In the first game of the New Year, Clapton CFC men’s first team breezed past Barkingside FC to extend their lead at the top of the table. A hat-trick from midfielder Julian Austin and a skillful strike courtesy of striker Sherwin Stanley proved the difference between the two sides in front of an imposing 569 fans.
The home side looked threatening from the first whistle and within 5 minutes, the deadlock was broken. Alasdair Gurney‘s in-swinging corner was greeted by Austin to open the scoring with the help of a deflection. This marked the first of what would be an impressive individual performance in a team missing the injured James Briggs, key midfielder.
“[The header] was what you might call a very sweaty goal,” Julian told me, “It was loose in the penalty area and I just got my head to it. To be honest, it was a massive deflection so hopefully it doesn’t go down as an own goal!”
The next cry from the Scaffold came in the 24th minute as Taylan Gul went down in the penalty box, though the fall didn’t convince many and referee Steven Marr showed him yellow for simulation – a decision accepted without much opposition.
Clapton would have to wait another 10 minutes before the second goal game; it was certainly a goal worth the wait. From outside the penalty box, Stanley met a bobbling ball with the full wrath of his laced boot, firing it low past a helpless keeper. The strike also had personal value to Sherwin following some struggles with injury.
“It was my first goal coming back this season; I’ve played on and off coming back from injury as well. Getting back into the side and scoring today is mad. I loved it.”
A yellow card for Austin concluded the first half, with Clapton going into the break at 2-0. After a weak start, Barkingside commenced the second half with more intensity. League top scorer Fred Agyemang demanded more of the ball as the visitors found breathing room down the right hand side.
This momentum was short lived, however, and just after the hour mark the lead was once again extended. Unlike his first goal, Austin’s second header was undeniable with the midfielder hanging in the air to thump home Clapton’s third off a Joel Akuwudike corner. 3-0.
In the dying minutes, Barkingside FC seemed to grab a late consolation goal. The offside flag, however, had other plans.
Austin would complete his dream night well into injury time following a shot across goal from winger Noah Adejokun. The hat-trick hero slid in at the back post to make sure the ball crossed the line. Julian had this to say about the goal:
“There was a bit of a battle going on between me and Noah [Adejokun] because he really wanted a goal today, he always wants a goal. It’s one of those ones that Ruudy [Ridhwaan Yusuf] has been trying to encourage us to do all season, busting a gut to get to the back post and I definitely got a touch on it. Will have to consult the video for the evidence but I’m pretty sure it was my goal!”
What went wrong for the visitors? ‘Side manager, James Wakeling, puts it partially down to an early goal while also crediting the impact of the home supporters.
“You can’t concede after two minutes to a top of the league [side]. You can’t afford to do that unfortunately and your gameplan goes out the window. 2-0 away from home and you’re facing an uphill battle going into the second half.”
“The crowd as well was unbelievable. Unbelievable! For this level, the amount [of fans] and the singing. They just did not stop. [The crowd] is an extra man and that buys you extra points as well.”
The result means Clapton CFC are now 5 points clear at the top of the table, although having played the most games in the division, with a trip to St Margaretsbury next Saturday.
The only question still remains… #WhereIsOzzy?
Match report by Obi Lazarus