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Thatcham Town 1  Northwood 1

Saturday 14th August 2021

 

NORTHWOOD
     
     
   
1 Montel Joseph ©    
2 Tom Unsworth    
3 Aaron Petch    
4 Tristan Noel (63m)    
5 Gradi Milenge    
6 Ryan Avery (53m)    
7 Shakeel Morris    
8 Matt Ayres    
9 Joe Chidyausiku (70m)    
10 Matteo Esposito    
11 Ezekiel Williams    
Substitutes  
12 Leo Decabo (63m)    
14 Matt Surmon (53m)    
15 Ismael Ehui (70m)    
16 Sam Coles    
17 Declan Nche    
 


Thatcham: Chris Rackley, Clive Gwavava, Joshua Edwards, Eric Macharia, Andrew Gunn, Lewis Chapman, Bradley Pagliaroli (Alex Miller 84m), Alexandre Fragata (Zeid Hannachi 84m), Balai Dembele (William Frank 66m), Lamin Ceesay, Harry Harvey

   

Northwood began life under new manager Ben Murray with a hard-earned point as they shared two goals with Thatcham, managed by former Woods boss Jamie Leacock, in the season’s opener at the Stacatruc Stadium.

New-look Northwood began proceedings with a three-man defence which included Gradi Milenge, who along with Tristan Noel and goalkeeper Montel Joseph had enjoyed previous spells at the club. But with a completely revamped team which had midweek signing Joseph Chidyausiku deployed as a lone striker, the early nerves were understandable with both sides taking a while to settle into any sort of rhythm.

The hosts gradually began to find their feet and Joseph, wearing the captain’s armband for Northwood, was called upon to deal with a freekick from Brad Pagliaroli before the same player was foiled once again by the Woods skipper.

Northwood had offered little attacking threat in the early stages, but they had an opportunity to open the scoring after Matteo Esposito slid the ball through to Chidyausiku who rolled his shot beyond the advancing Chris Rackley, the former Woods keeper able to breathe a sigh of relief as he watched the effort narrowly clear the far upright.

However, the hosts were beginning to gain the upper-hand and looking increasingly threatening with Joseph producing another fine save to deny the lively Pagliaroli with his legs after the Kingfisher’s danger man latched onto a long clearance from Rackley.

Woods had switched to a flat back four with Tom Unsworth and Aaron Petch occupying the full back positions and Thatcham kept up the pressure with Andy Gunn failing to get the necessary connection after finding himself free at a corner.

Northwood continued to look a little disjointed in attack although Shakeel Morris tried his luck from distance with a shot which narrowly cleared the Kingfisher’s crossbar.

At the other end, Joseph’s busy afternoon continued as he gathered Pagliaroli’s attempted lob after the latter latched onto another long clearance from Rackley and defensive indecision almost cost the visitors dear as Balai Dembele was allowed to get a shot in on goal, but Joseph was up to the task once again.

But Woods resistance was finally broken as Pagliaroli struck a shot from just outside the box which curled beyond the reach of Joseph to give Thatcham a deserved lead on 40 minutes.

Northwood almost posted an immediate reply as Matt Ayres ran onto an Esposito through ball, but Rackley got down well to palm away the shot. However, there was no let up for Woods as the hosts threatened again before halftime as Tinashe Gwavava picked out Alex Fragata at the far post, but his weak shot was comfortably dealt with by Joseph.
Northwood made a change at the break with Ismael Ehui replacing Chidyausiku in attack, but it was  Thatcham who came out stronger as they looked to increase their advantage with Gunn twice going close from corners while Harvey Harry saw his close-range shot deflected behind after good work from Fragata.

Woods were forced into a change on 53 minutes as Ryan Avery finally succumbed to the ankle knock he picked up early in proceedings with Matt Surmon his replacement in central defence. And Woods’ rejigged defence were being asked questions again as Fragata broke from midfield before being impeded in the box by the backtracking Noel with the referee pointing to the spot. However, Joseph came to his team’s rescue once more as he kept out Dembele’s penalty attempt to keep Northwood in the contest just before the hour mark.

There was no let up for Northwood with Harry the next to go close for the Kingfishers while Joseph performed more heroics to keep out another Pagliaroli effort.

Woods made their final substitution on 62 minutes as Noel was replaced by attacker Leo Decabo as the visitors looked for a way back into the contest. And after Joseph had been called into action once again to this time deny Lamin Ceesay, Northwood began to be more constructive in the final third with Esposito bringing out the best in Rackley with a effort from the edge of the box.

However, there was nothing Rackley could do as Morris produced a moment of magic as he found   space on the edge of the box sending an unstoppable shot into the Thatcham net to draw Northwood level on 74 minutes.
Buoyed by the goal, Woods visibly grew in confidence and they threatened again as Ehui was picked out by Petch with the substitute’s snap-shot being kept out by Rackley.

With both sides looking for the winning goal, play flowed from end to end with the hosts having a penalty appeal waved away after a challenge on Harry while Ehui hooked an effort narrowly wide following a Petch freekick into the box. And Woods went close again as Esposito’s shot from 25 yards curled inches past the upright.

Woods maintained their strong finish to the game as Ezekial Williams sent over an enticing cross from the right which just evaded Ehui and the stretching Morris while Decabo was denied by the legs of Rackley. But in a frantic end to the game, Thatcham thought they should have been awarded another penalty after a Surmon challenge on substitute Will Frank before teammate Ceesay fired into the side netting, the final action on an entertaining opening day encounter.

Report by ROBIN PIPER
Photos by JAMES BROWN