The men’s first team management rightly called this narrow win one of their best ever as Julian Austin‘s classy strike and a clean sheet sealed a big three points.
Sporting Hackney came into this East London derby in better form, going unbeaten in five, while the Tons had won just two in the last eight league games to drop from table-toppers to fifth place.
But with two consecutive cup wins to reach two cup semi-finals, there were strong signs that the team were returning to form for the crucial run-in.
The Tons then had two near misses. On 12 minutes, Noah Adejokun had the ball in the net but it was ruled out for offside.
Then on 18 minutes, player of the match James Briggs looked to have curled a free-kick into the top corner, but it had actually just dipped over the bar
Back to the other end, and The Parrots’ best chance of the game, with a header grazing the crossbar.
Goalkeeper Francis clarified he did in fact acrobatically save it, despite the club tweet at the time. We’re happy to set the story straight.
But the crucial first goal went the way of Clapton CFC on 36 minutes. The ball fell to Austin inside a crowded box, his first shot was blocked, but he cleverly found space and a clear path to guide it into the left-hand corner.
In the second half, Arthur Wright went close, Liam Smyth had a firm header saved and there was a penalty shout denied.
At the other end on 72 minutes, a ball over the top saw a Hackney attacker connect well and hit a first-time volley, but it was close enough to Francis to keep out.
There was still drama to come in added time. First Adejokun almost sealed it, then he was the only booking in a 21-man melee.
After 8 minutes of added time, the ref finally put us out of our misery and a hard-fought three points and clean sheet were ours.
That makes three wins on the spin, this one against a fellow promotion hopeful, and hopefully a sign that a corner has been turned.
However, the big tests keep on coming, not least the division’s form side Stonewall this weekend, then two more promotion challengers in NW London and Cricklewood Wanderers.
Player of the match