Ryman Div One North
Maldon and Tiptree 0 v 0 Aveley
By Scott Hateley
A MAN of the match performance from Maldon’s Joe Wright meant the Millers came away frustrated in a 0-0 stalemate away to the league leaders.
Justin Gardner and his players all felt that it was a case of two points dropped rather than one point gained as they were kept out thanks to three top draw saves from the young Maldon stopper.
Debutant, Michael Bakare, Jack Stevenson and Billy Holland all had chances thwarted by Wright as well as captain, Holland having a goal ruled out for offside on Jay Leader early on.
On this plus side, the Millers defence was hardly tested by one of the highest scoring sides in the league as they got their third straight clean sheet, following shut-outs against Ilford and Harlow.
Ultimately, though, the Millers came away from the Wallace Binder Ground feeling that they should have got all three points.
Earlier in the season it looked like Maldon were going to run away with the league, but after a recent run of poor form the Millers went into this match confident of getting a result, especially after grabbing a last minute winner against Harlow on Monday night.
The Millers are one of the form teams in the division with just one defeat in their last nine outings. With the playoff positions bunching up, a win at Maldon would have gone a long way towards cementing a potential home playoff semi-final as well as maintaining any harbouring hopes of winning the title.
Six minutes in and Aveley thought they had made the perfect start in their pursuit of three points, when Billy Holland had the ball in the back of the net.
After Petrit Elbi had a shot at goal charged down the ball fell to Leader. The linesman on the far side hesitated in giving his decision, in which time Leader had crossed the ball into the area with Holland applying the finish, only for the linesman to eventually put his flag up for offside against Leader.
The Aveley captain felt that the decision was a harsh one, but would have been more infuriated if Maldon had taken their chance at the other end just seconds later.
James Robinson outmuscled Teddy Nesbitt to get to the by-line. The Maldon number 7 had too tight an angle to strike himself, so he pulled the ball back into the danger area, only to find Leader who hurriedly cleared.
As the game went along the referee and his linesman made some dubious decisions, with Marcus Rose and Danny Hopkins finding their way into the referee’s notebook, but chances were becoming few and far between as both sides cancelled each other out.
Jordan Cox came close just past the half hour mark after beating Joe Wright to a Jack Stevenson cross, and Andre Foster was forced into turning the ball around the post after Robinson turned Bradley Thomas in the area before getting his shot away.
With the half drawing to a close, it looked like the sides were going to go into the break goalless when debutant, Michael Bakare, had the best chance of the half to open the scoring.
On the counter attack, Cox played the ball into the feet of Bakare. The forward got a lucky bounce of the ball after riding through the challenge of two Maldon defenders before striking the ball across goal with his left foot.
The strike looked destined for the back of the net only for Wright, who had dived the wrong way, to throw out a left hand and palm the strike away for a corner, leaving the two sides level at the interval.
The second half started almost as quickly for Maldon as the first half had started for Aveley, with Robinson causing confusion between Foster and Leader and almost capitalising on Foster’s fumble before seeing the ball cleared for a corner.
A minute later and the home side were once again thanking their goalkeeper for keeping the scores level, after Petrit Elbi done well to get away from his marker down the left.
The Aveley front-man pulled the ball back to Stevenson who side footed towards goal. Once again, it looked bound for the back of the net only for Wright to this time get the tip of his right boot on the ball to divert it wide.
From the resulting corner, Wright once again was the scourge of the Millers, tipping wide a headed effort from Holland as he continued to frustrate the home team.
It was to be the story of the half for the away side, as they had the vast majority of the play and looked by far the more threatening going forward.
Just past the hour mark Elbi had a chance which he headed straight down the throat of Wright and Cox repeated the trick just a couple of minutes later.
The ball over the top for Aveley was also creating scoring opportunities. Cox had two chances created by such a play, first time beating Wright to the ball but poking wide of goal and second time round Cox was unable to beat Wright as the goalkeeper made himself big.
Wright wasn’t showing himself off as just a shot stopper though, doing well under pressure from crosses. An over-hit cross from Holland proved tricky with Cox bearing down on the goalkeeper, but Wright punched clear before being clattered by the big Aveley number 9.
The longer the match went on without Aveley taking their chances, there was always a fear that the Millers would be made to pay for their profligacy.
Maldon did manage to carve out two chances late on to make the Millers pay, both of which fell to second half substitute, Joe Gardner.
With two minutes of normal time remaining, Gardner made room for himself on the edge of the area, but his shot was comfortably saved by Foster who held onto the ball.
Not perturbed, as the clock ticked over into added on time, Gardner was presented with the ball on the edge of the area once more but sliced his strike harmlessly wide.
The referee blew the whistle to bring the game to an end leaving the Millers feeling frustrated and Maldon arguably relieved as the two sides shared the points.
After the match, when asked if he saw it as one point gained or two points dropped, the Millers captain Billy Holland said without hesitation “two points dropped.”
He continued by saying “I thought we were good today. We bossed the midfield, the defence; we just didn’t take our chances.”
Asked what was going through the players’ minds seeing Aveley thwarted so many time by Joe Wright, Holland said “it’s frustrating. The ball just didn’t bounce for us.”
“It’s the same thing that happens against the other top teams – every time we play them we’re just not getting the lucky” said Holland, who concluded by saying “hopefully we’ll keep working hard and it should come.”
Aveley: Andre Foster, Marcus Rose, Teddy Nesbitt, Jay Leader, Bradley Thomas, Danny Hopkins, Jack Stevenson (Junior Dadson 60’), Billy Holland (c), Jordan Cox, Michael Bakare (Rashid Kamara 74’), Petrit Elbi (Sheldon Sellears 82’)