Orpington Athletic got off to the worst possible start in their season opener against South London Doves. With manager, Matt Utton, absent due to a prior engagement, the team were put to the sword and suffered an embarrassing 6-1 defeat.
With hopes high for their second season in Division 5 of the Metropolitan Sunday Football League, Orpington were ready to take their good pre-season form into their first game away to the Doves. The opposition, having suffered defeat in their season opener a week previous, were also looking to get their first 3 points, which set the stage for what should have been a much closer encounter.
Doves kicked off and both teams immediately tried to stamp their mark on the game. A few early, strong challenges saw a few players from either side warned by the referee, as the teams tried to find their rhythm. But it was Doves, within 10 minutes who took the lead. A ball across the back of the Orpington defenders, saw the Doves forward take a touch and, with stand in ‘keeper, Dave Hart, caught flat footed, place the ball firmly into the back of the net.
Doves continued to press and forced a second attack almost immediately. A quick break and an identical ball across the back line was finished off with a calm finish just underneath Orpington’s ‘keeper.
Orpington were starting to get a foothold in the game at this point, after what had been a sluggish start, and were able to mount a few attacks of their own. The striking partnership of Downs and Turner was gelling well and the former was unlucky to see a good move end in his shot ricochet of the far upright. A lesson to be learnt in following in, may have seen Orpington turn in their first goal. Turner was also unlucky to see his audacious overhead kick attempt fail to achieve the desired contact.
At half time, stand in manager, Rob Utton, opted for a change at the back in order to force a more pacey, attacking approach up the right hand side, looking for Jamieson and Leach to run the wing with Collins replacing Sims in the back four. However, the change did not stop Doves coming out and scoring early on in the second half. 3-0 to the home side.
However, shortly after the third goal, Orpington started to play the ball around well and a quick break from Haden down the left hand side saw him play a great pass into Rob Utton, who in turn played in Downs in the 18 yard box, seeing the number 7 score his first goal of the season with a well taken volley.
With Orpington seemingly on the up, changes were made upfront with McIllmurray replacing Turner, who had been unlucky not to get a great deal of the ball in the second half. Pushing as hard as they could for a second goal, a further change saw Blower come on for Jamieson, giving Orpington 3 striking options up front.
But, the change proved fruitless and Doves mounted 3 further, successful attacks, which were all finished off in surprisingly identical fashion. The two centre forwards were able to stand off of Knott and Collins, latch onto passes around the back from the wing and slot past Hart.
In the minutes that remained, Rob Utton was denied twice by superb saves from Doves' 'keeper at his near posts, but despite plugging away until the end, it was never going to be enough for a tired Orpington team.
At the final whistle, it was a sad sight to see a team that had worked so hard in pre-season, come away with a very disappointing result. Perhaps the result will be used as a catalyst and Orpington will be able to secure their first 3 points, as the Doves did, in the second match of the season.
Orpington’s next fixture will be against Nice Fridge Locomotiv on Sunday 27th September at home, kick off 10:30.