Published on 8th Nov 2018 by Rachel Garfirth
Southend Men’s 3s: 1 (Baker 67’) Upminster Men’s 5s: 1
For the second week running, Southend Men’s 3rd team scored late on after suffering a post-Halloween scare to grab a share of the spoils. This time, a point was the least the hosts deserved after a smash and grab defeat by Upminster had looked on the cards. Billy Baker scored the equaliser three minutes from time against highly fancied Upminster 5s to keep his side in touch with the promotion hopefuls.
Southend were without regular player/manager Steve Wilkinson, who was serving a touchline ban, with ever-present Jeremy Puncher deputising. The match, which took place at the Chelmsford County High Ground, was the first meeting between the two in-form sides this season.
Southend began brightly, with Billy Baker looking a threat in advanced areas and Michael Fallows and Andy Shute pulling the strings in midfield. Southend forced several early short corners, with Mickey Walsh denied by an excellent reaction save from the Upminster ‘keeper. Ian Richardson thought he had given Blues the lead after playing an advantage and tapping home, but the whistle had already been blown for an Upminster infringement in the area. Upminster then brought out a high quality block from home ‘keeper John Evans as they forayed forward on the counter. The away side were pegged back in their half for long spells as Fallows’ frightening runs continued to terrorise and cause havoc, while wing-back Steve Roach’s overlaps created space and crossing opportunities. Captain Jeremy Puncher then had a goal disallowed, first-time sweeping home an excellent delivery from the right, though the play was brought back as the ball had originally not travelled the required 5 yard distance. Billy Baker showed quick skills in the ‘D’ but was closed down and crowded out well by an experienced Upminster backline. In one of the final actions of the half, defender Lee Evans produced a marauding run around the back of the defence only for his end product to desert him at the crucial moment. For all of Southend’s dominance, the two sides went in at the break all square.
Southend picked up from where they had left off at the start of the second half, and showed a calm temperament as disgruntled Upminster players tested the resolve of the excellent umpire duo of Nikki Wells and Jenny Gallott. As the game wore on, Upminster used time wasting tactics at every opportunity as their players visibly tired and used their experience to hold up the game. Walsh then fired a shot from the tightest of angles which rebounded off the far post and appeared very close to the line.
Billy Baker then fired home after following up an initial shot which had left the ball trapped in the ‘keepers pads - but was denied by an umpire’s call. Following that incident, tempers flared and a melee broke out as the Upminster ‘keeper saw red mist and was given a 2 minute time-out and a final warning. The captains were called in to ease tensions in both sides and play eventually continued.
With Southend’s momentum successfully broken, Upminster saw their opportunity and scored against the run of play. A scrappy deflected effort which came completely out of the blue and left the defence with no chance.
With 10 minutes to go, Southend rallied with Puncher driving forward and finding Walsh, whose clever pass played in Baker, but his sweetly-struck shot went narrowly wide with the ‘keeper well beaten. Then, with three minutes remaining, Southend got the equaliser that their play had more than deserved. Defender Jack Harding initiated the attack, working the ball down the right before his deflected pass was picked up by Puncher, who reacted quickest and turned his marker inside-out in one movement. The winger then played the ball to Fallows who found Baker just inside the ‘D’. Baker then showed neat composure and guile to flick a well-placed effort into the top corner via a slight deflection off a desperate Upminster stick. Baker celebrated with the exuberant fans who had remained positive and supportive throughout a very frustrating period. With limited time remaining, both teams had to settle for a point a-piece and brought a feisty, yet fully competitive, encounter to a close.
Man of the match, sponsored by The Yak and Yeti, went to goal scorer and playmaker Billy Baker, who produced a complete and dominant performance and was unfortunate not to be rewarded with more goals.
After the match, stand-in captain Jeremy Puncher claimed: “This match was always going to be a marker of how far we have come and where we are in this league with relation to the strongest sides. Today, we can be proud of our performance if not satisfied with the result. We will need to be more ruthless in front of goal to win these big games, but that will come if we keep creating the amount of clear chances we did today. We’re putting together a good unbeaten run now and giving ourselves a solid platform to build upon for the season.”
Puncher added: “Baker was superb for us today. I was delighted that he got his goal and with his all-round contribution to the cause.”
Southend Men’s 3s next game is a home fixture on Saturday 10th of November at the Sweyne Park Arena at 1.45p.m.