Typical Cockmannings Lane weather greeted the squad as they gathered prior to kick whilst the parents sheltered in their cars. This was the third match of the season against Orpington and Sevenoaks have triumphed in the previous outings but both games were full of incident. The fallout from the end of the previous game where Sevenoaks secured a late winner meant that a similar hard tussle was expected.
The rain had cleared by the kick off and Sevenoaks began as brightly as the sunshine that bathed the pitches. They were passing the ball around very confidently and moving it well around the pitch and this play lead to the first chance after just a few minutes, a cross from the right flashing across the goal before Conor Gilmartin put it back in from the left.
The opener came after 10 minutes and was a tribute to the team’s persistence, as one attack broke down, the ball was recycled and Kai Okulaja, who was already giving the Orpington defence something of a headache, popped in a delightful cross and Josh Penfold was on hand to nod the ball over the line.
It was as much as Sevenoaks deserved as they were very much in control and looked dangerous going forward especially on the break whenever Orpington’s own attacks fell short against the away team’s resolute defence. However, they were spurning good opportunities and should have been three or four up by the break if they had taken them. The hope was that they wouldn’t pay for these misses.
Orpington were the sharper team at the start of the second half as Sevenoaks came out of the blocks a little lethargically after the half-time oranges. They had lost the shape they had in the first half and there was little pattern to their play. Orpington felt they were in with a chance to get back into the game, the ‘Oaks would have to switch on quickly if they wanted to get something from this match.
Just as with the first half, the 10 minute mark was the turning point in the second. Eddie Lane took a free kick on the edge of the box but it bounced straight back to him. He then took it upon himself to deal with most of the opposition defence. Moving towards the centre he dived into the box and skipped a number of challenges before smashing the ball past the goalkeeper as a reward for a tremendous run and to double Sevenoaks lead. This was just what they needed as it reflected their superiority but Orpington weren’t giving up.
Before long they pulled a goal back. Sevenoaks got a little sloppy and handed the home team the initiative by failing to clear their lines. It was a soft goal but they regrouped and got the wind in their sails. Josh Penfold and Harvey Hollingsbee went close before a superb third goal appeared to secure the win. The team had threatened on the counter throughout the match and they turned defence into a goal in a matter of seconds. Joe Benfield, breaking up yet another Orpington attack passed to Gilmartin who drove forward before laying off to Lane. His cross field pass found Okulaja who picked out a perfect cross to again find Penfold for his second headed goal of the game. What a move!
A second Orpington strike would have put the pressure back on but Sevenoaks were in the ascendency and were looking to increase their lead on every opportunity. As the clock ticked down Dan Knowles with a good turn and shot made it four with the excellent Okulaja again being the provider.
The win was now secure and Sevenoaks progress into the next round of the Shield. Orpington will be happy not to see this team again.
The Blues will go into the final game of the year next Sunday determined to finish the first half of the season unbeaten and top of the table.