Clapton, Ilford in six-goal thriller
- Credit: George Phillipou/TGS Photo
Essex Senior League: Clapton 3 Ilford 3
It was a special weekend for non-league football and the standout fixture in the Essex Senior League justified the hype with a thrilling derby draw as Clapton came back from two goals down to maintain their unbeaten run.
The celebrations for Non-League Day had already begun before the match as the Clapton Ultras handed out ‘solidarity’ tickets, for those affected by the refugee crisis, the homeless and those on benefits.
In a statement to the BBC, Paul Cockerton spoke of the spirit he hoped the move would bring, saying: “We want the community to be involved and from the moment you want to become a Clapton Ultra, you can embrace the spirit of it.”
And embrace it they did - with a turnout of 760 the Scaffold was in full swing.
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To add further spice to the historic East End rivalry, Ilford manager Allan Fenn is a former Tons captain and would have felt confident that his sixth-placed side would cause an upset against their second-placed counterparts, with Clapton missing four players.
The overwhelming support inspired Clapton to come out of the blocks well, though, and they could have taken the lead in the first few minutes when Miles Hunter skied over the bar from close range.
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But Hunter atoned for his mistake on six minutes, striking a half volley that bobbled over the diving Chris Clark’s hand to give Clapton a fortuitous lead.
Ilford settled into the game and began to look dangerous and were rewarded for their pressure with an equaliser after 20 minutes.
A beautiful lay-off from Carl Mullings set Chris Stevens up with a sight of goal and after his rather tame effort was spilled by keeper Pape Diagne, team-mate Luke Thomas prodded in a gift to level.
Ilford took the lead on 39 minutes as Tons failed to deal with a corner, with Stevens converting after Thomas saw his shot strike the crossbar.
And it was 3-1 soon after, as captain Chris Lockwood cooly slotted home from the spot after Mullings was hauled over in the box.
It looked like a disaster for the hosts, but they were given a lifeline before the break by a Freddie Morris header that kept the voice in the Ultras’ chorus.
After five first-half goals it was always going to be hard to match the excitement in the second period and apart from a penalty shout for Ilford and some half chances for the home team, there wasn’t as much goalmouth action.
That was until the 80th minute when Clapton’s man-of-the-match Roddy Lemba headed in a long throw to make it all square.
A frantic final 10 minutes followed, with each side going close to scoring a winner, but eventually both teams had to settle for a point.
Clapton manager Michael Walther called it a “fair result” and praised the character of his side.
Fenn said: “I thought we were the better side, but goalkeeping errors cost us.
“It was a fantastic crowd and a marvellous advert for the Essex Senior League. It was great fun and I enjoyed it, apart from our defending.”
Ilford visit Hullbridge on Tuesday, but Tons must wait until October 20 to host Barking in another east London derby in the Essex Senior League cup.
Newham 0 Bowers 2
Two goals in a minute saw table-topping Bowers beat Newham at Tilbury’s Chadfields ground.
Chris Bryan’s diving header broke the deadlock on 38 minutes and Jack Gardener volleyed home a second for the visitors moments later to leave Newham with a mountain to climb after the restart.
The hosts were unable to make any inroads as they slipped to an eighth successive defeat and they welcome fourth-placed Wadham Lodge on Wednesday.