MATCH REPORT: Republica 1:0 Athletico Bramley
An inspired performance gave 10-man Republica a deserved three points today, as the Reds dug in deep to guarantee their first back-to-back victories of the season and scupper the 100% record of league-leaders Bramley in the process. The win was one to savour for Republica, who were at the wrong end of some peculiar refereeing decisions throughout the game. Not only having to contend with quality opposition, the reds saw a number of yellow cards and one red in what was by all accounts a respectful and well-spirited display from both sides.
The last-minute withdrawal of captain Greg de Boer through illness meant Matt Joyce stepped up for a game between the sticks, with Josh Booth deputising as captain while de Boer took charge of managerial duties from the sidelines. Republica started the game in 4-4-2, with a back line of Nathan Crawley, Liam Moran, Nick Hood, and Jack Smith. Matt and Josh Booth started in the centre of midfield with Stephen Graham and Waddah Alhasan on the wings, and Mourad Shoushan up top with a debuting Dan Hickson.
It was a hard-fought game from the start, with Bramley looking to solidify their place at the top of the table after 9 wins in 9 games and Republica hoping to capitalise on their recent good form to turn their season around. The Reds arguably had the better of the chances in the first half with some good movement in attack, but failed to make it count in the final third. At the other end, Bramley put the ball into the net after the ref had blown for offside as clear-cut chances proved few and far between. The deadlock was broken at the half-hour mark though. After a goal mouth scramble the ball fell to Dan Hickson, on his first appearance in a Republica shirt, who managed to make space between two defenders and find the top corner with a blistering shot from a tight angle.
Half time came and went, and both teams fancied themselves for the victory. With their unbeaten season under threat Bramley piled on the pressure, switching to 4-3-3 while the Reds started the second half unchanged. Not long after the whistle, de Boer found himself cautioned by the referee on the sidelines for a reason that’s still unclear, and setting the tone for 45 minutes of similar confusion. At 55 minutes, veteran Graham made way for another debutant, Tyrone Leach, as de Boer sought to inject some pace into the Republica side. But the youngster soon found his way into the referees book himself. With an opposing player down on the ground, Smith put the ball out of play so he could receive treatment from the Bramley bench and Leach was penalised for fetching a drink of water from the sidelines.
With half an hour remaining, Crawley was replaced by Rio Goldhammer at right back as the Reds switched to 5-4-1; Josh Booth dropping into the heart of the defence with Shoushan taking his place in midfield. The back five wouldn’t last too long though. 10 minutes later, Smith, who had picked up a soft yellow for a tackle earlier in the game, was fouled just inside the Republica half. Then, allegedly for gesturing a card to the referee, Smith himself saw a second yellow and Republica were down to 10 players. Before play resumed, with a Republica free-kick from the original foul, there was a further delay as the referee attempted to book a spectator for commenting on this decision.
It was Republica, though, who looked like they might snatch another goal next. Nick Hood came close with a well-struck free kick from 25 yards and Hickson looked as though he’d been awarded a penalty as the end of normal time approached. A ball straight through the middle from Goldhammer sent Hickson through on goal, only to have his legs swept away by the keeper’s hands after putting the ball round him. No penalty was given though, and Hickson was given a yellow card for his troubles for a supposed dive.
Bramley came close to an equaliser just before the final whistle but put their last chance past the wrong side of the post. Doggedly, Republica held on through 6 minutes of injury time to bring to close their finest performance of the season. Matt Joyce was named man-of-the-match for his clean sheet and excellent distribution throughout the game, but every Republica player was able to walk away with pride at a job well done.