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Football: “Performance of the season” as Millers beat Soham

By Scott Hatley | Saturday 10th November 2012

AVELEY returned to winning ways with a convincing 4-1 home win against Soham Town Rangers thanks in no small part to a Danny Hopkins double.

Two goals from midfielder Hopkins, either side of the half time interval, provided the basis of a performance that manager Justin Gardner described as the Millers’ best of the season so far.

The home side opened the scoring early on through Rashid Kamara, turning the ball into the net from a tight angle, but the away side were back level within six minutes thanks to a goal from Robbie Mason on the counter-attack.

Despite two glaring misses from Petrit Elbi, the home side went into the break with a two goal lead thanks to Hopkins’ first, scoring from close range from a Jordan Cox pull back, and from Cox himself, lobbing Daniel Bircham after outmuscling his marker.

Hopkins got his second midway through the second half, beating three men before seeing his effort deflected just across the line to wrap up the victory that saw Aveley rise to fourth, two points in site of second place with a home game against Needham Market to come on Monday evening.

After back to back league defeats to Heybridge Swifts and Waltham Forest, the next two games at home to Needham Market on Monday and today against Soham were must win for Aveley if they were to maintain their push for promotion this season.

With that in mind, the Millers made the perfect of starts when, within three minutes, they had the lead thanks to Rashid Kamara, through a goal all of his own making.

After the home side lost the ball just outside the Soham area, Kamara nicked it back and after a step over took him away from Soham captain, Neil Andrews, he flashed a shot across the face of goal from a tight angle that went through the legs of Daniel Bircham and into the bottom corner.

It was the ideal start for the home side, but it wasn’t a lead that they were to hold onto for very long, as before 10 minutes had been played Soham had an equaliser, scored on the counter-attack by Robbie Mason.

With Aveley pushing for a second the ball was cleared by the Soham back line as far as James McCabe. A good 30 yards inside his own half McCabe played a long ball forward that found Mason the wrong side of Jay Leader. The striker took one touch to get away from Leader before striking a low effort which Aveley ‘keeper Jack Giddens got a strong hand to, but was unable to stop the ball from dribbling into the net to make it 1-1.

The goal for the away side, briefly, gave them the bit between their teeth, and they began to pick holes through the Aveley back line without capitalising on the opportunities they were carving out, but midway through the first half, a manic couple of minutes saw both sides have glorious chances to take the lead before the Millers finally did find the net for a second time.

It was the home side who stepped up first, with Petrit Elbi holding the ball up well before turning his marker to get into a good crossing position on the right hand side. The Aveley striker lashed a cross-come-shot towards goal, only to see it pawed away by Bircham with Jordan Cox diving in for the tap in.

Seconds later and Soham created an even better chance when some slack Aveley defending resulted in Mason getting the wrong side of the Millers back line again. In a two-on-one situation, Mason played the ball across the face of goal towards an unmarked McCabe, but the midfielder got it all wrong, slicing his first time effort high over the bar to the relief of the home support.

Not downhearted, Soham were gifted another chance just a couple of minutes later when Michael Simpson had a effort on goal brilliantly smothered by Giddens, and the away side were going to be made to pay for their missed opportunities and Aveley went up the other end and grabbed their second of the afternoon.

Hopkins picked the ball up in the centre of the park before working it across to Paul Burnett on the left hand side, via Kamara. The Aveley winger whipped in a left footed cross towards the far post and towards Cox. The cross was slightly over-hit, but Cox stretched out a leg to divert the ball back across goal where Hopkins had gambled to tap home from a couple of yards to make it 2-1 after 24 minutes.

Cox had been instrumental in a lot of Aveley’s attacking play in an action-packed first half, and he should have found himself on the score-sheet after latching onto a lucky ricochet he found himself one on one with Bircham. In two minds, Cox lifted the ball over Bircham only to see it come back off the bar with Elbi running in for what looked to be sure-fire goal, but Elbi blazed his half volley over when it was easier to score.

Ultimately the misses from Cox and Elbi were not to matter, as before the break the home side did extend their lead to two with Cox grabbing a deserved goal five minutes before half time.

With Cox for company, Martin Bromwich was unable to get anything on a long ball forward, allowing Cox to the get the wrong side of him. With Bircham off his line some quick thinking from Cox saw him loop the ball over the goalkeeper and into the empty net to make it 3-1.

Despite having a two goal cushion, the Millers kept pushing in an attempt the put the game beyond their opponents before half time and managed to create three more chances before the interval.

First Cox received the ball into his feet in the area before dragging his shot wide on the turn. A minute later Hopkins controlled the ball from a Soham clearance and rifled a half volley from 25 yards off the face of the bar and into the stoppage time Elbi had another glorious chance go begging when he headed wide with a free header at the far post from a Hopkins cross.

Despite Aveley dominating much of the first half the next goal in this one was going to be huge. A goal for the home side would kill off any chance of a Soham comeback, whilst a goal for the away side would give them a platform to produce an unlikely turnaround.

With that in mind, Aveley can have Giddens to thank that it wasn’t Soham who got that potentially important goal saving brilliantly with his feet from Mason from close range.

It proved to be a vital save as the home side found that all important killer-goal just past the hour mark when Hopkins got his second of the game with a goal that even he didn’t think had crossed the line.

A ball clipped in by Kamara had seen Bircham punch clear under pressure from Cox, but the goalkeeper’s punch fell straight to the feet of Hopkins. The midfield man found himself surrounded by green shirts, but managed to dance his way through the crowded penalty area before stabbing a shot towards goal. The shot had got past Bircham, and deflected towards goal off Louis Baucutt. who was unable to hook the ball away before the linesman on the far side had adjudged the ball to have crossed the line.

It was the least the Millers deserved for all their endeavour in the game, and it killed off any hopes Soham had of getting anything from Mill Field, and despite a good 25 minutes left to play the goal meant the game cantered towards its conclusion.

There was still time, though, for Aveley to create a couple more opportunities through Kamara and Burnett, but the game had been over long before as the Millers secured a comfortable and much needed home victory.

After the match, man of the match Danny Hopkins said that “we played well. First ten minutes it was all us, then we stepped off of them a bit. Second half they came out a lot quicker and we stood off them again, let them play a bit more than we should have, but we was the better team and had lots of chances.”

Justin Gardner reiterated Hopkins’ point about the chances created saying that “it wouldn’t have been unkind today if we’d have won by 10 goals.” He continued by saying “I thought we was different class: performance of the season” and that he “hopes we have a performance like that every week.”

Aveley: Jack Giddens, Marcus Rose (Ellis Sands 63’), Teddy Nesbitt, Jay Leader, Luke Wilson, Danny Hopkins, Rashid Kamara (Junior Dadson 77’), Billy Holland (c), Jordan Cox (Shane Oakley 68’), Paul Burnett, Petrit Elbi

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