Boyd-Clark scores but Harpenden draw with Upminster
Two of last season relegated teams shared the spoils as Harpenden and Upminster started life East League 2S with a 1-1 draw.
Harpenden began strongly at Woollams, with skipper Russell Timms, Lance Boyd-Clark and Danny Burgess dominating in midfield. The hosts quickly began to fashion a series of chances and half-chances around the Upminster goal and the keeper had to be on top form to keep Harpenden out.
He made a fine smothering save at the feet of Reece Baker-Kiff, who had attempted an audacious reverse stick flick from the centre of the circle, and was relieved to see a slap-shot from Burgess go narrowly wide.
A slick Harpenden short corner routine saw the keeper dive to his right to palm away a powerful, goal-bound Jamie Oliver flick. While, at the other end, Upminster could find no way through an excellent Harpenden defence. Tom Bunbury, in particular, was outstanding, marshalling his fellow defenders and, with fellow full-back Oliver, cutting out every attempted through ball.
With the half looking destined to finish in deadlock, a piece of individual skill from Boyd-Clark brought the first goal. A great through ball from Burgess in the inside-right channel left Boyd-Clark with a defender to beat five yards outside the circle. He deftly cut inside a lunging tackle to drive into the circle. As the keeper rushed out, he drilled in a low shot from the top of the circle, just inside the keeper’s right hand post.
The second half was an altogether scrappier affair. Upminster tightened up defensively and, with less space to run into in and around the circle, chances dried up for Harpenden. Even so, the Upminster keeper remained by far the busier of the two.
The best opportunity of the half came when Ali Barrett burst into the circle from the left. He took the ball around the onrushing keeper, only to find he was then forced too far wide to convert the chance.
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As the half wore on Upminster were able to apply more pressure at the other end. Unlike in the first half, their forward line, when not in possession, pressed the Harpenden defence much more effectively. Denied an easy outlet from the back, Harpenden several times surrendered possession around the edge of their own circle.
A late goal mouth scramble from one such turnover resulted in the Upminster equaliser and a share of points.