Orpington performed well in a tightly fought contest against last season’s relegated Nice Fridge Locomotiv and were fiercely unlucky to lose 1-0.
The men in red and black were buoyed by the return of manager Matt Utton this weekend and despite being limited to a bare XI, he was able to field a much changed formation, that looked to defend hard and counter the opposition on the break.
The game began in a cautious fashion from both teams, who were clearly looking to identify each other early on and get a good hold on the match. As the first half progressed at a relatively slow tempo, Orpington showed great discipline to hold their new formation and prevent any notable opportunities for Nice Fridge. In fact, it was Orpington who were able to get the first shot away. With some good build up play down the right hand side, the ball was played into the middle of the park and Rob Utton, pushing up from the new five man defence, was able to get a shot away that went just wide.
Orpington continued to maintain their shape and discipline throughout the half and it was good to see possession be retained for longer periods than in previous matches. The half was seen out with very few chances for either side and they went into to the break level at 0-0.
Orpington did not shift focus for the second half and continued to play simple football whilst sticking, perhaps slightly rigidly, to their new formation. Chances were beginning to be created and Turner was unlucky for the second game running to miss an overhead kick. Another break from the middle of the park by Rob Utton saw him blitz past the opposition after a good hold up from Turner, only to see the resultant shot go wide again. A great opportunity to take the lead was created out of some fantastic play on the left which saw Akhtar, making his first start of the season, fire a thunderous shot towards the top corner, only to see it miss by an agonisingly small margin.
But Orpington were unfortunate on the hour mark to be undone by a simple goalkeeping error. A ball floated into the 18 yard area slipped through Matt Utton’s hands and fell too kindly to the oncoming attacker, who poked the ball into an empty net. Against the run of play Locomotiv lead, however this was somewhat unfair on the Orpington defence, who had been solid, especially with impressive performances from Knott and Harry Utton.
The remainder of the game saw almost no further threat on the Orpington goal and they pushed hard to level the scores. Matt Utton pushed 3 up front and it was a delight to see the team pressurise their opposition who had to defend in numbers. Another shot from Rob Utton tested the keeper at his near post and Jamieson, Downs and Akhtar saw further chances spurned. As the half drew to a close, Orpington were on top but were not helped by some very questionable refereeing from David Hicks, who had been poor all game and at the final whistle the disappointment was evident. Perhaps fatigue played a part and a substitute or two could have been a game changer in what was Orpington’s best performance for some time.
A close score line which did not tell the full story, Orpington will feel confident that they can take a similar performance into their next game and, by luck or design, Matt Utton may have stumbled upon a very well uted formation which should see his team start to generate the results they deserve on this kind of performance.
Orpington’s next fixture will be against Petts Wood Hawks on Sunday 4th October at Petts Wood FC, kick off 10:30.