Orpington performed like winners against South London Doves in a match they were unlucky only to draw.
For a team that has the best defensive record over the last four league matches, Orpington are a tricky team to break down and are now beginning to show signs of the attacking prowess they will require to gain points and climb up the Division 5 table. Manager Matt Utton has firmly established that a 4-5-1 formation, or variants thereof, is the way forward for his team and they are steadily working towards more dominant performances.
The game kicked off with an almost unchanged side, except for the more pressing, attack minded midfield option in Turner and Jamieson reprising his role on the left of midfield. Given the thumping Orpington had received in the reverse fixture, there was definitely a sense that the team in red and black were out for revenge and they started the game fervently, pushing the Doves back and playing some good football in the opposition half. Patience still remains something that needs to develop, but there were better examples of passing and waiting for the opportunities to present themselves. Downs, continuing his role as the lone striker, worked the defensive back line hard and was unlucky not to be rewarded more for his efforts.
Doves were keen to get the ball over the top to their pacey forwards, but the centre back pairing of Rob and Harry Utton is beginning to look somewhat impenetrable as they were first to every ball and firm in the tackle, and with Doves adapting their play down the wing, they still found it difficult to build anything as the full backs, Duggan and Knott, produced equally good displays, extinguishing threats and preventing crosses. It is, therefore, probably expected that the only way Doves were able to score was from a 30 yard wonder strike from their midfield, that was caught perfectly enough to fly into the top corner of the goal, evading the fingertips of ‘keeper, Utton. Doves lead in the game, but were far from in control.
Orpington saw the half out, creating chances and continuing to stifle Doves’ attacks. With no changes at half time, the team returned to the field and put in one of their best displays so far this season. Orpington immediately were in control of the second half, getting the ball down and passing around comfortably. Doves were constantly pushed back and conceded the most corners of any team in a half against Orpington this season. The noise of encouragement and belief that was erupting from the team had the Doves completely rattled and Orpington pressed on. Had it not been for some great saves from Doves’ ‘keeper, Orpington would have been comfortably ahead.
Changes in the second half saw Martin, Mogridge and Blower join the game and their introduction freshened things up further, with more attacks created and further saves forced out of the opposition. Belief never lapsed and with only minutes to go Rob Utton picked out a 60 yard pass to the assiduous Downs up front and with Doves’ inconsistent left back playing him well on side, he tore down on goal to slot the ball home underneath the oncoming ‘keeper. Orpington deservedly levelled the match and fired up by the goal, pushed on for the final minutes.
It could have almost been the perfect ending to the game too, as Orpington created two more fantastic chances. A pinpoint, deep cross from Hart was narrowly missed by the diving header of Downs and Hart was unlucky to see his own header, after some wonderful team play, get tipped over the bar by the ‘keeper. But, it was not all plain sailing to the final whistle, as the defence had to work equally hard to stem the counter attack that Doves were so reliant on. An unbelievable double stop from Harry Utton saw him prevent an almost certain winner from Doves, whilst Matt Utton between the sticks produced some heretical, but equally vital blocks.
The game ended at 1-1 and Doves will certainly have been the more relieved team. Orpington are proving themselves to be a force to be reckoned with, and with the defence looking unlikely to falter, once the forwards convert the chances that are being created, we could start seeing some serious progression up the league table.
Orpington’s next game is away to Petts Wood Hawks on Sunday 15th November, kick off 10:30. Tickets sold out.