Clapton CFC 3 Manford Way 2: Hard-fought win for men’s first team at neutral venue

Clapton CFC’s first ever competitive goalscorer Liam Smyth popped up to head home a late winner in the BBC Essex Premier Cup quarter-final.

With player-manager Geoff Ocran away at his dad’s funeral, assistant manager Stu Purcell led a changed, but still strong, team including Charlie Fagan playing in defence.

This ‘home’ match was uniquely being held at Redbridge’s Oakside Stadium as we were handed a home draw when our usual temporary home Wadham Lodge had already booked out all pitches.

Within four minutes, Manford Way were ahead, despite playing two levels below in the Essex Olympian Football League Division Two.

A free-kick from just outside the box was blocked by a Clapton CFC defender in the wall, but Manford’s Daniel Demain was quickest to pounce on the rebound and slotted home.

That didn’t seem to faze the Tons players, and in quick succession Julian Austin and Noah Adejokun shot wide, then Arthur Wright had a shot comfortably saved.

Wright again and Adejokun had attempts saved in the same move, before the equaliser eventually came from the penalty spot on 33 minutes.

Striker Fred Taylor was taken down in the box with the tackle caught on camera…

Not a stonewall penalty, but certainly contact was made, and James Briggs made no mistake slotting the penalty into the corner.

Within a minute, CCFC could have been ahead, with Adejokun’s cross poked just wide by Taylor, though the linesman had flagged for offside anyway.

In an end to end last ten minutes of the half, Manford Way shot wide and put a free header over the bar.

But the Tons got ahead in the 44th minute, with Austin threading a pass through to Taylor who scored with a first-time shot.

2-1 to the higher division side, but if anyone at Oakside thought it was all over, Manford Way had other ideas and striker David Alele scored on the stroke of half-time.

After the ebb and flow of the first half, the second period was a cagey affair, with Manford Way having the best of the chances, although sub Musa Manneh flashed a cross/shot wide for CCFC too.

It looked like we may be heading for extra-time, and possibly penalties, but with 87 minutes on the clock, Smyth’s four goal for the Tons settled the tie.

A Briggs corner to the near post saw the left-back just getting a brave head on it before Manford Way keeper could reach it.

Austin almost put the cherry on the cake with a shot from just past the half-way line as Manford Way pushed up for another equaliser.

However, that was it and the Tons could at last celebrate a hard-earnt win and a second semi-final place.

Next up we will play one of Catholic United or Sungate (both of the EOFL), Tiptree Heath (Essex & Suffolk Border League) or Woodford East (Essex Alliance League) in the semi-final.

The draw takes place on Thursday, February 3 on BBC Radio Essex with the tie then taking place on Saturday, March 5.

A final thanks to Redbridge FC for hosting this game.

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