Orpington exited the Bill Braisted Memorial Trophy in the first round after a tense encounter against Fulham Spartans. Despite a last minute equaliser from Anthony Knott and some inspired goalkeeping from Matt Utton in extra time, Orpington could not find a winner and were forced into a penalty shoot-out that resulted in Spartans progressing 4-2.
Orpington were at full strength at the start of the match, with Utton able to name a maximum 5 substitutes and having to make the unfortunate call to drop Akhtar from the squad altogether. The team returned to the 4-2-3-1 formation that had proven effective in pre-season, but Orpington were unable to find any kind of rhythm and barely tested the opposition ‘keeper. To their credit however, they nullified most of Spartans advances and the defence once again held firm, taking both sides into the half time break goalless.
In the second half, Utton rang in the changes and returned to a 4-4-2 formation, hoping the added force upfront would conjure up chances. However, despite improved control in the middle of the field, Orpington were still unable to create any chances of note and it was Spartans who fortuitously broke the deadlock on the hour mark. A lucky nip past the full back, saw the Spartans winger cut inside and curl a low ground shot which slipped through Utton’s hands and ended up in the net. A frustrating goal to concede and an avoidable one, Orpington were once again trailing in a cup match.
Utton continued to utilise substitutions and tinkered with the team as they tried to press higher up the field. A few half chances presented themselves, Rob Utton shot over from distance and Adamou had a close range effort saved. However, with almost no time remaining, Orpington were awarded a corner and following an altercation in the box, the resulting set-piece found the head of Knott who rose highest to steer the ball home, just in time to force an additional half hour of play.
Orpington had far more verve in extra time and pushed hard to find a winner, which they almost certainly should have had but for Turner’s miscued shot in the box. A great cross found Turner in open space with only the ‘keeper to beat but his effort was put wide with a poorly uted finish. Spartans started to force their own attacks and an unlucky handball from Rob Utton in the box seemed to have gifted them the opportunity to snatch the win. However, Utton, atoning for his second half error, made a fabulous save from the penalty, having also moments before produced one of the saves of the season down low to his right to deny a certain goal. The full time whistle blew and penalties loomed.
Spartans took the first kick and Utton confidently saved with another great stop. Adamou struck home to give Orpington the lead, before Spartans levelled with their second penalty. Rob Utton stepped up for Orpington’s second and cannoned his shot off the crossbar only for the rebounding ball to be fumbled into the back of the net by the Spartans ‘keeper. In controversial circumstances and despite pleas from the gathering support, the goal was not given. Spartans went ahead by one with their third kick and Harry Utton, Orpington’s regular dispatcher, fluffed his lines and scuffed his shot into the ‘keeper’s arms down low. Spartans took the score to 3-1 with their forth kick and Haden kept Orpington in contention with a well taken penalty. However, it was to be Spartans day as their fifth kick was put away, leaving the score insurmountable.
With Orpington out of two cup competitions in as many weeks, focus will now be solely on the league which is wide open. Hopefully the shackles of the cup will have been removed and the team will start producing the same kind of display that began their season. With the defence secured, Orpington will need to start once again scoring freely and putting teams to the sword with confident, flowing football.