Saturday 29th July 2017 – The Stuart Bingham Stadium, Basildon
By Andy Wilkins / @andywilkins2015
My first Essex Senior League game saw me visit The Stuart Bingham Stadium aka Gardiners Close for the first time to see Basildon United vs Clapton.
The two sides previously met back last season back on 3rd January this year with a 4-0 win for Clapton whilst taking place at Clapton’s The Old Spotted Dog ground.
Both teams have had changes since they last played each other last season. An example is that Basildon have seen the arrival of Marc Harrison and Liam Wallace from Essex Olympian League side Basildon Town following the departure of Aaron Bloxham as Manager whilst Clapton have seen a number of additions being made to the squad that finished 2nd last season whilst they’ve also managed to keep hold of their management duo of Jon Fowell and Andre Thomas.
The game started in good spirits and it was Basildon who took the early chances in the first few minutes whilst plenty of possession. It was evident that Basildon preferred the high long ball whilst Clapton preferred to play the ball low on the wet pitch in a bid to break down their host’s defence in this game.
Basildon’s first main attack came after 14 minutes when a high ball came through and was swept across the face of the goal with a header just going wide of the goal before 13 minutes later saw the Bees got their deserved lead with a goal from Tommy Barton following a high corner where he headed the ball into the top right corner which was met by various cheers from the Basildon fans.
After that goal, Clapton slowly tried to get themselves back into the game with their low-ball tactic being used however they didn’t appear to be a massive threat at the Basildon goal at all given the solid defence from the hosts proved to be far too great for the away attackers.
Basildon continued to push on over the next few minutes from their one-goal lead with midfielder Charlie Kendall breaking from the Clapton defence where he went 1 on 1 with the Clapton keeper before curling a shot over which then hit the crossbar only for the Clapton defence to scramble the ball away from their penalty area. Clapton had been spared again.
It also feels best to mention that throughout the game, the Clapton Ultras were in superb form in terms of creating noise. If anything, the prospect of them having brought a coach load of fans to the ground just showed how much this game meant to them and how much supporting their team means to them.
The second-half was a much livelier affair off the pitch and in the stands with Basildon fans creating an equal amount of noise to their travelling counterparts from London whilst in the early moments, the hosts were trying to create a few good long crosses which didn’t get met by their attackers at first. In fact the first attempt of these was in the 52nd minute.
2 minutes later and after a scrappy attack by Basildon, Marcus Bowers, who had impressed during pre-season for the Bees, scored a close-range goal which was forced through the Clapton defence. It gave Basildon the breathing space required to extend their lead further and pretty much, seal off the game completely and secure the 3 points.
Clapton continued to improve following the 2nd goal where they played some good passive football but they were not unfortunately close to starting a revival at any point of the 2nd half.
Basildon kept up the good play throughout the second half and it appeared they wanted to even make it 3-0 at points throughout the half but it became very apparent after that second goal that the game started to lose its tone and pace that we had seen in the first half I felt.
It wasn’t until the final few minutes of the game came along when Basildon nearly made it 3-0 when a low header was crossed in and was met by a light save by the Clapton goalkeeper who subsequently put it out for a corner. That following corner proved to be of no importance.
The final whistle went a few moments later which was met by the cheers from the few Basildon fans who had seen Marc Harrison’s reign as Basildon manager start off well whilst the Clapton Ultras congratulated Basildon on their win which was very well deserved.
This was the lift that Basildon needed following their pre-season schedule and they finished the day in 4th place. It appears to me that new chairman Lee Connor has really laid some fantastic foundations that are worth visiting to see alongside the hard work that Marc and his assistant Liam have also done over pre-season.
As for Clapton, they showed during the game that they have got that quality from last season still even after this game. They will be hoping to bounce back on Wednesday night when they go down the road to Cricklefield to take on local island rivals Ilford FC who won 5-0 against Woodford Town in their opening fixture.
I would like to thank both Basildon and Clapton for their fantastic hospitality and I would like to wish both teams the best of luck for the future.