Belvedere FC, Sunday 20th March, 2pm K.O
Report by Mick Cain
VINTAGE CLARETS were back in action for the first time in 2016, against a Kenanks side looking to claim their first victory over the Clarets in 3 attempts.
The first game of the season is always tough, with many of the former Clarets professionals not involved in regular competitive football anymore, apart from the odd five-a-side here and there.
And that was the case in this game, with an element of rustiness to the Clarets play in the opening stages.
With a strong squad to choose from, they lined up in a familiar 4-4-2 formation with Chris Pearce starting in goal, with Chris Clarke and Dennis Hill operating at full back, alongside Gerry Harrison and Chris Scott in defence. Midfield saw a debut for Eamon Kelly on the right, with David Eyres on the left, and Alex Kevan partnering Paul Weller in the centre of midfield. Up front, a new partnership of Peter Mumby and Brad Maylett completed the lineup.
The pitch was quite bobbly which contributed to the cagey start, as the Clarets looked to find their rhythm by keeping the ball and having the opposition chasing as often as possible.
Despite that, there were chances in the opening few minutes as Maylett and Mumby got in behind the defence but couldn’t quite hit the target.
That all changed in the 8th minute though when Maylett was played in by Kevan, and he drew the keeper and squared across the 6 yard box for Weller to tap home the opener.
Then came the onslaught! Chance after chance went begging with Maylett guilty of missing a one on one with the keeper after taking on 3 defenders.
The pressure paid off on 27 minutes when neat play at the back brought the opposition high up the pitch, then the Clarets struck the decisive blow with a delightful through ball from Kevan to set Mumby away unchallenged, and he cooly rounded the keeper to slot home.
Kenanks could feel hard done to at that point because they were still in the game but were struggling to create any real attacking threat, such was the standard of the Clarets defending. Harrison and Scott were very organised and repelled almost everything that the home side could throw at them in the air.
There was, however, some joy for Kenanks in the wide areas with their youthful exuberance and pace, and following a good passing move on 41 minutes, after an attack down their right flank, the ball was worked across the penalty box for John Harding to fire home into the bottom corner.
And with time running out, there was still a chance for the Clarets as the ball was worked into the box from the right, Maylett squared for Mumby to tap into the net but he somehow managed to sky his effort over the top (to be fair he was leaning back)!
The Clarets headed into the half time break with their lead intact and made a number of changes for the second half, with Dickie Lee replacing Chris Pearce, Isfaq Hussein replacing Chris Clarke, Jason Heffernan replacing Eamon Kelly, Graham Lancashire replacing Paul Weller, and Roger Eli replacing Peter Mumby.
The second half was played at a much slower pace as the Clarets played up the hill, but looked to retain the ball as often as they could and force the opposition to work hard.
John Deary soon joined the action by replacing Brad Maylett with 20 minutes to go, slotting into midfield alongside Kevan with Eyres moving back into a wide role.
Chances were at a premium, but the home side did go close on a couple of occasions, until Roger Eli ghosted into the area with a great chance, but fired his shot too close to the keeper on 75 minutes.
Not long after though on 80 minutes, the Clarets got a third goal, and it was worth the wait.
A corner on the left was taken quickly and played neatly to the edge of the box for the on rushing Jason Heffernan, who slammed the ball in the the roof of the net with a fierce left foot drive.
That was pretty much game over, as the game petered out with the Clarets again playing keep ball in midfield as Kevan, Eyres and Deary ran the clock down.
And at the final whistle, all players gathered for post match photos and signed autographs for the fans before heading into the clubhouse for the charity auction and raffle.
Nick Carter of Kenanks UTD, later confirmed that the day had been a huge success with an estimated £1900 raised towards getting the Belvedere FC U9s team a trip of a life-time to play at the Nou Camp in Barcelona.
Well done Nick, it was a pleasure to be a part of such a successful event!