MATCH REPORT: Original Oak 4:3 Republica
Republica's frustrating run of form continued in the driving rain against the Original Oak. Another good performance was again followed by a narrow defeat as two goals from Mohammed Hamaway and one from Matty Booth weren't enough to avoid defeat at the Bedquilts Rec Ground.
The Reds switched to a 4-3-3 formation for this fixture with Jordan Thomas in goal; a back four of Nathan Crawley – up against his former team – Josh Booth, Nick Hood, and Jack Smith; a midfield three of Matty Booth, Seamus Lundy and Abdelwahab Osama; and a front three of Mohammed Hamaway, Greg de Boer and Mahmoud Khdeir.
It was a strong start from Republica who piled the pressure on in the early stages, especially when Khdeir and then Josh Booth got in behind but couldn't find a team mate with their crosses. Unfortunately the early momentum was killed somewhat when Osama took a nasty blow to the back of the head. Despite trying to continue, he had to be replaced by Stephen Graham after just ten minutes, prompting a reshuffle with Khdeir dropping into midfield and Graham taking up a position as a wide striker. After an even period, Republica made the breakthrough on 19' as de Boer slid in on the Oak's burly central midfielder to win the ball for Khdeir who sent a measured pass through to Hamaway and the striker's lofted shot evaded the keeper and beat the scrambling defender over the line.
Thomas was then called into action in the Republica goal, making a good save low down as the balance of the game swung back towards the Oak. Nevertheless, the Reds kept threatening on the break with de Boer and Hamaway combining well to carve out some chances. The equalising goal was a scrambled affair with the ball flashing across goal and bouncing around in the box before a low shot bobbled over the outstretched arms of Thomas and into the bottom corner. The half-time whistle blew with the score still 1-1.
Republica started the second half as they had started the first, putting Original Oak under pressure and forcing a series of set pieces. A moment of brilliance from Matty Booth just five minutes after the break put the Reds back in the driving seat. After receiving the ball from Khdeir, the midfielder jinked past two challenges before planting a powerful rising shot past the keeper from the edge of the box. Andy Kitching replaced Crawley at right back a few minutes later and Republica had the wind in their sails. Booth went close again with Hamaway and Khdeir also threatening on multiple occasions as did Alhasan when he replaced de Boer up front a few minutes later. However, it was the Oak who grabbed an equaliser against the run of play. A good delivery from a corner was swung in towards the penalty spot and the home centre back rose high to score with a powerful header into the top corner.
A third goal followed very quickly for the hosts as one of their midfielders sent a low through ball in behind Josh Booth and the centre forward was able to poke a finish past the onrushing Thomas. Going behind knocked the stuffing out of the Reds and the Oak pressed on despite a good chance for Graham who was denied when a defender flicked a cross away at the back post, just evading the onrushing winger. Original Oak extended their lead when the ball fell to a midfielder outside the box and a shot from range squirmed under Thomas. Republica showed good fight however and some good running up front presented a chance to Hamaway who cracked home a low right-footed shot from 18 yards with ten minutes remaining. Republica piled on the pressure in the closing period as Booth and Alhasan saw shots go wide but it wasn't enough, leaving the Reds frustrated by another narrow defeat.
The loss belied a very good performance from the Reds, particularly in possession, and they could consider themselves unlucky to come away with nothing. Nick Hood, with an assured performance at the back; Mahmoud Khdeir with two assists; and Mohammed Hamaway, with two cracking goals, shared this week's man of the match award.