EASTWOOD Town end an awful season with defeat at Bishop’s Stortford.
Blue Square Bet North
BISHOP’S STORTFORD 4
Sebastian Dunbar 11
Dwight Gayle 60, 74, 78pen
EASTWOOD TOWN 0
by Andy Cope
The curtain finally came down on Eastwood’s three-year stay in the Blue Square North as the Badgers crashed to another heavy defeat in Hertfordshire.
It was apt that the final team selection would mirror the car crash of a season the Badgers have suffered, as five players failed to travel for various reasons, which left goalkeeper Ian Deakin as a lone substitute who even ended up coming on up front for the last half-an-hour.
The travelling Eastwood faithful would have been forgiven for fearing the worst, but the team acquitted themselves well in the first-half.
After a quiet opening, which saw both sides struggling to cope with the saturated pitch, Stortford took the lead with the first real attack of the game.
A stray pass from assistant manager Richard Cooper could only find Stortford’s Ryan Melaugh who pulled the ball back from the by-line to striker Reece Prestedge who was 25 yards out.
The striker waited for the impressive overlapping full-back Sebastian Dunbar, played the ball into his path and the defender smashed the ball past Sam Andrew.
Eastwood captain Gavin Caines missed a good chance to give the Badgers an immediate response when he headed wide from a corner.
Andrew was alert to tip over a fierce drive from Dwight Gayle and he was off his line quickly when Dunbar released Paco Craig to beat the midfielder to the ball.
Stortford’s striker Gayle was causing the defence plenty of problems with his pace, and winger Harry Milton should have done better when he smashed the ball against the crossbar after Gayle rolled the ball into his path.
Alex Troke had a chance to take the Badgers into half-time on level terms but his shot from the edge of the box just went wide.
If the Badgers had done well in the first-half, they were on the back foot from the start of the second.
Gayle drilled the ball across goal in the opening seconds, and the diminutive striker, who was to equal and then beat the Stortford’s goal scoring record for a season, was only inches away from reaching Prestedge’s cross.
David Haggerty was then in the right place at the right time to clear a corner off the line as the hosts looked to end their season on a high.
The second goal came soon after when Melaugh flicked on a clearance to release Gayle who outpaced the defence, drew Andrew to the edge of the box and planted the ball into the corner of the net.
That goal signalled the introduction of goalkeeper Deakin as a striker, but with the home team sensing blood, I doubt if Eastwood had played with two keepers it would have had any effect on the scoreline.
Craig had a good header well saved by Andrew and Melaugh fired wide when well placed, before Gayle’s second goal and Stortford’s third came in the 73rd minute as Prestedge was given the time to turn in the box and pick out the unmarked striker to score his 41st goal of the campaign to equal Stortford’s record for a season.
Andrew again made a fine save to deny Dunbar, but Stortford weren’t to be denied and scored their fourth two minutes later.
Sam Benjamin clipped Prestedge in the box and no keeper would have got close to Gayle’s excellent spot kick.
Stortford keeper Jordan Archer, who had largely been a spectator, pulled off a superb save to deny Danny Elliott as the Badgers started to spend a bit of time in the opposition’s half.
But in the dying seconds it was Eastwood’s keeper Andrew who pulled off one last save to deny substitute Max Lette Jallow, and as the ball spun loose Cooper produced a last ditch clearance to deny the same player.
Despite the result there were a few notable performances from a makeshift team.
Gavin Caines took the responsibility of the captain’s armband to heart and led from the front, while Richard Cooper turned back the clock and put in a solid performance, winning the admiration of the Stortford supporters after attending to a youngster in the crowd who was felled by a clearance.
Josh Raven stuck to his task despite being overrun on occasions by Stortford’s two wide players and he prevented many crosses going into the box.
However, the best Badger was Sam Andrew who was superb all match and who Eastwood fans will hope the club can keep at Coronation Park for next season.
Eastwood: 1 Sam Andrew 2 Josh Raven 3 Sam Benjamin 4 Richard Cooper 5 David Haggerty 6 Gavin Caines 7 Nelson Burgess 8 Danny Elliott 9 Alex Troke 10 Tyler Witton 11 Wes Henry (Ian Deakin 60)
Ref: M Buonassisi
Best Badger: Sam Andrew