By Scott Hatley
Ryman Div One North
Chatham 1 v 2 Aveley
Aveley recorded their second away win in the space of a week as they crashed the Chatham anniversary celebrations and took away all three points.
After dominating the first half, the away side found themselves going into the break with a two goal advantage.
The Millers opened the scoring thanks to a neat finish from Paul Burnett after a straight-forward ball over the top of the Chatham back line, and the away side’s lead was doubled just past the half hour mark after Jordan Cox tapped in a Junior Appiah cross from close range.
For all the hard work Aveley put in in the first half, they appeared to have left themselves back in the changing room as Chatham came out firing in the second half and reduced the arrears within five minutes of the restart, thanks to a lovely side-foot volley finish by Lee Hales.
Despite some periods of sustained pressure from the home side, the Millers held out to take home all three points and record their second 2-1 away win this week.
Today’s game, dubbed as Chairman’s Day, was part of Chatham Town’s 130th anniversary celebrations with both sides being lead out by dignitaries from the local area, but Aveley were looking to build upon their midweek win over Waltham Abbey and were not going to be handing Chatham Town anything on their special day.
The away side, though, were dealt a blow before they even stepped onto the pitch at the Sports Ground, when top goal-scorer, Shane Oakley, failed a fitness test on an injured hamstring. This meant a first start of the season for Junior Appiah, and after a slow start to the first half it was Appiah who unlocked the Chatham back line with a simple ball floated over the top.
From the centre of the park, Appiah picked out a long ball which caught the Chatham back line on their heels, allowing Paul Burnett to scoot through and be clear on goal. The winger let the ball bounce once before side footing a first-time finish in at the near post for his fourth of the season, giving the Millers the lead after 20 minutes.
Aveley had a great chance to double their lead with a second goal in as many minutes when a challenge from Billy Holland resulted in the ball falling at the feet of Jordan Cox. The striker used his strength to hold off the defender at his back before turning inside and getting his shot away, only to see it blocked at close range by some desperate defending.
Although the home side were having a fair slice of the possession, the Aveley back line were resolute and restricted the home side to long range efforts, none of which troubling Ronnie Worster in goal and just past the hour mark the Millers deservedly doubled their lead.
It was Appiah again who was the architect, after being played into the clear down the right hand side the Aveley winger then played a perfectly waited low cross into the centre towards Cox. The cross cut out Tim Roberts in the Chatham goal, leaving Cox to muscle his way in front of his marker to tap in on the stretch from close range, giving the away side a two goal lead going into the half time interval.
Chatham had hardly been in the game in the first half, so as they came out for the second their manager would have been imploring his side to make a fast start to claw themselves back into the match, and with five minutes of the second half gone that’s exactly what they did as Lee Hales got his name on the score-sheet.
Chatham defender, Mark Lewis, was given too much time and space on the left hand side to whip in a curling cross towards the far post. Hales, completely unmarked, connected with the cross first time to strike a crisp volley low into the far corner to make it 2-1 after 50 minutes.
It appeared that Aveley hadn’t turned up for the second half, as following the goal from Hales the defence were at sixes and sevens. The away side will feel fortunate not to have seen the scores levelled up as Chatham continued to pile pressure on the Millers back line, with the home side’s two best chances falling to their goal-scorer, Hales.
Five minutes after the Chat’s reduced the deficit, some miscommunication between Worster and Billy Cahill led to a golden chance for Hales to get his and his sides second.
A long ball over the top was poorly cleared by Cahill, despite shouts from Worster to head the ball back home, but his clearance went straight to Hales. With Worster well off his line, Hales saw the opportunity to lob the ball over the stranded ‘keeper, but his effort sailed harmlessly over the bar to the relief of Worster and Cahill.
Three minutes later, Hales had the ball at his feet on the right hand side before cutting inside and onto his left foot. The midfielder from 25 plus yards had space to stroke a long range, curling effort towards goal, only to see it whistle just over the bar with Worster a spectator.
After staving off the early second-half onslaught for an equaliser, Aveley finally managed to get a foothold in the game, as both sides found it difficult to carve out any further clear cut chances.
The best the Millers could muster as the game meandered towards its conclusion was when second-half substitute, Petrit Elbi, received a cross from the right from Luke Wilson. The centre midfielder used his first touch to set himself perfectly before spinning and sending a half volley rising up and over the bar.
As the clock ticked towards full time the home side continued to look for that one last chance that could rescue them a point, and with just one minute left of normal time remaining that chance came and once again it fell to Hales.
Gary Tille, who had come on at half time for Jean-Michael Sigre, lashed a shot towards goal from the well outside the area. His shot was veering off target before Hales stuck a foot out to divert it towards goal, but Hales’ toe-poke went straight down the throat of Worster, whereas if it had gone either side of the Aveley stopper it surely would have been enough to secure a point for the home side.
However, it was not to be for Chatham, as the final whistle went after seven minutes of stoppage time and Aveley went home with the spoils.
After the match, goal-scorer, Paul Burnett said that “it was a very good performance from the lads today, we kept it solid. First half we were all over them, we kept the ball, but second half we took our foot off the gas and got a bit sloppy. At the end of the day three points is the main concern.”
Speaking about Aveley’s improved defensive performances this week, after conceding just two goals in their last two matches compared to 13 in their previous three outings before that, Burnett said “after we conceded all the goals, obviously we got back on the training pitch and worked defensively and on set pieces, and we’ve just worked hard in training and it’s paid off.”
Aveley: Ronnie Worster, Alfred Kamara, Billy Cahill (Tom Querry 90′), Luke Wilson, Ellis Sands, Jay Leader, Rashid Kamara (Petrit Elbi 61′), Billy Holland (c), Jordan Cox, Paul Burnett (Junior Dadson 69′), Junior Appiah