Cringe-banter and ungracious gestures from the touchline aside, Saturday was good. Clapton bossed and dictated the game throughout against a boisterous Wadham Lodge. They weathered a jittery, quick-draw lino and another disallowed goal, kept focussed until they finally broke through and won the game comfortably. James Briggs and the unsung Roddy Lemba were both positive, scoring subs from Mike, suggesting a confidence in the team to go on and finish off an opponent they have on the back foot.
It’s been talking points aplenty on Twitter since the game finished and it would be churlish (although they’ve done it anyway) for Wadham to deny that Briggs’ second half penalty was due. The most positive thing about Saturday, though, was that the win always felt in our hands. Unlike the reverse fixture in November where after a strong first half, a few decisions going against us, Clapton shrank, subbed off influential players and sat back. This time, the players continued to grow into the game for the full 90.
It’s going to have to be more of the same for Clapton for our trip up the Central Line in the London Senior Cup. We haven’t been to Oakside since 2012, although could’ve been league visitors this season had it not been for a last minute convoluted happening. As the printer ink dried on the fixtures in June, Ware had to move across to the Southern League, replacing Clevedon, who suddenly failed the ground standards test. So saving Redbridge who’d finished in the relegation places in the Ryman North. Still reading?
It looks as though The Motormen are going to need another administrative escape plan this season. They’re currently second from bottom, having just lost four on the bounce, the most recent to our old pals, Great Wakering Rovers. Redbridge’s troubles arguably started when they decided their route up the table was to raid half of London Bari’s first team in 2013, as well as early Clapton Ultras’ cult hero, Saiid Jaffa. Bari have just now about stabilized themselves, Jaffa never returned from an injury he picked up there, Redbridge are still struggling.
For all their recent losing habits, it wasn’t long ago that Redbridge FC made the 1st round proper of the FA Cup. In 2011, still one step above Clapton, they knocked out Ebbsfleet & Oxford City before going out to then runaway League Two leading moneybags, Crawley Town, after six preliminary rounds. Anyone’s who’s bored of playing Stanway Rovers will know how difficult that is to achieve. Redbridge finished sixth in the Ryman North that season, although have scrapped at the bottom of the league since that peak.
Given Redbridge’s league form, Clapton should fancy a go at an upset. There is still a sizeable gap in budgets between the Ryman and the Essex Senior League, although Burnham Ramblers haven’t imposed much since their relegation. New ‘keeper Yakup Seyer, arrived from Billericay Town, impressed on his debut, gives us healthy options in goal. Freddie Morris seemed to enjoy playing back in his favoured holding midfield position on Saturday, while Warren Mfula appears to be on his way back to full speed up front.
The prize for Clapton, getting through this round, is a bit of a glamour game, a Quarter Final away to Wingate & Finchley. The Tons haven’t won this competition since 1911, Redbridge (before their rebrand from Ford United) won it in 2001. As we saw with VCD in the last round, though, priorities are often elsewhere for teams struggling to cling on in divisions fast moving away from them. Redbridge minds could be elsewhere, although I reckon it’s unlikely their bench will flip us the middle finger if things don’t go their way.
Red Menace Player To Watch: Abdul Abdeen; has impressed a lot since being given his chance in the first team, after catching the coaching staff’s eye with his blistering pace in training. He nabbed the winner against London Bari at the turn of the year from Left-Back
Red Menace Score Prediction: 1-1, Clapton to win on penalties; Will definitely be a tight game, both teams have similar strength squads and I see it going all the way to the death.