Orpington extended their unbeaten run to 3 games with a 1-1 draw against Fulham Spartans. A long range strike from captain, Rob Utton in the first half was cancelled out by a fortuitous goal in the second half, however the result could have been much different had it not been for some questionable refereeing decisions.
Orpington were able to field an almost unchanged side from their last match, with the only alteration in midfield – a straight swap of Mogridge for Sims. Manager, Matt Utton was clearly setting up to be more offensive in the first half.
On a less than suitable pitch, the teams kicked off and Orpington looked to adopt an early foothold in the game. In the past few months, Orpington have made themselves notoriously difficult to beat and as such Spartans, despite a few good efforts, were unable to break through. In goal, Utton made some incredible blocks, most notably a full stretch dive to the top corner to palm away an almost certain opener. Utton commanded his position and looked unbeatable with a string of great saves.
Buoyed by the solid cover behind them, Orpington created attacks of their own, with both Butler and Hart providing great width on the wings again and setting up chances. With the team able to press forward, the first goal was produced. A cross from Hart on the right was almost turned in, but instead was cleared out only to be picked up by Rob Utton who had pushed up from defence. Roughly 30 yards out and with one touch to control, the second touch was a thunderous, left footed strike along the ground which evaded the keeper and walloped the back of the net. Deservedly in front on the balance of play, Orpington reset to find another.
A few more half chances presented themselves and Orpington went in at half time in front. With the pitch now tearing up and becoming ever boggier, Utton opted to bring Sims on for Mogridge to keep the midfield as fresh as possible.
The second half was a hard fought slog for both sides. The ball continuously held up in the centre of the field and little was created through the midfield. However, with 20 minutes to go, Spartans mustered an attack and bundled through the quagmire to crack off a shot that evaded Utton’s grasp for the first time in the match. With the scores level, Orpington brought on Martin for Hart and pushed to get in front.
The final minutes of the game belonged to Orpington. Turner had a clear sight of goal that was smartly saved by the ‘keeper and Downs was denied an obvious free kick when he was wrestled to the ground by a Spartans’ defender. With a draw looking the likely outcome, Orpington broke one last time. A great interchange in the middle of the park culminated in a fantastic through ball by Akhtar, which Turner ran onto from behind his opponent, controlled the pass and slotted into the net underneath the oncoming ‘keeper. The ball nestled comfortably in the back of the net, only for the referee to blow his whistle and call an offside decision. Spartans were jubilant at a unexpected and unjustified pronouncement, whilst Orpington were furious that they had been denied a clear goal and a chance to take all 3 points.
The final whistle blew and Orpington’s anger was clear to see as they walked off the pitch. Despite their great performance, the draw was obviously a bittersweet conclusion to the match. However, with the performances they have been producing, they should feel confident in facing all future opponents this season, starting with league leaders, FC United of Bromley, this Sunday.