With pre-season coming to an end and a brand new league season looming large – AFC Ely have looked to ramp up their preparations by taking on stronger opposition in the hope of a fast start to said league campaign. The Ely-based outfit can take great solace from the two previous games – despite both ending in defeats – thanks to the performances they have put in.
Regardless of being of a similar level to AFC Ely’s opponents in the last game, Crusaders FC: Oakington provided a different threat and this threat became quickly apparent in the early exchanges of the match. Retaining possession superbly, Oakington controlled large portions of proceedings from the get go. However, AFC Ely’s team shape – consisting of a back four protected by two midfielders – kept the Cambridge team at bay.
As ever, Conor Gibbs’ waspish presence brought AFC Ely great joy when they snatched the ball away from Oakington and partnered with his brother Danny Gibbs – the visitors would pose a real danger on the counter. Chances would come the way of AFC Ely, however premium they were, although – in what is becoming a headache for manager John James – the away side left the Oakington goalkeeper untroubled throughout.
Weather conditions on the evening provided an opportune platform for both teams to play some nice football, however, late tackles and some serious foul play put a dampener on the match. As hostility grew, the referee on the day came under intense scrutiny – scrutiny coming largely from the home side as frustrations grew due to AFC Ely’s doggedness and discipline. The half-time whistle would certainly come at the right moment as this allowed for both teams to cool off in what was quickly becoming a heated exchange.
With a break in play, AFC Ely made some changes to their backline with the introduction of the team’s elder statesman Sam Young for the much, much younger Ryan Lawrence – who gave a strong showing in the first 45 – thus pushing Tom Hunter out to the right-sided fullback position.
The interval sparked new life into AFC Ely as they started the second half with a couple of attacking forays. With Frazer Jennings at the heart of them, the midfield man injected some impetus and urgency into the away side’s play. Almost seconds after the whistle was blown at the restart – Frazer Jennings wrapped a ball from his own half into the feet of his brother Oliver Jennings – who then zipped a ball into the pathway of the frontman Danny Gibbs, who had made a forward run – however, the Oakington centre half was able to capitalise on Gibbs’ loose touch. Gibbs was then given a second chance when Frazer Jennings again turned provider as he played the ball into Gibbs. Upon receiving the ball in a dangerous area, he was able to turn, but his effort was tame and the Oakington goalkeeper was able to gather with ease.
The Ely team continued to create opportunities to break the deadlock and the best of them came the way of James Gillet, courtesy of some quick thinking from Will Cooper as he launched a quick throw into the opposition eighteen yard box. With his back to goal, Gillet was unable to generate any power or precision on his attempt at a shot on the swivel. The game remained all square.
As tensions rose again in the game with the full time whistle approaching: AFC Ely fell victim to losing their heads as they began to argue with the referee and some would say this ultimately cost them. Had the away side remained cool and continued to do the things they were doing well, perhaps the game would have had a different outcome; however, this was not to be as the home side were able to fortuitously craft a penalty in the latter stages of the match. With great enmity, Cameron Laing looked on to the referee as he awarded a penalty to Oakington following the fullback’s attempt at winning the ball in his own box. The resulting penalty was converted, narrowly evading Damian Geldenhuys’ stretched right hand and victory would go the way of Oakington.
Full-time result: Oakington Vikings FC 1- 0 AFC Ely.
AFC Ely Man of the Match: Matthew McInally.
AFC Ely are back in action on the weekend with a Saturday morning fixture against Cambridge FC – kick off is at 10:30am.
Press release from AFC Ely Written by Oliver Jennings.