Football: Millers bounce back in style

Ryman Div One North

Ilford 0 v 5 Aveley

By Scott Hately

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JUSTIN Gardner called for bouncebackability following Aveley’s 1-0 defeat on Monday night and they duly delivered with a thumping 5-0 win over Ilford.

Goals from Petrit Elbi, Billy Holland, Jordan Cox and a brace from Junior Dadson were more than enough for the Millers to take all the points against their lowly opponents.

With all the other sides in the mix for the playoffs winning as well – including Maldon & Tiptree coming from 3-1 down to win 4-3 at home to Chatham – the win was vitally important for the away side as they looked to get back on track following defeat to their local rivals earlier in the week.

Ilford showed why they are bottom of the league, rarely threatening Andre Foster’s goal, as Aveley secured a comfortable three points and a clean sheet which have been few and far between for the Millers this season.

Defeat to Grays Athletic on Monday night halted a run of six straight wins for the Millers, but with the business end of the season fast approaching there was no time for the Aveley players to be feeling sorry for themselves as they looked to go on another winning run.

Arguably Ilford were the best possible opponents for Justin Gardner’s side to come up against following that midweek defeat, with the Essex side propping up the league on just 13 points and with only one win in 10.

But, Aveley had suffered defeat in Ilford once already this season, when they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Waltham Forest who play at Ilford’s Cricklefield Stadium, and they would not have looking forward to playing on a particularly poor playing surface.

With that in mind, Justin Gardner’s team selection reflected the style of football they would have to play with Jack Stevenson, Sheldon Sellears, Petrit Elbi and Junior Dadson coming in to replace Junior Appiah, Rashid Kamara, Danny Hopkins and Paul Burnett.

With the pitch not exactly catering to Aveley’s passing style of football the opening exchanges were scrappy at best, but the Millers were getting some joy from crossing positions with Jay Leader and Billy Holland both having good headed opportunities go to waste early on.

Holland was guilty of missing an even better chance to open the scoring just before the quarter hour mark. After good work from Jack Stevenson down the right, the midfielder found enough space to drill in a low cross across the six yard box. The ball found Holland, just six yards out, but the Aveley captain couldn’t divert the ball towards goal and shinned it harmlessly wide.

It wasn’t until the 21st minute before Ilford could get a shot away in anger, when Joel Etienne-Clark struck from the edge of the area, only for his effort to be comfortably saved by Foster.

As the game edged towards the interval, Stevenson had a decent opportunity to get the game’s first goal, cutting onto his left foot inside the area before striking towards goal from eight yards out. The shot beat Robert Hatton in goal but was desperately cleared off the line.

The Millers didn’t have to wait too much longer, though, to finally get on the score-sheet, as two goals in four first half minutes looked to have made the points safe even before the interval.

The Millers’ first goal came from Petrit Elbi, after a free kick wide on the right was whipped in by Stevenson. The ball was cleared in the first instance, but only as far as Elbi who took one touch to control the ball before firing in a half volley into the bottom corner, on the turn, to give the away side the lead after 33 minutes.

Four minutes later and it was 2-0 as Holland made up for his earlier glaring miss, but he has the hard work of Jordan Cox to thank after the Aveley front man set up his captain.

Cox received a long ball into feet before cleverly lifting the ball over his marker to get away. After riding two challenges from Ilford defenders the Aveley top goal scorer had the presence of mind to prod through a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Holland, who poked the ball under the goalkeeper to make it 2-0 after 37 minutes.

As the clocked ticked over into injury time the home side had their best chance of the game squandered by Etienne-Clark. A free kick, in a similar position to the one Stevenson played in for Elbi’s goal, was flashed across the face. No one got a touch on the ball, allowing it to fall to the Ilford striker, but he couldn’t get enough on the ball to divert it in as it went narrowly wide.

With a comfortable lead going into the second half and no real danger in the defensive third for the Millers, the second period was simply a case of doing a professional job and seeing it through to full time.

It was two goals in quick succession that saw them on their way to three points in the first half, and another double – this time in the space of just two minutes – put the final nail in the Ilford coffin as Junior Dadson and Cox got themselves on the score sheet.

Dadson couldn’t have had an easier opportunity to score, but it was the endeavour of Sheldon Sellears down the right that laid Dadson’s goal on a plate.

The Millers number seven did brilliant well to barrel his way past a number of Ilford defenders to get in a crossing position. The final ball was always going to be key, and Sellears provided it, playing a low cross into the centre where Dadson was unmarked for the simplest of tap-ins on 52 minutes.

Two minutes later and it was 4-0 and it was Cox, who went some way towards repaying Aveley for his sending off on Monday night, with a sublime finish.

Stevenson brought the ball forward from around the half way line and played it into Cox. The striker’s first touch lofted the ball into an inviting position to swivel and strike a shot on the volley, across Hatton, and into the bottom corner from just outside the area.

The match was well and truly over at that point, with Foster almost becoming a spectator due to his lack of action, but the Millers hadn’t quite finished off their scoring as Dadson got his second of the game and the Millers’ fifth.

A long ball over the top from Sellears saw Dadson clear of the Ilford back line, who had inexplicably pushed high up. Dadson’s pace took him away from his nearest defender and the winger calmly stroked the ball past Hatton to make it 5-0 and still with 27 minutes of normal time remaining.

The match from that point on petered out as there was no way back for Ilford, but the away side did have a couple of further chances to extend their lead.

Elbi was played clean through in a similar fashion to how Dadson had scored minutes later. The Aveley striker took the ball around Hatton but was caught by a recovering defender before he could get his shot away.

In the dying second of the match Elbi, again, had a chance for his second of the game after Aley Akambi played a terribly short back-pass towards Hatton, but Elbi could only prod the ball wide of the goalkeeper’s near post, leaving the score to remain at 5-0 as the full time whistle went.

After the match, manager Justin Gardner was pleased with his side’s response from Monday night saying “I couldn’t have asked for any more. I told them it wasn’t going to be a pretty game so to win 5-0 away from home you’ve got to be happy with that.”

Sheldon Sellears and Jack Stevenson both concurred with the managers thoughts on the result. Stevenson said “it’s a tough place to come. The conditions are bad, the pitch is bad but we’ve come here and got the 5-0 win and that’s all that matters.”

Sellears said of the team performance that it was “dogged” and continued to say that “when we came here, we saw the pitch and we weren’t going to be able to play football. Idea was to turn them and put them under pressure in their half and that’s exactly what we done.”

Gardner finished by saying of the performance that he thought “everyone had done well.” He continued by saying “I changed it to suit the style of play and I thought Jack (Stevenson), Sheldon (Sellears) and Jay Leader were superb. Pat (Petrit Elbi) has come back in and scored so it was good performance all round.”

Aveley: Andre Foster, Marcus Rose, Teddy Nesbitt, Jay Leader, Bradley Thomas (Gbenga Sonuga 58’), Jack Stevenson, Sheldon Sellears, Billy Holland (c) (Ade Cole 64’), Jordan Cox (Rashid Kamara 70’), Junior Dadson, Petrit Elbi

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