Three-goal Clarets seal third-place
On a day of drama in the Vanarama National League South, Chelmsford City ensured a third-place finish with a 0-3 win at Eastbourne Borough.
Scott Fenwick’s header just before the hour-mark put City ahead. The talismanic striker then saw his penalty saved by Mark Smith, but he leapt at the rebound and prodded home from close-range.
Skipper Anthony Church sealed the victory late-on as his point-blanc header snuck past Smith at his near-post.
The trio of goals proved enough to ensure Chelmsford City finished the season in third-place, as Hampton & Richmond failed to beat Truro City, thus confirming a home play-off semi-final against either Braintree Town or Hemel Hempstead.
Knowing that the Clarets must better the Beavers’ result against Truro City by at least one goal, Chelmsford boss Rod Stringer named an attacking team for his side’s visit to Sussex, with Chris Dickson, Kudus Oyenuga and Fenwick forming a powerful attacking trio up-front.
However, it was the hosts who looked more likely to score early-on. Gavin McCallum regularly threatened for the Sports, causing trouble for City with his accurate crosses.
Lloyd Dawes and Jamie Taylor came close to connecting with the winger’s cross but were unable to beat Jake Jessup from close-range.
McCallum had a chance of his own when he cut inside past Jazzi Barnum-Bobb, but his curling shot was held well by Jake Jessup.
The hosts thought they had taken the lead when Dawes unleashed a powerful strike from distance but, fortunately for the Clarets, it struck the post and bounced away from goal.
City had struggled to produce many chances in the majority of the first half, but the visitors had three great chances in the closing minutes.
A loose ball found Dickson inside the area, but he was unable to poke a shot towards goal. City then had a goal disallowed when he headed Dickson’s cross past Smith, with the assistant referee raising his flag for offside.
Dickson then watched one of his trademark curling shots spin marginally off-target. But the Clarets came closest when Fenwick controlled inside the area but slid the ball wide of the goal from six-yards out.
Having been frustrated by Eastbourne’s resolute defence, the Clarets eventually took a hold of the game after neutralising the roaming McCallum.
The tactical change worked as City eventually broke the deadlock on 52 minutes. Giles cut inside on the left wing and picked out Fenwick who rose highest to send a looping header beyond Smith into the far bottom corner.
Then, just over 15 minutes later, the visitors doubled their lead. Giles attempted a shot towards goal, but it was blocked inside the area by a home player’s arm, leaving referee Will Finnie no choice but to award a penalty.
Fenwick stepped up to take the spot-kick but watched as his shot from 12 yards was saved by Smith, but the young striker reacted quickest to fire the rebound home and increase City’s lead.
City embarked on a search for a third goal but were forced to wait until eleven minutes from time.
Church had his low shot hit the target, but it was a comfortable save for Smith, moments later Fenwick’s header was held at the near-post by the Borough goalkeeper.
But City eventually extended their lead when Church connected with Craig Braham-Barrett’s left-wing cross and squeezed a header between Smith and the near-post.
With a three-goal lead over the hosts, City boss Stringer replaced goal scorers Anthony Church and Scott Fenwick with Cameron James and Daniel Green.
Although the Clarets maintained the winning margin and, with Hampton & Richmond dropping points at home to Truro City, City were rewarded with a home play-off semi-final on Sunday 6th May against the winner of Wednesday’s qualification game between Hampton & Richmond Borough and Truro City.