A lot has changed in the last year. 12 months ago I was still just expecting to be a father, now I’m 10 months into fatherhood. It’s also been an eventful year for two local clubs. Early in 2018, I saw struggling Ware, heavily outnumbered in the stands and giving away lots of possession, defeat local rivals Hertford in a resilient display.
A few months later, on the Easter weekend, I followed Waltham Abbey down to Canvey Island where they were well beaten as their positive start to the season faded away. Now, as we approach the final days of the year fortunes have improved for both sides. They met at Capershotts for the last footballing action of 2018.
Happier times in the South Central Division
Both these two sides were playing their football in the tough North Division last season. They struggled despite some brief highlights throughout the year. They were two of four sides that were then moved over to the brand new South Central Division in the summer’s restructure, the other two being fellow local sides Cheshunt and Hertford Town. The four clubs all finished within six league places last season with Ware and Abbey being the lower two in 20th and 19th places respectively.
The second half of 2018 has, however, seen a marked improvement. Ware, in their new surroundings and with a new 3G pitch to boot, have been steadily improving. Their progress was confirmed with a recent 7-2 thrashing of promotion challengers Bracknell Town. Waltham Abbey have also found the new division to their liking. The Abbotts were second going into the game two points ahead of their local rivals Cheshunt.
Waltham Abbey appointed former Thurrock manager Mark Stimson in the summer. Stimson saw them win seven of their first eight league games and establish themselves as one of the teams to watch in the division. His quick turnaround of the side, however, saw him get noticed. He was tempted away by AFC Hornchurch at the end of November. Midfielder Billy Holland and Michael Spencer took charge temporarily. They’ve kept the ship sailing with three wins out of four in December, including an impressive away win over promotion challengers Marlow.
Ware beat Abbotts to end year on a high
A chilly but dry day ensured the crowd was healthy for this fixture that fell in that awkward period between Christmas and New Year. A few names quickly jumped off the teamsheet from
The game was the first between the two this season, but we don’t have to look too far for some recent clashes. Ware won the first meeting between the two in August last season while Abbey won 3-1 at Capershotts on Boxing Day in the return fixture.
Ware’s young former Enfield striker Brandon Adams was looking to continue his goalscoring run and he showed some assured touches in the opening exchanges. Ware started brighter in their orange away shirts, that reminded me I hadn’t received any satsumas in my stocking this year. Abbey took longer to get into the game but had some joy in the wide areas.
The biggest scare for the visitors, however, came when the ball evaded Page’s boot as the Ware keeper tried to make a clearance. He was, however, able to retrieve the ball before it made it to his goal line. A few mins later Page was in action again as he came out and got a touch to a long hopeful ball. Aristidou attempted a lob with the resulting loose ball but was unable to give the home side the lead.
Moments later Ware had the lead through a well worked corner. It was played short and Adu got on the end of it after a clever near-post run. His header was too accurate for Johnson who couldn’t keep it out of the net. Ware’s lead didn’t last too long even thought there was a half-time break. Assombalonga brought Abbey level just after the players returned to the field. He was played in on the right hand side of the box and drove the ball into the bottom corner.
The Abbotts then began to take control of the game. They looked the more threatening side and were pushing high up the pitch. Ware counted with a few balls over the top to force the Waltham Abbey defenders back a little. It seemed to work and they soon had some more space in the middle for counter attacks.
An equal contest was soon settled, again by an Adu header. Another excellent set-piece saw the striker, one of the more diminutive players on the field, aim another excellent header past Johnson. Abbey fought on until the end, but Ware had just shaded the contest and earned the three points. Ware go eighth, just seven points off the Abbotts who drop to fourth. Holland and Spencer’s efforts were rewarded after the game, despite the result, as they were offered the managerial reigns on a longer-term basis.
That concludes the local football for 2018. Happy New Year!