MATCH REPORT: Republica 3:0 Elford FC

Republica kicked off 2019 with a comfortable win at home to Elford although the match was not short of drama, especially in a scrappy second half. Wadah Alhasan, Dan Hickson and debutant Santos Camara were all on the scoresheet during a first half blitz that secured the win for the Reds. Starting in a 4-4-2 formation, Republica lined up with Josh Moos in goal; a back four of Peter Lines, Liam Moran, Nick Hood and Jack Smith; a midfield quartet of Wadah Alhasan, Conor Walsh, Seamus Lundy and Santos Camara; and a strike partnership of Dan Hickson and Oliver Lines.

Republica were immediately on the front foot with a good chance in the second minute when Peter Lines curled a ball in behind the defence from a free kick. It was met by the onrushing Liam Moran but the big defender's header drifted just wide. Elford were twice forced into brilliant last ditch tackles as the hosts continued to probe but went close to taking the lead themselves after ten minutes. Their speedy striker got in ahead of Nick Hood down the right and his cross found a teammate in space in the six yard box. Almost surprised by how much time he had, the player took two touches which allowed Moos to rush out and spread himself, making a fantastic save with his foot when Elford seemed certain to score. It proved to be a sliding doors moment as Republica quickly made their dominance count.

On 20', some good work in midfield resulted in a ball in behind the left back for Wadah Alhasan to chase. The winger seemed second favourite but used his speed and power to muscle through before tucking a low finish past the keeper to give Republic a one-goal lead. A quality second followed soon after. The move started with a rare Elford attack which ended in the arms of Moos. He sent a quick kick downfield towards Oliver Lines on the halfway line who produced a deft touch to guide the ball in behind the away defence. Santos Camara had gambled on the flick and the jet-heeled winger raced through to score a debut goal and double Republica's lead. Shortly after, Dan Hickson was the beneficiary of a flowing move as he slammed the ball high into the net and made it 3-0.

Half time came at a bad moment for Republica and allowed their opponents to regroup. With a hint of sloppiness creeping into the Reds' play, Elford made the running and soon had a penalty when Alhasan hauled down an opponent whilst defending a set piece. The yellow-shirted striker stepped up and struck the inside of the post before the red defenders scrambled it away but play was interrupted by the referee's whistle. Seamus Lundy had encroached so the striker had another chance from 12 yards. This time, Moos produced a fine low save but Republica couldn't clear and another foul resulted in a free kick just on the edge of the box. With that fired into the wall, Republica finally cleared their lines, somehow with a clean sheet still intact.

Elford continued to press and drew a fine save from Moos after profiting from a wayward goal kick. Dan Hickson was then forced out after turning his ankle and replaced by Greg de Boer up top. A few minutes later, Tom Kent returned to the pitch in central midfield in place of Lundy. It marked the end of an 11-month spell on the sidelines for Kent following a horror tackle last season and he acquitted himself well in an unfamiliar position. It was then the turn of Joe Bishop to return to action – replacing Alhasan – after knee surgery earlier in the year. Republica managed to largely regain control during the final twenty minutes, even carving out a couple of chances on the break. However, there were further fireworks when Oliver Lines' foul resulted in a confrontation between the two sets of players. Peter Lines earned a booking for his trouble, just before the ref flew for full time.

The second half was much scrappier than the first but some fine attacking football had already given the Reds an unassailable lead. They dug in well after the break to secure the points and produced an all round team performance. Santos Camara won the man-of-the-match award on debut thanks to a superb attacking performance topped off by a goal