Reds bounce back with solid home win

The Reds were back at home at Sparrows Lane on Sunday afternoon after two weeks away. Stonewall FC Unity 1x made the trip to South East London for the London Unity League meeting.

The team was missing a few players due to injury but a full squad of 16 was bolstered by the returning Daniel Dawson and Michael Bamische – and making a home debut Stefan Rand. The focus was on setting the record straight after a number of defensive mistakes in recent games which had seen the team lose three consecutive games by one goal – as everyone looked to gain lost momentum experienced by the nearly 6 month lockdown.

The Reds match day squad

The team lined up with Alex Hill in goal, a back four of Billy Stephens, Scott Hollingsworth, Gary Ginnaw and Daniel Crump, a midfield four of Calum McKenna, Daniel Dawson, Maxwell Anderson and Harley Bagnall-Taylor with skipper Sam Sevenoaks playing off Jon Allen upfront.

On the bench was Kieran Allen, Dean Chambers, Samuel Timms, Stefan Rand and Michael Bamische.

Prior to kick off the team took the knee –  something which was adopted by Charlton Athletic FC and the Charlton Athletic Community Trust – as the Club stood up for the fight against racial and social injustice, all forms of discrimination, prejudice and inequality.

Players of both teams joining Take the Knee ahead of kick off

The match couldn’t have started any better as the ball was played out towards Harley on the left wing. He nutmegged his opponent before whipping a dangerous cross into the ball for Calum to slot in at the far post and give the Reds an early lead.

The Reds looked hungry and confident. They pressed Stonewall wherever possible and when they won the ball the options out wide gave them a real attacking threat.

Stonewall immediately looked for a response as they attempted to play their way out and hit the Reds on the break with some dangerous through balls. The Reds line was working to perfection. But following a last ditch challenge from Scott on the edge of the Reds box – he suffered a knee injury which saw him need to come off and be replaced by Dean.

From the resulting free kick Alex won the ball in the air and immediately played a long throw out for Jon who chased the ball down the left hand side but the ball just ran out of play for a throw to the away side. The Reds were keen to enhance their lead and use the space out wide to their advantage.

The Reds continued to look dangerous going forward. A through ball found Jon unmarked just inside the box but his first time shot was comfortably saved by the Stonewall keeper as he aimed to place the ball into the far corner.

The chances kept coming for the Reds when a free kick from the right from Daniel Dawson was guided just passed the far post by the gaffer. Moments later the second goal arrived when Daniel Crump cut in from the right and hit what appeared to be a cross – only for it to evade everyone including the Stonewall keeper to give the Reds a 2-0 lead.

The Reds looked to freshen the team up as the game approached the half hour mark – Jon was replaced by Kieran upfront and Harley was replaced by Michael out of the left wing. Both Kieran and Michael made an immediate impact as they looked hungry and started the Reds pressed right from the front. The high press allowed the rest of the team to step up and really put the pressure on the away side.

Further chances came and went with Maxwell winning the ball in midfield, bursting down the right wing and hitting an early cross only to see Kieran’s header saved by the away sides keeper. The midfield was working tireless with Maxwell, Daniel and Sam all battling hard to deny any Stonewall penetration whilst also always looking forward with their passing. As the half draw on Sam needed to take a break and was replaced by home debutant Stefan. The Reds switched to a 451 as they looked to see out the remainder of the half.

Defensively the Reds looked sound with Alex reassuring his back line whenever possible and playing as a sweeper. Injured winger Chris was on the far touchline communicating instructions from the bench with Colin and Samuel in the dugout as the team looked to maintain their disciplined organisation and team work.

From a sloppy side pass Stonewall won the ball in midfield and fed their striker only for Dean to make a last ditch challenge inside the box just before the trigger was pulled. The recovery from Dean was amazing to see. In fact last ditch challenges were a speciality for the Reds defensive during the game as Billy, Daniel and Gary all saw last minute challenges and blocks to see the ball out of danger.

Stonewall still threatened but more so on the counter attack as the Reds continued to press for further goals. A blistering move down the right saw Calum cross into Kieran who subsequently dummied for Michael to run onto the ball and calmly curl into the far corner to make the score 3-0 to the home side.

The half time whistle blew with the Reds taking a commanding 3-0 lead into the break. One change at the break saw Samuel Timms returning from an injury  on for Daniel Dawson in midfield.

The second half saw the away side on the front foot from the off as they looked to find a way back into the contest. And they grabbed themselves a lifeline with the open ten minutes of the restart as they pulled a goal back to make it 3-1.

The Reds looked to try and contain the pressure as they regrouped. The wind and press from Stonewall was making it a tricky period for the home side. Despite the Reds still having two outlets – being Michael on the left and Calum on the right – the team was struggling to get them into the game as Stonewall pressed high.

Another change saw Calum off and Stefan back on with Sam Sevenoaks moving back out onto the wing. With niggling injuries disrupting the Reds rhythm the team was constantly chopping and changing which didn’t help the momentum of the home side.

Stonewall had a penalty appeal turned down and saw Alex deny them on a few occasions as they pushed for the second goal. They also saw two far post misses and shots blocked by the Reds stubborn defend.

The Reds came close to adding a killer fourth goal on two occasions – the first a neat flick from Michael saw Sam Sevenoaks through on the right angle and his shot was fired into the left bottom corner only to be denied by the off side flag. Shortly after a cross from the left which surprisingly missed everyone found Samuel just inside the box on the right hand side coming in at the far post but unable to keep his volley down.

As the game progressed Jon replaced Kieran up front as the Reds continued to shuffle the pack to see the game through. Jon was big strong and physical as he looked to hold up play and won several throw ins down the left hand side. A few late challenges saw Gary go down multiple times with a few pauses in play.

The Reds looked to slow the game down and keep the ball – passing it around and keeping things tight when they lost possession. The final few minutes saw Stonewall run out of steam as they Reds held on for their first win in four attempts.

The Reds hold on for an impressive 3-1 win

Goal scorers : Calum McKenna, Daniel Crump and Michael Bamische

Player of the Match : Gary Ginnaw

Next game : home to London Titans FC on Saturday 29 May in the GFSN National Championship Quarter Final second leg.