A dominant performance on a less than ideal surface saw Akhtar score his first goal of the campaign for Orpington in a 1-1 draw against league rivals FC Bellingham.
After a plethora of cancellations and postponements across the Metropolitan League, Orpington were one of the few teams who were able to fulfil their home fixture. The surface snow was cleared to reveal a very wet playing surface and the game kicked off in chilly conditions, with Orpington looking to exact revenge for the 8-1 trouncing they received from Bellingham earlier in the season.
Fresh back from the winter break, Orpington were injury free and quick to settle into the game. Gone, for the most part, were the hurried long balls and rash clearances and an air of calm surrounded the team as they played the ball comfortably out of defence, through the midfield and out to the pacey wingers, Hart and Butler. Early chances with some precise crossing were presented to the front two of Downs and Akhtar who were unlucky not to find the final finish.
The game settled into an even contest with both teams retaining possession and working towards goal. Bellingham took the lead on the half hour mark after their midfielder found a small pocket of space and produced a speculative shot that evaded Utton in goal. Perhaps lucky, but nonetheless a good finish. Orpington’s response was immediate and another chance almost came directly from kick off. Rob Utton played a precise long ball to Hart on the wing who brought it down well, turned and charged to the line. The resultant cross only just missed the head of Downs, but it was a positive retort to going behind.
No changes at half time and the teams restarted on what had become a very boggy surface. However, it was Orpington who owned the second half. Turner and Sims dominated the midfield and harassed the ball off of their opponents continuously and Orpington looked ever more likely every time they went forward. A high pressing, attacking game was evident and Orpington pushed Bellingham back, forcing corners and panicked clearances from the overwhelmed defence. And it was to be one of the resulting corners that saw Akhtar calmly place the ball into the bottom of the net following a great delivery by Turner and flick on at the near post by Downs.
Orpington could have nicked it as well. Substitutes Jamieson and Martin both had clear opportunities and were unfortunate not to finish. Mogridge who came on for Downs made a nuisance of himself up front and was also able to deliver some pin point crosses that were just out of reach. Butler saw a long range effort tipped over and Turner was disappointed to see his expert free kick not taken advantage of in the box.
Bellingham had a few chances to snatch the lead however Matt Utton in goal produced some fine saves, whilst the resilient back four kept out all other attacks, most notably with a goal line clearance from Rob Utton and a point blank volley away by Harry Utton.
The final whistle meant a share of the points, but Bellingham will have felt lucky to get away with it. Orpington showed determination, resilience and skill and now need to turn that into goals and wins. With more than winnable games on the horizon, positivity and belief should be rife.
Orpington’s next match is away to Fulham Spartans on Sunday 24th January 2016. KO 10:30. Tickets available online.