Orpington Athletic secured all 3 points at the first time of asking as they got their 2016/17 campaign underway against last season’s relegated Duke of Clarence.
After a positive pre-season, Orpington looked ready for the challenge, even with the absence of key players through injury or out on extended training duty. Manager Matt Utton opted for a standard 4-4-2 set up, dropping the regular pairing of Austin Facer and David Martin from their central defensive midfield duties into the defence to fill the absences of Harry Utton and Matt Duggan. Debuts were also handed to Lucas Kendrick in attack and Mike Adamou in midfield.
Orpington rode their luck in the opening minutes of the match as Duke looked to play the ball in behind the defence for their strikers to run onto and had it not been for some poor touches and finishing, Duke may have taken an early lead. However, Orpington got a foothold in the game and found themselves on the attack, with the defence pushing the team forward. An early foul from Duke in their own half presented Turner with an opportunity to deliver the ball into the box and a shove in the back of captain, Rob Utton as he climbed to meet the free kick gave the referee no option but to point to the spot. Turner stepped up and dispatched the penalty with ease, giving Orpington the lead.
Orpington spent longer spells in Duke’s half of the field and produced some fine passing and movement, especially through debutant Adamou who was a composed addition to the midfield. Although few chances were created, Orpington saw the half out very much in control.
Utton made one change at half time as Danny White replaced Mike Mogridge up front and the game restarted. Orpington were still in control of the match for the vast majority of the opening exchanges, however a defensive mix up and confusion over a potential offside led to a tap in for Duke and they levelled the score.
Undeterred, Orpington once again began to control the play as Duke continuously tinkered with their line-up, following the new ruling to allow ‘roll on, roll off’ substitutions. Utton only made one change to his line up as Mogridge returned to the field in place of Kendrick, who moments earlier had been through on goal and may have been brought down by the on-rushing ‘keeper. Unfortunately, replays were unable to confirm the incident. Mogridge joined Haden in midfield as Adamou pushed up front and the three linked almost immediately, with Haden setting up Adamou for a first time, long range effort that curled expertly into the top corner, leaving the ‘keeper stranded. Orpington deservedly regained the lead and pushed on to kill the game.
Duke attempted to equalise but the constant changes to personnel disrupted any chance they had as Orpington held firm and maintained their control. Butler picked up the ball out wide on the left and played an exquisite cross field pass to Turner, who brought the ball to the by-line, crossed into the box to White who managed to lob the hapless ‘keeper from 6 yards. Orpington had firmly stamped their authority on the game and saw the match out as comfortable winners.
With the anticipated return of players in the forthcoming weeks, there will be strong competition for places, which can only drive the team forward. Although a competent win, Orpington will have to go up through the gears as the season progresses, starting with their next match against Green Street Green, if they are to continue achieving positive results.