Conor Gibbs’ hat-trick secures AFC Ely’s first competitive victory against a familiar opponent

AFC Ely began their league campaign with a 2-all draw in matchweek 1 and were on the hunt for the club’s first competitive win. Lining up against a team they knew well from pre-season friendlies, AFC Ely’s opponents, Wicken, were looking to match their previous result having won 4-3. 

The opening ten minutes of the match were frenetic and the away side were the beneficiaries of this start. AFC Ely, who often have difficulty in creating goal scoring opportunities, had no such troubles from the get-go. Frazer Jennings’ inventive pass broke the backline of Wicken and found James Gillet. With the opportunity to cross, Gillet floated a delightful ball to the back post that found his fellow winger Ross Gray. At quite a tight angle, Gray stretched every fibre of his body to poke his header into the top left-hand corner of the goal, putting the visitors ahead two minutes in. 

The Ely-based outfit continued their rampaging start and were awarded a penalty shortly after Gray’s early breakthrough. After providing the assist for the first goal, Gillet was brought down in the area and there was nothing inequitable about this decision by the referee. Oliver Jennings stepped up to take the penalty and his ensuing spot kick sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and doubled AFC Ely’s advantage. 

Following an unfortunate injury to Nathan Blaszkiewicz that ended his day early, Wicken gained a foothold in the match and began to push the visitors back. The response of the hosts was swift and from a corner kick the ball found itself at the feet of the Wicken captain inside the six yard box. On the bounce, the Wicken man blasted past several AFC Ely players (including the goalkeeper) to reduce the away side’s lead to one. 

Despite looking as if they had turned a corner in the game, Wicken faced another onslaught from AFC Ely as they re-established themselves. With a change in midfield shape following the introduction of Bailey Payne for the stricken Blaszkiewicz, the away team were able to unlock their attacking trident, with Conor Gibbs at the forefront of said attack. The AFC Ely frontman bagged two quick fire goals that required real invention and guile. The first came when Gibbs poked past the on-rushing Wicken goalkeeper, with the ball nestling in the net at the near-post; and the second shortly followed with an emphatic finish that swerved in an arc, evading the goalkeeper’s stretched left glove. Gibbs can thank the man to the left of him on the day, Ross Gray, who claimed both assists. AFC Ely had ended the half the way they began and found themselves with a 3 goal advantage at the midway point – leading 4-1. 

The second-half began rather flatly, particularly in comparison to the way in which the first-half kicked off. One chance of note however, came seconds into the restart as a route-one ball from Wicken completely undone the AFC Ely defence. Ultimately finding a Wicken forward, the ball was an excellent one. Positioned wide left of the six yard box: the Wicken man could only drag his effort wide of the post and AFC Ely could breathe a sigh of relief. 

Despite the match itself falling into somewhat of a lull, plenty of fire was coming from the touchline as the truculent Wicken manager was admonished by the referee to remain calm. One man who had not lost his head was AFC Ely’s Conor Gibbs who soon found himself on the scoresheet again. 

Danny Flack’s introduction to the game proved fruitful as he played in Gibbs for the eventual goal. One on one with the goalkeeper, and Wicken’s defence out of the question, Gibbs delightfully lobbed the ball on the half-volley over the despairing home goalkeeper. Having secured his hat-trick, Gibbs was replaced by Will Cooper who would secure the sixth and final goal of the day for AFC Ely. 

Another player who was hat-trick hunting, but this time in the way of assists, was Ross Gray. He did just that when his clever play down the left-flank found Cooper. With his back to goal and positioned just inside the six yard box, Cooper produced a sublime, acrobatic effort that saw him successfully convert an overhead kick. This goal topped off a ruthlessly clinical AFC Ely performance. 

Full-time result: Wicken First 1 – 6 AFC Ely. 

AFC Ely Man of the Match: Conor Gibbs.

AFC Ely return to action next weekend with a trip to Bury St Edmunds as they take on West Row Gunners FC in league action. Kick off is at 3:00pm. 

Press release from AFC Ely

Written by Oliver Jennings  

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