A tense game in South East London ended in Sevenoaks favour as they overcame a shortage of numbers to record another victory as they pursue the league title.
The ‘Oaks could only muster nine players owing to injuries, illnesses and other engagements so began the game at a serious disadvantage to their hosts. Sevenoaks didn’t need to be overawed by the challenge given the quality of their play this season as well as having put seven goals past Beckenham only a few weeks ago but it would take a lot of hard work and concentration for the whole 80 minutes to get something from this match. A good result was vital as they didn’t want to surrender any benefits to Croydon in the race for the top spot.
They took the initiative, believing that attack was the best form of attack and Kai Okulaja was the focal point early doors. His speed, strength and sheer determination was giving the opposition defence nightmares and a typical driving run nearly brought an opener for Sevenoaks after 15 minutes when his cross from the by-line was nearly bundled in by a defender.
The match was quite scrappy but Beckenham weren’t making the most of their numerical advantage and Sevenoaks were getting the best chances. The away team’s makeshift defence was coping with the home sides attacks whilst Danny Sole and Brandon Parsons were heavily involved when Sevenoaks pushed forward.
On 30 minutes, Sevenoaks took the lead. Brandon floated over a tempting corner and amidst a scramble in the box, Kai was on hand to prod the ball over the line. It was a well deserved goal for him and the rest of the team, given the circumstances they faced.
A few minutes before half time the lead was doubled. Okulaja picking up a super through ball and attacked the defence. He cut the ball back for Sole to meet it just a few yards out to make it 2-0 at the break. It had been a superb first 40 minutes for the team. Beckenham had been taken by surprise but they would have to do all over again and be on their mettle for the next period.
The hosts stepped up their game from the whistle and took the game to the visitors. Within five minutes they had clawed one back. Sevenoaks were unable to clear the ball as it pinged around the box and Beckenham were suddenly back in the game much to the delight of the home supporters.
This goal marked a change in attitude for the home team as they finally realised the benefits of playing 11 vs 9. Sevenoaks were being stretched but still held firm. The defence was working overtime but George Porter was secure in goal. Theo Tite was taking no chances and calmly dealing with matters down the right, Joe Ashton was working really hard breaking up attacks in the middle of defence and Joe Benfield was getting in key tackles and a vital goalline clearance. Danny Knowles, playing in the unfamiliar left back position restricted chances down that side of the pitch including a handy Scorpion kick just as it looked like the Beckenham forward was past him.
The away side were working without a central striker and their forwards, whilst looking dangerous when they had the chance, were not shirking their defensive responsibilities either. Harvey Hollingsbee was excellent in tracking back to add support to the defence as it was hard for Sevenoaks to effect control of the game whilst Danny Sole epitomised the effort of the team, he posed a threat in attack but was there in defence too putting his body and his head in the way of Beckenham players and shots. He looked to have made it safe for Sevenoaks by following up a fine free kick from Parsons, he was first to the rebound off the bar but was controversially adjudged to have been offside.
Although angered by the decision Sevenoaks had to keep their focus as Beckenham still believed they could get a leveller. It was often “backs to the wall” time for the visitors, as they began to tire but their work ethic prevailed, Beckenham were mainly reduced to long distant shots which Porter covered and with judicious game management the clock was running down. Okulala continued to strike fear into the opposing defenders and it was only alert goalkeeping that kept him from adding to the scoreline.
As the game entered the last couple of minutes, Beckenham got more desperate, roared on from both sides of the pitch but to no avail. The ‘Oaks were soaking up the pressure, the final whistle blew and the Magnificent Nine had done it. They had confounded the odds and come away with a thoroughly deserved victory reflecting the skill, effort, spirit and maturity they have shown all season long. They will need to show this resolve one more time as the result sets the scene for the vital table topping season finale next week against Croydon Athletic. A game not to be missed.