Devastation as playoff hopes dashed

Bishop’s Stortford 4 Enfield Town 1

Report by Andrew Warshaw

Enfield Town’s playoffs dreams were finally extinguished on a sobering afternoon on Saturday – yet at one point it might easily have gone down to the last game.

Just after we equalised in a dominant 15-minute spell in front of a bumper 1,300-plus crowd at the champions elect, we were very much in the ascendancy.

Stortford were wobbling at that point and had we scored the next goal, who knows what might have happened.

But three goals in 13 second-half minutes left us crestfallen, beaten in the end by an excellent side  who are strong in all areas of the pitch and are where they are for a reason having now won six on the bounce.

None of that, of course, will ease the gut-wrenching  disappointment of Town having taken just three points from the last 15 – and 16 from a possible 45 — as we attempted to cement fifth place in the latter stages of the season.

It’s not what any of us wanted but the fact that our final outing against Aveley on Saturday is now redundant should not disguise the fact that the players and management have tried their hardest to bring about a different conclusion.

In a game we effectively had to win, the management used virtually every attacking option at our disposal whether in the starting line-up or on the bench though Adam Cunnington missed out because of last weekend’s knock.

More crucially over the 90 minutes, perhaps, James Richmond was conspicuous by his absence at the back because of illness

The first half was all about digging in and repelling Stortford’s series of well delivered set-pieces in front of an expectant crowd.

 Nathan McDonald was twice called into action early doors while Dequane Wilson-Braithwaite made a timely interception to thwart the dangerous Frankie Merrifield.

It looked like we would go in level after standing firm but on 35 minutes all our good work was undone when we conceded straight from a curling Darren Foxley corner that evaded everyone and nestled in the corner.

Just before the interval, having snuffed out most of Stortford’s attacks, we had a chance ourselves only for  Michael Bakare to be flagged just offside from Jake Cass’ through ball

H-T 0-1

Whatever was said to the players at halftime we came out a revitalised team and levelled two minutes later.

Chez Isaac’s through ball found the experienced Bakare who showed fantastic composure by rounding the keeper to score the first goal Stortford had conceded for six matches (pictured).

 Suddenly we started to burst forward with renewed vigour and Sam Youngs headed just over from a corner.

The next goal was always going to be vital but frustratingly it went Stortford’s way,  Anthony Church converting after we lost concentration at a long throw.

Stortford now had their tails up again, playing through the channels with plenty of invention. A Merrified drive flew just over and on 65 minutes the hosts made the game safe as Foxley got goal-side of his marker to thump a bullet header past McDonald.

It might have been four when Merrified was clean through, Nathan somehow saving brilliantly with his legs.

But on 71 minutes another troublesome long throw by former Towner Matt Johnson was only half-cleared back into his path and from the resultant chip, Ryan Charles volleyed home.

The dejected look on all the Enfield players’ faces at the final whistle said everything about the sense of anti-climax after a season that for so long promised another playoff finish and another crack at  promotion.

“You can’t sugar coat it, we haven’t been good enough from perhaps the early part of February and we showed that again,” said an understandably downcast Andy. “We conceded from three set plays after having spent all week working on that.”

“It’s sad because in the end it’s a difference of three or four points. It’s bitterly disappointing but we haven’t been good enough in both boxes. There’s a whole myriad of reasons why we’ve messed it up and it’s tough to take.”

“It’s a collective thing and I’m not just looking at the players. It has to start with me and the management team. I still maintain we have a squad that should be in the top five. I can only apologise to the supporters because we put ourselves in a great position.”

There’s still one more game, of course, and we now need as many fans as possible to get the behind the players and management team on Saturday and give them a rousing send-off for their efforts.

McDonald; Renee, Knight, Wilson-Braithwaite, Payne; Thomas (Taaffe, 73), Youngs, Isaac, Dayton (Coker 63); Cass, Bakare (Wyllie 78).