Hard fought three points for the Seasiders as they stretch their unbeaten run


Felixstowe & Walton United have not been outside the top two positions in the Isthmian North since first hitting second place on 24th October with a 4-0 home thumping of Redbridge, and they travelled to London on Saturday for the reverse fixture knowing a win was imperative if they were to remain there. With the league split into two in terms of the top eight continuing to pull away from the rest and all eight on excellent runs, it is incredibly tight in that fight for promotion and the playoff positions so the Seasiders were determined to continue their unbeaten start to 2024.

Stuart Boardley made two changes to the starting eleven that beat Basildon United at home last weekend, Stuart Ainsley and Henry Barley making way for Tom Bullard and Zak Brown, with the now familiar sight of a very strong bench showing the strength in depth in the squad.

Felixstowe were fantastically well supported, with over 50 making the trip in an otherwise sparse crowd at a ground that perhaps needs a bit of TLC and sits alongside Barkingside tube station in deepest Essex. The pitch was green and fairly flat but definitely sticky and it was Redbridge who started brightly, forcing three corners in the opening 2 minutes, and nearly scoring from the third, the ball evading mostly everyone and being cleared off the line, I believe by a defender on to the crossbar, down and away to safety, with the home side vociferously hassling the referee in their belief that it had crossed the line at some point. Felixstowe then had their first opportunity on 4 minutes. Josh Hitter doing a Kobbie Mainoo style run from the left and curling an effort towards the far post that Zak Brown was a toenail away from connecting with and scoring. Brown was tripped in the box for a clear penalty on 8 minutes, the contact clatter being heard around the ground and the referee in no doubt. This did not deter the home side from their over-the-top protests and they were still arguing as Josh Mayhew stepped up and sent his penalty low to the right, and in all honesty at a good height for the keeper to make the save, and then double-save as he diverted the follow up from an unknown Felixstowe player over the bar to rescue his side. A free kick on the left on 15 minutes saw Redbridge nearly score, the ball somehow missing everyone and forcing Billy Holland to turn and cleverly hook the ball away from the six-yard box as it headed for the net. Felixstowe had their own opportunity from a free kick shortly after with the keeper punching over the bar as Josh Mayhew was about to score at the far post. Charlie Warren took the ball down on 25 minutes in the centre of the park, turned and beat two markers before threading a delightful ball through for Zak Brown to chase and send his powerful effort just over from 20 yards. Captain Billy Holland was forced off with a hamstring issue and his replacement Callum Harrison was soon in the action, as always, his spectacular long-range effort somehow kept out at the foot of the post by the goalkeeper on 34 minutes. From the resultant corner, Felixstowe scored the goal that they deserved, Tom Bullard rising highest in the box and sending his header into the roof of the net from 6 yards. Felixstowe were the side trying to play football on the difficult pitch whilst the home side were more of a “lump it up to the big man up top” side, with the Seasiders defence showing composure and class whenever they were called upon. When the home side did have their best chance of the game on 42 minutes, Josh Blunkell was there to showcase his talents, the home forward spinning brilliantly in the box and aiming for the bottom corner from 12 yards, but Blunks somehow got down to it in lightning fashion to divert it round the post, a true game-saving stop.

The second half started with an upsetting scene as the Redbridge number six suffered a serious looking knee injury. The unfortunate player went in for a hard challenge in the corner of the pitch and his studs sounded like they stuck in the pitch and the momentum made his boot judder half a dozen times in the turf, with the player in obvious agony and being helped off after a 6-minute stoppage in play. Charlotte and Stuart from the Felixstowe bench are to be thanked for their quick action and assistance to the home physio and everyone at the club wishes the player well.

The break in play seemed to harm the home side more than Felixstowe and they struggled to create anything of note for long periods despite having a greater share of the possession as the game went on, and it was Felixstowe who had the first decent effort of the half on 65 minutes, Zak Brown making a brilliant run down the right and sending in a cross at speed that the home defender, facing his own goal, diverted over the bar from close range as an own-goal looked a certainty. Callum Harrison then had two cracking chances, firstly sending his diagonal effort from the left across and just wide with the keeper beaten, and then curling a trademark freekick over the wall and to the bottom corner of the goal, that again the goalkeeper did well to keep out. The home side were getting increasingly angry, with sections of the small crowd also making it quite clear where they were from and how they intended to show it! But to Felixstowe’s credit they rose above all that nonsense, remained calm and professional and fought for every ball as 12 minutes was added on at the end. Redbridge appealed strongly! for a penalty in the closing minutes and should have done better than heading way over from a decent cross, but apart from that did very little but huff and puff and fail to blow anything down as the Seasiders saw out the half and deservedly won the three points that keeps them second.



Report by Stuart Daynes

Photos by Tom Bradford

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