Clarke curls home late winner as Burnham beat derby rivals Holyport

Firas Chniba

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Burnham 3, Holyport 2

There was a new manager bounce for Burnham this afternoon as they beat local rivals Holyport 3-2 at The 1878 Stadium in Ben Murray's first match in charge.

Both sides more than played their part in an entertaining game which saw momentum swing from the hosts to the visitors and back to the home side again across an absorbing 90 minutes.

Playing with an extra spring in their step in the opening 20 minutes, the Blues raced into a two-goal lead thanks to Nasar Bakare's brace, although Holyport have justifiable questions over whether his second goal should have stood.

Wounded by a sense of injustice, Holyport clawed their way back into contention in the latter stages of the first half before dominating the second period to draw level with goals from Kickie Dzimba and substitute Tobi Shoyoye.

It looked like Derek Sweetman's side might go on and pocket all three points until Dwayne Clarke cut inside his man and curled home a sumptuous winner with around 10 minutes to play, and the Blues held on to end a run of three straight defeats.

It's been an unsettled season at The 1878 Stadium, at least in the dugout with Murray taking over from Manny Williams to become the Blues third manager this season. He watched last weekend's 3-1 defeat to Wokingham & Emmbrook but had the chance to implement a few of his own ideas on the training field this week.

In the first half an hour it seemed the Blues had the extra impetus that often follows the arrival of a new manager. Nasar Bakare fired them ahead in the opening minutes, touching home a cross from the left to give Port keeper Fred Chapman no chance.

Their second a few minutes later was more than a little controversial and the Holyport management team and supporters will still be wondering how it was given.

Again, it was Bakare who was the scorer, sliding in at the far post to touch home Firas Chniba's low cross, but, just as it seemed the ball had crossed the line, the player went crashing into the goal post, moving the whole frame backwards by about a yard. It's unclear if the ball crossed the line before the goalposts were moved, but, after consulting with his linesman, that's what referee Daniel Bishop decided, and the Blues claimed a two-goal lead.

They might have had more in an electric opening 20-minute spells. Chniba stole the ball off Jack Woodbridge and raced in on Chapman's goal, but his swept the ball just wide of the upright.

Port woke up shortly after and began to make a game of it in the latter stages of the half. Dan Wilson headed over a couple of set-pieces, with the Blues struggling to get to grips with the visitors’ aerial dominance. Wilson missed a great chance to reduce the deficit on the half-hour, when he failed to turn home Matt Burnett's free-kick from close range, but the Blues held out to half-time with their two goal lead intact.

Port served notice of their intent when Dzimba raced through in the 46th minute, but his shot was smothered by Carl Dennison.

The Blues could have killed the game off shortly before the hour mark when Chniba pulled the ball back for Leo Decabo in front of goal with only Chapman to beat. But somehow, with the whole of the goal to aim at, he fired straight at Chapman.

It proved a key moment in the match as Holyport hit back a couple of minutes later. Having won a corner on the right, the ball was swung into the box and Dzimba directed an excellent header beyond Dennison. The goal revived the visitors hopes and, for a 10-minute spell, they peppered the hosts goal with shots and attempts.

Dzimba saw a shot from distance pawed behind in slightly unconvincing fashion by Dennison and Ben Mulley scuffed a great chance wide in the 70th minute from Ashley Hunt's lay off. Wilson sent another presentable header wide a couple of minutes later, to cap off a wasteful day in front of goal for the defender, but a second deservedly arrived for Port in the 75th minute when Shoyoye turned his man on the edge of the box and thumped a rasping drive past Dennison.

Both sides might have settled for a point at that stage, however, the Blues grasped back the initiative with around 10 minutes to play when Clarke finished off a flowing Burnham move with a beautiful curling shot that gave Chapman no chance.

Port pressed again, but rather more desperately in the closing stages, and the Blues might have had another on the break when Chapman saved again from Decabo who had been put through on goal.

The result sees Burnham move level on points with 12th placed Spelthorne Sports, while Holyport drop back to the bottom of the Combined Counties Premier Division North table, following CB Hounslow United’s surprise 0-0 draw with St Panteleimon. Port host St Panteleimon next Saturday while Burnham travel to Tadley Calleva.

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