The final game of this historic season for the reserve squad was a tough one against Grays Athletic at the Academy in Loughton. A win would see us unbeaten in the league and write a new chapter in the club’s history. It wasn’t difficult to write my pre-match notes and the lads were more than up for the challenge.
The home team started strongly and dominated possession in the early minutes but, with our usual central defensive partnership of Luke Gabriel and Charlie Massey-Reed restored, the Grays early onslaught was efficiently dealt with. As we gained more possession and our confidence grew we started to exert some pressure on the home defence and it became clear that we had a distinctive pace advantage with Frankie Williams through the centre and Harry Prince at wide right. After 10 minutes a clever ball was played over the defence by James Barlow and Frankie WILLIAMS latched onto it and lobbed the ball skilfully over the stranded keeper to make the score 1-0.
We continued to make inroads in the Grays final third particularly with Harry Prince looking menacing down the right flank, after 15 minutes he beat his full back and played a quality ball into Jason Kane who set it to the edge of the box for James (Get the job done, but not this time)Barlow, but his shot was well saved by the home keeper. Prince continued to cause problems down the right with his quick feet and pace and this resulted in several free-kicks being awarded. On 20 minutes Ben King curled a great ball to the far post where James Clarke ghosted in unmarked, but saw his header smash against the post. Just two minutes later from another free kick in an identical position, Ben King this time played it square for Harry Prince who shot over the bar.
Pressure started to tell and just before half time the home central defender skewed a clearance on the left that fell invitingly to Frankie Williams who beat one defender but was unable to place his shot wide of the keeper.
Half time instructions were to continue to use our pace advantage but also, with the score at only one nil, we had to stay focussed as the long ball could catch us out if we dropped our guard. Brian suggested a fast start to the half and an early second goal could kill the game off.
After only two minutes of the re-start Frankie Williams had a great chance to score with a swift break through the centre of their defence but his shot was a saved. As Grays changed formation and pushed men forward in search of an equaliser the game became more stretched, which really played into our hands and after 55 minutes a free-kick clearance from keeper Mark Richardson was headed on by skipper James Clarke and again, the lively Frankie WILLIAMS read it superbly and latched onto the through ball finishing confidently past the keeper to double our lead.
We were now well on top and six minutes later left midfielder Ben King showed some silky skills to beat two players then thread a perfectly weighted through ball finding Jason KANE’s immaculately timed forward run. Kane then carried the ball into the penalty area and beat the keeper to make the score 3-0.
With the result now secured Bez Hoxhaj replaced Harry Prince on 70 minutes and almost scored with his first involvement, latching on to a pass from Jason Kane, on 77 minutes Sam Jones replaced Ben King and two minutes later Sam Gross replaced Frankie Williams. However the highlight of the half was yet to come when on 85 minutes a throw-in on the right by Sam Sheppard was again headed on by James Clarke, the ball was collected by his midfield partner Jason Kane on another of his well timed runs from midfield, only this time his cross shot was well saved by the keeper, however with a brilliant piece of support play left back Antony MACDONALD had stolen into the box and was positioned perfectly to rifle the loose ball into the net for his first goal of the season. He, and everyone else involved with BFC, was quite pleased!!!!
During the seven minutes of added time Grays, to their credit, continued to go forward and were able to get behind the Barking back line and score a consolation goal on 93 minutes, but soon after the final whistle brought the game and our season to a close. The whole squad were understandably delighted as the win meant that, as I mentioned at the top of this report, we had completed the whole league season unbeaten.
This, and the long unbeaten league run, is a record for Barking Football Club and one that the lads should be extremely proud of. This is no fluke as the final statistics show that we have scored more league goals than any other team (74 in 22 games), we have conceded fewer league goals than any other team (18 in 22 games) and won 17 of our 22 games drawing 5 (2 of these draws coming after the title had been won), but the statistic that everyone will remember for a long time to come is ‘Games Lost 0’.
Enough said-it’s been an absolute blast and Brian and I are delighted with how the season has gone. We couldn’t have asked for any more (well maybe one of the cups would have been nice) enjoy the summer everyone.
Any opinions expressed in this report are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Barking Football Club