Dave Hart’s first competitive goal helped Orpington Athletic to a first win of the season, where they narrowly beat Petts Wood Hawks 3-2. The rapid right sided midfielder netted with a superb header in between goals from Downs and Rob Utton in the first half.
Orpington started brightly against a Petts Wood team that have been struggling in the league of late. Some good passing play lead to great early attacks, especially down the right hand side where Hart’s explosive pace saw him beat his opposing full back on multiple occasions. Early set pieces from corners and free kicks began to trouble the Hawks defence and Orpington were rewarded as a corner from Mogridge was met by Rob Utton who fired the ball towards goal to set up Downs for his third of the season.
Moments later, Hawks conceded another foul which Downs assuredly stepped up to take. A great delivery at the near post saw Hart dive to meet the ball with his head and send the ball into the top corner, the ‘keeper rooted to the spot. Orpington were flying and firmly took control of the game.
Hawks attempted to put some attacks together and some great defending from the established back four stifled any threat to their goal. Orpington broke again and were awarded another corner which Turner went over to take. A pinpoint delivery from the attacking midfielder picked out captain Rob Utton on the edge of the box who struck the ball unbelievably on the volley and sent the ball screaming into the back of the net. Orpington were running away with the game and Hawks had no response.
Orpington hunted for more and played well all the way up until the half time whistle. Having never taken a lead this great into the half time break, it was always going to be interesting to see how the team managed their second half. The introduction of Sims for Mogridge in an unfamiliar midfield role was the only change at half time and the game restarted.
In a game that had been dominated by Orpington, Hawks came out fighting and were clearly looking for improvement. They won the ball back in midfield and some sloppy, weak Orpington tackles lead to attacks which put the defence under pressure. Hawks broke on the right side and fired in a cross to the oncoming attacker who picked his spot and placed the ball out of ‘keeper Matt Utton’s reach.
Hawks continued to press and Orpington were rattled in the middle of the park. Loose touches and a loss of composure on the ball saw the ball given away again and Hawks produced another successful attack, cutting the deficit to one goal. Utton changed things up and introduced Butler and Blower into the midfield in an attempt to win the ball back.
With time on their side, Hawks sensed a comeback, but thanks to some strong defending from Rob Utton to hold off Hawks’ number 15 on multiple occasions and Duggan, Knott and Harry Utton’s prowess in the air, the ball was kept away from ‘keeper Matt Utton and no further attacks of note were created. Orpington finished the game strongly with two free kicks from the captain coming close to being converted and a close range effort from Downs saved at point blank range from Hawks’ less than inspiring ‘keeper.
At the final whistle, Orpington had a look of achievement mixed with relief. Manager Matt Utton said, “We made it hard on ourselves. Yes I’m disappointed with some of the challenges in the second half…and I would much have preferred a clean sheet. However, we have 3 points and to be honest I don’t think I would care if every performance was like that if we keep grinding out win after win after win.”
Orpington can go into the international break to reflect on the lesson they almost got taught, but the sense of accomplishment should not be unrecognised and Orpington deserved to record their first win after a dominant first half display secured them all 3 points. This will only make the team stronger and further embed the belief in their proficiency as a unit.
Orpington’s next match is away against FC United of Bromley, Sunday 29th November, kick off 10:30.