am really excited and pleased about, I could have started any of the sixteen players today, plus you then look at players like Wozza (Charlie Warren) who we protected today as he had a little knock, the likes of Lamell Howell, Harry Blackburn, and of course Stuart Ainsley, so it’s looking good for us and long may that continue. We have to pick the right players for the right game at the right time, both from a physical point of view, a tactical point of view and how we want to set up for games so we tweaked how we played today to suit how Brentwood played and no doubt we will do so again for the Bury game on Tuesday”.



Report by Stuart Daynes

Photos by Stefan Peck

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