You could look at this match either as a heart-breaking 92nd minute defeat, or as a victory five years in the making.
Thousands of hours of work, worry and emotion made this triumphant return possible, as Clapton Community FC played their first competitive fixture at the Old Spotted Dog Ground.
‘Play the opposition not the occasion’ the saying goes. Maybe the occasion – and the feeling that only a win would make it perfect – was playing on the minds of the Clapton squad? But that would be doing Leatherhead a massive disservice. They were the better team on the day.
The match was won in midfield. The Clapton middle three never really got to grips with the opposition and Clapton struggled to connect with their attackers and exploit the width of the pitch.
The Leatherhead back four was also pretty impenetrable. They weren’t afraid to get stuck in with a well-executed slide-tackle, not in desperation but as just one aspect of their highly disciplined defensive performance.
Harriet Plows got the opener – the first competitive goal for CCFC at The Dog – something that will live in the history books forever. The looks of joy on the rest of the players’ faces as they congratulated her was, well – a joy!
For most of the second half though, Leatherhead were on the offensive, playing the game in Clapton’s half. There weren’t many clear-cut chances, but Leatherhead continually recycled the ball and reapplied the pressure.
Leatherhead’s equaliser was a peach of a finish, and their very last-minute winner either a stroke of genius or stroke of luck. Either way, the win was deserved. It can’t have been easy to step into the raucous atmosphere of the Old Spotted Dog and deliver a focused, disciplined performance like that.
While Clapton’s players and management will be disappointed in the performance and the result, there wasn’t a single supporter in the stadium who wasn’t bursting with pride at full time.
Indeed, the post-match atmosphere was jubilant, the match itself was the reward. As CCFC’s fans now look to the future – football is officially BACK at (London’s oldest senior football ground) the Old Spotted Dog.
Player of the match
450 tickets claimed, but 400 in attendance.