Enfield Town 4 (Okojie 24, Walsh 41 og, Blackman 50, Delle-Verde 80) Lewes 1 (Cosgrave 34)
Match report by Andrew Warshaw
What a start! Despite all the understandable concerns about lack of pre-season training and warm-up fixtures after Town were hit by an unfortunate case of Covid-19 which forced many of the squad to self-isolate, they got the new league campaign off to a scorcher on Saturday by dispatching Lewes 4-1 at the QEII Stadium.
First things first. The board, volunteers and stewards have to be hugely commended for all their sterling work in making the ground safe for spectators. The excellent signage, clear directions and constant reminders about social distancing made for a highly enjoyable afternoon. The fact that all 250 tickets available in advance were sold out was indicative of the anticipation level.
No doubt far more fans could have been let in, as they were at other grounds, but the directors did the right thing in taking a cautious approach in the hope that the club can increase capacity down the line. On the pitch things could not have gone much better and although it’s of course far too early to get carried away, there were more than a few positive signs. At the very least it should provide the perfect confidence boost for what will be a far tougher assignment in the first qualifying round of the FA cup at Peterborough Sports on Tuesday, probably one of the toughest draws of the round.
But back to the match. The corresponding fixture last season was postponed because of Storm Dennis and the visitors from Sussex were blown away in the second half. Andy Leese will have been particularly pleased by the new signings involved, who provided not only much-needed height in key areas but also strong running and crossing from both flanks.
Lewes had also brought in a number of fresh faces but, after shading the opening period, they fell behind to a wonderful Enfield team goal on 24 minutes as Shaun Okojie – who looks like he could be the perfect foil for Billy Bricknell — swept the ball home after a delicious build-up involving Bricknell and Lyle Della-Verde on the right.
Visiting fullback Finton Walsh calamitously headed a long throw from the impressive left back Lee Chappell into his own net for 2-0 but, within a minute, Lewes had halved the deficit through Aaron Cosgrave after a move down the left involving Tegan Freeman and Leon Redwood.
Half-time: Enfield Town 2 Lewes 1
The next goal was always going to prove crucial and Town got it five minutes after the break. Ryan Blackman stayed on his feet under a strong challenge and showed great balance to squeeze the ball in off a post.
Town, for whom it was hard to pick out one single match-winner, went on to dominate proceedings, off as well as on the ball. With Nathan McDonald a virtual spectator in goal, Sam Youngs headed over and further chances came and went, visiting keeper Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke pulling off a double save from Della-Verde and Percy Kiangebeni, who had moved into midfield from fullback when Blackman was substituted.
The only sour note was Chappell having to be replaced with what looked an early-season injury but, with 10 minutes remaining, Town made sure of the points as another excellent pass found Della-Verde who steadied himself and shot home from close range.
As Lewes imploded, there was still time for substitute Jonathan Muleba to shoot into the side netting and for Youngs to sting the hands of Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke with a fierce drive.
Enfield Town: Nathan McDonald, Percy Kiangebeni, Lee Chappell (Marc Weatherstone 62), Scott Thomas, Josh Urquhart, Jeremiah Gyebi, Lyle Della-Verde, Sam Youngs,Billy Bricknell, Shaun Okohie (Jared Small* 79), Ryan Blackman (Jon Muleba 73). Unused subs: Adam Pepera, Junior Mubiayi. Booked: Okojie, Chappell, Youngs.
Lewes: Nathan Stroomberg,Fintan Walsh, Leon Redwood,Merrick James-Lewis, Christian Frimpong, Nic D’Arienzo,James Beresford (Brad Santos 63),Tegan Freeman, Aaron Cosgrave, Jaden Owusu-Nepaul (Luke Blewden 73), Ronnie Conlon (Kiye Martin 83). Unused subs: Ross Barclay, Dan Ferreira.
* Winger Jared Small has returned to the club, having made a handful of appearances in 2015-16. He was with Harlow Town in 2017-18 and consequently signed for Tonbridge Angles in June 2018, where he enjoyed a couple of seasons. He has also had previous wider experience of Isthmian League football with a range of other clubs including Barking, Billericay Town, Brentwood Town, Grays Athletic and Tilbury.
|19/09/2020||3:00 pm||Pitching In Isthmian League Premier||2020-21|
KO 61 72 79 FT