This was a grudge match of sorts for Ely today, with plenty of wind up on the socials during pre-season from Stretham, recent mid season signings of our two FORMER leading goal and assist leaders in Callum Fogg and Conor Gibbs.
With only 11 players available for Ely, the gaffer had to kit up for the bench and to run the bench/lino. Ely could have been forgiven for thinking this would be a steep mountain to climb.
Despite the rivalry, the match was played in good spirit and the play and attitude around the park was one of competitive but respectful sportsmanship.
Stretham scored the opening goal, with an early counter, but Ely heads didn't drop and the away team was full of belief, having had large spells of possession in the early stages.
Cameron Laing quickly pulled us back level with a direct free kick to the top right corner from about 21 yards out.
Soon after, Ross Gray being taken out inside the box, saw him calmly convert the penalty to bring the visitors in front. After this, Ely retained the lead for the remainder of the match.
The front men continued their form from recent weeks, combining well to create chances and goals with Will Cooper turning creator for Tino.
Another counter from Stretham saw the referee overrule the offside call and award a goal.
Cross field switch of play from left back Bailey Payne, saw Will Cooper drive in from the right, beat his man and finish.
With all to play for, the Stretham keeper made a mistimed attempt to clear the ball with Tino bearing down on goal having broken the offside trap. He took out Tino, and was subsequently sent for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity. There was no malice and he was unlucky to receive a red. Harsh to some, but that's the rules of play.
Cameron Laing stepped up again, and converted another top bins free kick from about 20 yards out. The outfield player having just donned the gloves had no chance to save it.
Laing then turned provider for his midfield partner Ash Sizer and the score started looking very comfortable.
Ely continued with the press and creating more chances, but tiring legs meant some of them petered out for goal kicks etc. However after Ely won another corner, Tom Hunter swooped in with a diving header from Reece Jolly's delivery to bag another.
Danny Flack who had done a sterling job protecting the back four, managed to get some space in attack and send a through ball for Will Cooper to finish for Ely's final goal of the game. The last 10 minutes or so, was about game management for a tiring side.
Tommy Faulkner decided centre back was boring, (or maybe he was cold) so he went for a few runs up the side line after having watched Bailey do it all game. Nothing came of it, and so he was unable to make it nine.
Special mention to Ross's bicycle attempt - I'm sure he'll feel that in the morning... and to Tino's well timed sliding tackle in our box, when Stretham looked certain to get back a consolation goal just before full time. Cameron Laing jumps into the lead in the stats now, after enjoying his role in more advanced positions on the pitch.