Saffron Walden Town shrug off red card to claim another success
- Credit: DOMINIC DAVEY
Saffron Walden Town showed both silk and steel to claim victory over St Margaretsbury at Catons Lane.
Goals from Michael Toner and Charlie Smith gave the home side a deserved early advantage but a red card for Matt Hurley threatened to undo most of their hard work.
They didn't look under too much pressure in the second half though and the 2-0 win keeps them flying high at the top of the Essex Senior League.
When they were at full strength they looked superb, playing with free-flowing style and when they had to defend and mix it up, they were up to that task too.
Three straight wins in the league and a crushing win in the FA Cup over Biggleswade United have made this a superb start to the new season, with the only downside perhaps the two goals conceded in Saturday's win over Southend Manor, the only ones shipped by the Bloods so far.
Manager Jason Maher went for an unchanged side from the weekend's victory, including hat-trick hero from the 4-2 win, Gavin Cockman.
And the confidence was obvious as their play for the first 30 minutes was wonderful.
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Smith and Alfie Hilton were the orchestrators of most of it, with clever passing and moving bringing in others, and it looked like they would carve up the Saints defence at will.
Toner had the first chance, which he put straight down Christian North's throat, while a lovely ball forward shortly after had Hilton ghosting in behind, his deft header looping over the keeper but bouncing off the crossbar and landing on the roof of the net.
That the first goal took 19 minutes to arrive was the main surprise.
A free-kick from the left was played to the back post where James Solkhon headed it back across goal for Toner to tap into an unguarded net.
The second arrived six minutes later and it was a fine team effort.
Hilton won the ball back deep inside his own half and started the counter which spread out to the right.
From there it was played to the top of the box where Smith had oodles of time to turn and shoot across North, the ball bouncing in off the post.
The feeling was that would open the floodgates but the Bloods just eased off the pedal slightly, giving the visitors a breather but not allowing them to create anything of note.
The red card though on 37 minutes changed the feel in an instant.
It was a silly tackle and it was late but there was nothing malicious about it, the referee though had a different view to the main stand and instead of an expected yellow, he brandished a straight red.
Half-time was therefore a blessed relief for the hosts as they played out the remainder of the game with a hastily-reshuffled back four.
Toner was given the job of playing at centre-half and he had the first shot of the half, from almost 40 yards but easy for the keeper.
North was a bit more worried moments later by another long shot, this one from Jamie Riley, that was hit well enough but flew low and wide.
The visitors though should have had one back almost immediately after a brief moment of panic in the home defence.
Roddy Lemba had a shot blocked and the rebound was curled wide by Tom Cowell.
Ricardo Adewuyi sliced another one wide but Walden were very cute and clever with their game management, slowing things down and drawing fouls.
Chances dried up too for both teams, something the vast majority of the 200-plus crowd cared little about.
Substitutions and the referee whistles ensured the half didn't flow but the final five minutes saw an increased tempo from the Bury.
Walden put their full compliment pretty much behind the ball and they made sure that James Young in the home goal wasn't unduly tested.
When St Margaretsbury did get the opportunity to shoot, Cowell sent it high over the top and out of the ground.
That was as good as it got to for the visitors and there was even time for Scott Piggott to get a sight of goal for the Bloods.
He scooped it wide but that didn't matter either.
Saffron Walden Town: Young, Skelton, Solkhon, Noble, Riley, Hurley, Calver, Toner, Hilton (Piggott 60), Smith (Pullen 71), Cockman.
Subs (not used): Kochan, Baxter, Abutoh.
Goals: Toner 19, Smith 25
Booked: Cockman 90+6
Sent-off: Hurley 37
St Margaretsbury: North, Greenslade, Abedi-Oppey, McPherson (Roberts 65), Wynter-Stephens, Read, Nicholson, Palmer (Wray 78), Lemba (Rogers 74), Cowell, Adewuyi.
Subs (not used): Hayden-Eley, Cranfield.
Booked: Read 79
HT: Saffron Walden Town 2 St Margaretsbury 0
Referee: Nathan Kitteridge (Harlow)