Positional changes, a solid debut and a vastly improved performance saw Orpington unlucky to lose 1-0 to Reifield Vipers, who were notably second best for extended periods of a hard fought match.
Orpington came into their third league match of the season with an attitude and set up that was unrecognisable from their previous cup match. Manager Matt Utton restored brothers Harry and Rob to their well suited positions at centre back, retaining the impressive Duggan at left back, whilst Knott moved out to right back. The midfield switched to a flat 5 and Turner resumed his lone striker position ahead of them.
The changes showed an immediate improvement, with captain, Rob Utton able to relay instructions directly from his player/manager and brother, Matt. In fact, there were very few points in the game in which Utton’s voice could not be heard, praising and challenging his team mates or organising the lines of 4 and 5.
Orpington began the game well and started to control the play, perhaps sometimes guilty of opting for the long ball, but for the most part, seeking out the pass and retaining their well drilled shape. When the ball was lost, it was hunted down and won back. Greta examples of a renewed energy and vigour came from debutant, Tom Butler, playing on the left of the five man midfield. An instant hit with his team mates, Butler will hope to put in similar performances for the remainder of the season.
After 15 minutes, Orpington were forced into an early substitution with Mogridge sustaining a shin injury. Hart came on and immediately slotted into the system being played.
Orpington’s calm and measured approach perhaps cost them chances going forward and they were undone on the half hour by a well taken header from a corner kick by Vipers. Leading against the run of play fired the opposition up slightly, and Orpington saw the half out with some impressive defending, their only chance at the other end coming from a decent cross that Turner was unable to steer towards goal with his head.
Orpington returned to the field for the second half and immediately had the game under control. Passing was improved, communication was improved and commitment to win every ball was improved. Akhtar showed great strength in midfield, Downs was fierce in the tackle and Haden produced the hard and determined performance his team expect. Vipers certainly felt the squeeze and in the last half hour resorted to long shots which did not trouble the keeper. It was evident they were unable to break down the steely defensive line in front of them. However, Orpington were not able to make the pressure pay and few obvious chances in front of goal presented themselves. Both Jamieson and Blower came on as substitutions and performed well, but the goal just would not come. An unfortunate early exit for Butler after a rash Vipers challenge will hopefully see him recover in time for the next match after a great debut.
At the final whistle the better team left the field without picking up the points, but if performances continue in this nature, it shouldn’t be long before Orpington are showing teams exactly what they are capable of.