Canvey Island rounded off their pre-season campaign with an impressive 4-2 victory away to BetVictor Isthmian League South Central side Waltham Abbey on Saturday.
At a windy and at times wet Capershotts, Canvey produced an excellent first half performance to send them into the league season next Saturday with confidence.
The Gulls started brightly and created some good early chances, all of which involving Tobi Joseph to some degree.
In the second minute the Waltham Abbey goalkeeper hit an attempted clearance straight at Tobi Joseph who was closing him down. For a moment it looked as though Joseph would retain possession, but the ball just got away from him and allowed the keeper to spare his blushes.
Two minutes later George Purcell met Kane Gilbert’s corner with a flick-on header at the front post which found the feet of Joseph on the edge of the six-yard box. Had Joseph been able to shoot first time then the net would have surely bulged, but instead he took a touch which allowed a defender to clear.
On 11 minutes Joseph scooped the ball into the box from the left which found the run of Albert Levett. He headed it on for Josh Hutchinson to collect, but his shot went across goal and narrowly wide of the far post.
Canvey took the lead a minute later when a through ball down the right released Tobi Joseph in behind the Abbotts defence. Joseph skipped the ball past the advancing goalkeeper and then a defender before shooting into an empty net from 12 yards.
The hosts equalised immediately when they were awarded a free kick in a central position, 30 yards from the Canvey goal. The ball was floated into the back post where #5 did brilliantly to keep it in play with a diving header. His header found #8 who was unmarked and able to slot home underneath Lamar Johnson.
The Gulls regained the lead on 24 minutes when a cross-field ball was played to George Purcell on the right. With only Tobi Joseph inside the area and Albert Levett trying to join him, Purcell took the ball infield and clipped a delightful shot across goal and in at the far post.
It was 3-1 on 32 minutes when a good through ball from the left by Josh Hutchinson allowed Purcell to run in behind the Waltham Abbey defence. He made his way into the box but was tripped by #4 for an obvious penalty. Purcell stepped up himself and sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot.
Purcell completed a first half hattrick five minutes later when his former-Hornchurch strike partner Tobi Joseph played the ball to him across the area from the left. Purcell pulled the trigger from 20 yards with his left foot, picking out the bottom corner and beating the keeper who was diving low to his left.
Purcell nearly scored a fourth with three minutes remaining in the first half when Alex Stephenson crossed low from the left. Tobi Joseph stepped over the ball for Purcell to strike, with his shot deflecting off a defender and behind for a corner.
By comparison, the second half was a quieter affair, taking until the 66th minute for either side to have a meaningful shot on goal.
Kane Gilbert lined up a free kick from all of 30 yards, using the strong wind that was blowing towards the Waltham Abbey goal to smash the ball off the top of the crossbar with the goalkeeper merely a spectator.
This moment seemed to spark the game back into life, and soon afterwards the Abbotts’ #2 drilled a shot into the side netting having being played into the box down the right.
The home side reduced the arrears on 72 minutes when #2 collected the ball in a similar position. This time headed towards goal, squaring across the face of goal for #14 to slide in and force the ball over the line from close range.
Both sides had chances in the 74th minute. First, Kane Gilbert narrowly lost a foot race with the goalkeeper to chase down a ball that was heading towards an open goal, with the keeper just about managing to pounce on the ball before Gilbert good tuck it away.
Soon afterwards a ball down the right drew Lamar Johnson off his line. He did enough to prevent #7 from getting his shot off, but when he played it back for #2 he had an unguarded goal to aim for. He attempted a lob from 25 yards which went couple of yards over the crossbar.
With four minutes remaining a long ball forward for the hosts was difficult to judge for Elliott Warren due to the windy conditions. #7 beat Warren to the ball and broke into the box, but a superb tackle from James White prevented him from getting a shot off. #7 regained possession and did manage to hit the target at the second time of asking, but his effort hit the legs of Lamar Johnson to save.
LISTEN: Mark Bentley Post-Match Interview