A first goal of the season for Mike Mogridge and a fabulous solo goal from Dave Hart were not enough to stop Orpington having to settle for a draw away to Nice Fridge Locomotiv.
Manager Matt Utton has been more fortunate this season compared with last in terms of the players he has at his disposal for matches, so it was disappointing to see Orpington only able to field a bare XI for this very winnable fixture. Playing on an identical ground to Orpington’s own training facilities, the stage was very much set for the committed XI to put on a great performance and secure a vital 3 points.
The game started well and the men in orange were able to settle on the ball quickly and pass it around between them. Nice Fridge rarely broke up passing play and it was only when stray crosses or hopeful long balls were played that Orpington lost the ball or gave it away cheaply. However, there was a great display of strength and tenacity to win the ball back and start again. Most notably, Nick Sims in the centre of midfield was strong and committed in every challenge and won the ball back firmly for his team.
Starting up front for the first time this season, Zubair Akhtar was a clear threat in front of goal and tested the opposition ‘keeper multiple times in the first half. Had the ball been placed either side of the relatively average ‘keeper, Orpington could have lead comfortably at half time. Akhtar will certainly feel that he can get goals from this position if he continues to play there.
The team came out in the second half and started well again, but it was not long before Nice Fridge were gifted a stroke of luck and a scuffed shot at Utton’s goal crept out of his reach into the top corner. A very fortuitous goal but not enough to stop Orpington continuing their attacking approach.
Orpington levelled the match on the hour mark. Following a great run from Akhtar into the right channel, he was able to cross the ball perfectly to land on Mogridge’s head, whose looped header evaded the ‘keeper and nestled into the back of the net. A great equaliser and a goal that spurred the team on, however, moments later a second reckless challenge on Butler resulted in the midfielder forced off with a knee injury. With the absence of any substitutes, Orpington were reduced to 10 men.
Ten minutes later Hart delivered a moment of magic when a terrific solo run saw him cut inside from the right hand side, beating two men and slotting in at the near post underneath the scrambling ’keeper. A great goal and with only 7 minutes remaining, Orpington should have seen the match out as victors. However, Nice Fridge managed one last attack down the left hand side and a cross which picked out the on rushing number 7 was turned in past a helpless Utton.
The final moments of the game belonged to Orpington and the team pushed hard to get a winner but it was not to be. Sims continued to control the midfield and Turner held onto the ball well, looking for the opportunity that just didn’t arrive.
A case of 2 points dropped, rather than 1 point gained saw the team clearly disappointed with the result. With the January transfer window looming, manager Utton will clearly be looking into who stays and who goes to ensure he has a consistent team to field. Perhaps some additional signings may also be required to firm up the team and push for a finish as high up the table as possible.
Orpington will resume their fixtures on the 10th January with an away match against Inter Cross. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.