Yet again, the weather was unseasonably mild and sunny as Greshams returned to their home ground after a run of away fixtures. A very late arrival from Matt Miller delayed the naming of the side which lined up with Rob in goals; a back four of Jamie, Tommo, Hamblin and Cash; in midfield Ollie, Matt, Rob and Froud; and up front Ash and Steve Norfolk.
A home fixture this may have been, but Greshams had been deserted by their hard core supporters, with only the arrival of Tommo's missus and child bolstering their support at half time. Claydon on the other hand had sold out their allocation and it seemed half the village was here to cheer on the men in red.
However, with Greshams' confidence high after last weeks win and performance, it was clear that this was to be no repeat of the rather lame performance that saw Greshams easily beaten at Claydon Rec a few weeks ago. The early exchanges were quite even, with the Greshams full backs in particular finding plenty of time and space to get forward. With Steve Norfolk dropping back to help out in midfield and Ash full of running up front Greshams were more than containing Claydon and even creating chances of their own. It was no surprise when they took the lead, and what a goal it was. Rob played a neat one two with Matt in midfield, and then took the ball on before unleashing an unstoppable shot from the angle of the box that flew over the keepers head and dipped perfectly into the far corner. A quite brilliant strike.
Greshams had taken the lead in other games only to surrender it after about thirty seconds so the question was, could they hold on to it this time? They could, and this was due to a resolute defensive display. Steve Hamblin was a touch lucky not to concede a penalty - though the striker went down way too easily - but otherwise produced a commanding performance at centre half. Rob was performing some heroics in goal too. On one occasion Rob rushed out and made a brilliant block on the edge of the box. The ball broke loose to a Claydon man but as the shot came in there was Hamblin, back pedalling towards his own goal, to make a rather scuffed but effective clearance with his left shin pad. Claydon also had a number of corners, from which Greshams have been vulnerable in the past. This week however, Greshams were strong against the tall and physical Claydon side and made sure they got the challenges in, so any headers that Claydon could make were weak or off target.
However it was not all one way traffic. Greshams were looking dangerous on the break, and Ash a constant menace. However a combination of just slightly misplaced final balls and some last ditch defending meant that Greshams were just unable to fashion another chance to stretch their lead.
Half time: Greshams 1 Claydon 0
In the second half Claydon had clearly decided to throw the kitchen sink at their search for an equaliser. With three, sometimes four up front and runners from midfield in addition, it was going to be a challenge for Greshams to hold on.
However, Greshams produced a second half display of which all 12 squad members can be rightly proud. Tommo and Hamblin at centre half were equal to all the little one twos that Claydon were looking to play on the edge of the box, while the full backs, pinned back this half, were also holding a solid defensive shape. Greshams resolve was illustrated when the ball broke to the feet of the Claydon number 8 just 6 years out and both Cash and Hamblin threw themselves across full length to block the shot.
Unfortunately however Claydon did grab an equaliser mid way through the half. It was a controversial goal, with Hamblin being wrestled to the floor in the box, thereby creating the space into which the ball was struck, just out of Rob's reach.
Greshams had a slightly difficult few minutes after the goal, but once they steadied themselves, managed to continue their solid and resilient display. For all Claydon's pressure they did not create a real chance and were mainly restricted to shots from distance, one of which brought a great stop from Rob down to his right. Greshams even had a chance of their own towards the end when a great cross field pass from Froudy saw Ash running on to goal. However, after his all-energy performance Ash had simply run out of legs and couldn't quite get on the end of the pass.
Only at the death did Greshams have a real scare. A hopeful cross from the right somehow eluded Tommo but nevertheless Hamblin was there to make the seemingly straightforward clearance. Perhaps due to fatigue however, Hamblin took a comedy air shot and the ball ran under his flailing boot to the Claydon number 9 at point blank range - only for Rob to appear from nowhere and throw himself down to make the block.
There was just time for another save from Rob, this time rather theatrical!! - leading to a final Claydon corner. To Claydon's great frustration however the ref blew for full time as the ball was in the air, meaning that the header, which went straight to Rob in any case, would not have counted and Greshams had hung on for a well earned point.
Man of the Match
Although Greshams were on the back foot for most of the game, the hard work of their strikers, with Norfolk coming deep to help the midfield and Ash chasing down every lost cause, was eye catching. Rob had a good game in midfield and scored a great goal. However on a day which every Greshams player came out of with great credit, the bubbly goes to Steve Hamblin for a strong, determined, resolute defensive display. Well played mate.
It is a sad farewell to Tommo after several seasons at the Club. Uncompromising in the tackle, and fitter (and younger) than most, Tommo will be missed, and not just for his footballing qualities. The ranks of the Greshams WAGS will also be sadly depleted by the absence of Mrs Tommo. Thanks mate, enjoyed having you around, and all the best for the future.