The closest pub to Hillingdon FC’s home pitch at the Brunel University Sports Park is the historic Red Lion Inn. King Charles I stayed there in 1646, disguised as a servant, after fleeing the siege of Oxford in the English Civil War.
In honour of this historically significant visitor, Hillingdon lost their heads in a first half that saw the league high-flyers concede two penalties and get two men sent off.
This cavalier approach helped CCFC ease through to the next round of the Alec Smith Cup.
From the off, Clapton’s attacking play fizzed.
Josh was unlucky not to open the scoring when Hillingdon goalie Joe Sellick managed to smother an early shot.
Next, Sellick wiped out old Noah, clean through on goal. Penalty and yellow card.
Since 2016 it seems like accidentally denying a goal-scoring opportunity in the box is only a yellow card so as not to ‘triple punish’ with a penalty, red and suspension. Stefan Nielsen wasn’t thinking about FIFA rule tweaks when he fired the penalty into the bottom corner. Sellick tried the Grobbelaar wobbly knees, to no effect.
A few minutes later another Clapton penalty for a Paul Griffin hack on Hussain. A yellow card, which will be significant later.
Should the same penalty taker ever take a second? Sellick did the same wobbly knees and this time saved Nielsen’s powerful effort.
But on 16 minutes, Clapton went two up. Sham Darr pirouetted away from his man and played a delightful reverse pass to Josh Adejokun, who forced the ball home. Shamiesta.
The Tons were playing by far their best football of the season.
The touch and passing was sensational across the pitch. Particularly noteworthy were full backs Fama Sangare and Liam Smyth, who were taking the ball past the Hillingdon wingers with ease, making them angry. Which will be significant very shortly…
Saints to sinners
Near the end of the first half, Griffin discovered that marathon-man Smyth is also fast over short distances. Eating the Clapton fullback’s dust, the Hillingdon man took Smyth out and got a second yellow for his troubles.
And it went from bad to worse for the team (ironically) nicknamed the Saints.
There was still time in the half left for Josh Adejokun to steal the ball form Frederick Hayes, who then kicked the Tons winger on the calf. Adejokun didn’t go down. Instead he turned the Hillingdon defender and darted off down the flank. A frustrated Hayes scythed down the Tons winger.
The hosts two men and two goals down at the break.
For some reason, Hillingdon played better the less men they had on the pitch. Great credit to them for continuing to fight so hard with the cause seemingly beyond them. In particular, forward Tyler Hayles was a constant menace to the Tons backline.
And for some reason, Clapton’s threat diminished the fewer rivals they were up against. It all took on the air of a training exercise. The Tons were shooting from everywhere. But not very well. They couldn’t recapture the rhythm and intensity of the first 45.
It’s a sin
Then Hillingdon central midfielder Tom Herlihy fell foul of the new non-league rule whereby you have to spend ten minutes on the touchline for backchatting the ref.
The Saint came marching in (to the sin bin).
Hillingdon were losing bodies almost as fast as the government of the Right Honourable Member of Parliament for the Uxbridge constituency they play in.
Now we were 11 vs 8, but still Clapton struggled to lay a glove on the hosts.
Finally a bit of Adejokun interplay allowed the Tons to seal the deal. Noah fed Josh who slotted home his second of the game.
Right at the end, Anfossy pawed a curling shot away from the top corner to preserve a satisfying clean sheet.
The Tons progress to the quarter finals and if they can reproduce this first half performance they will surely fear no one.
We caught up with Geoff Ocran, Josh Adejokun, Stefan Nielsen and Bilal Hussain after the game to get their thoughts:
Hillingdon were magnanimous in defeat, rightly pointing out that the ref was lovely. Or maybe that’s sarcasm…
The MoM award goes to two goal hero Josh Adejokun.