Ide Hill marked their historic entrance to non-league football with a 2-2 draw against Borden Village, having held the lead until the last minutes of the game. The match was befittingly held at their Camberwell Lane pitch, and the team will have every confidence continuing in to the season after a spirited performance.
Ide Hill lined up in their familiar 3-5-2 formation that served them well in their title winning run in the previous season. But with an air of nervous excitement amongst the squad, they knew they’d have to be on their game against the physical outfit of Borden who came runners up last season. And the visitors wasted no time in throwing early tests for wing back James Randall down the left side, which he and captain, Philippe Alteirac worked well together to suss out and contain.
On a small pitch, the tempo of the game was predictably fast, and set pieces would prove to be key. After 10 minutes the newly promoted side were handed an early lesson when Borden striker Joe Sands was alive to convert a low driven corner and put the visitors 1 up.
At a moment where it would have been easy for Ide Hill heads to drop, they instead showed the grit and resolve that has become embedded in the club’s ethos. The midfield trio of Ben Holder, Sam Heasman and Tom Wilken started to establish a foot hold in the game, winning their individual battles and with it the team’s confidence grew. Heasman showing the excellent energy levels and tenacity that he’s become known for, and Wilken comfortably stepping up to the first team, aided the Hill’s passing game as their share of the game continued to build.
Borden were expected to bring a physical game to Camberwell Lane, a point which had not been missed in the preparations by Manager Paul McDonagh. Their robust, but mostly well spirited style of play inevitably led to a number of set piece opportunities as the powerful running of Callum Heath and interplay with the astute Columb Grant caused problems down the right flank of the home side. Dead-ball specialist Ben Holder was on hand to set up the equaliser by lofting a delivery in from 30 yards where Alteirac out-muscled his marker at the far post to loop a header back across goal and in to the gaping net for the club’s first goal at non-league standard. A timely return for the skipper whose pre season had been marred by injury, although there was no sign of rustiness from the Frenchman today.
Alteirac was involved again 10 minutes later, as another set piece orchestrated by Holder wasn’t properly cleared, and after a helpful touch from fellow centre back Charlie James, the bustling strike Josh Howard, who caused problems with his hold up play and running in behind all game, was set free down the left before unselfishly squaring the ball back to Grant who calmly slotted home to open his account for the season, and send the home fans in to raptures. 2-1 to Ide Hill.
After some encouraging words at the break from the management duo of McDonagh and Bailey, the point was hammered home that the job was far from done, knowing that Borden Village would not go down easy.
And indeed Ide Hill started the second half brightly, with Grant narrowly firing over the bar after centre back Luke Steggle used his height and strength well to cause problems in the opposition box during another Holder set piece play. The chance sailed by, and Borden seemed to wake up, asserting themselves more on the game and winning the aerial battles that they had been winning in the first 10 minutes. The back line of Steggle, James and Alteirac looked assured and largely untroubled despite the mounting pressure as the energetic full backs Randall and Heath helped to block the visitors out, as well as Ide Hill stalwart Mike McKay commanding his box well to punch, parry and stifle any attacks that did manage to break behind the back five.
As the defence soaked up pressure, the forwards broke quickly on occasions in a counter-attacking style that Ide Hill have become synonymous with. Aside from hitting the bar twice during the same passage of play, the best chances of the game fell to the Ide Hill number 10 Shaun Boyle who squirmed free 1 on 1 in the box only for the keeper to save, and again 10 minutes later sprung the offside trap on the halfway line to set himself up with only the keeper to beat. In a moment’s hesitation as wingback Callum Heath came to support for a square ball, Boyle tried to round the keeper who stood his ground well to save and keep Borden’s hopes alive. The Ide Hill faithful would reflect on the significance of these misses, until in the dying moments of the game when they were painfully realised as Borden poked home from inside the six-yard box after the home side failed to clear their lines following a corner, Lewis McCrory stabbing home the crucial equaliser.
The full time whistle blew two minutes later bringing an agonising end to a game that had seen missed chances and which the Hill may well have thought that they had won.
After the game, in his return to Kent Premier football head coach McDonagh was relatively happy: “It was a historic game for us, it was very tight all the way through. I thought we were the better team overall, created the better chances, obviously hitting the post and the crossbar”.
McDonagh was naturally disappointed with the missed chances, knowing that his team are capable of better, he said: “I thought the score could have been 4-1 had we taken our chances. We defended well apart from the corners that they had. I thought we needed to improve on that and certainly need to improve on finishing.”
Looking ahead to the next game on Tuesday evening, the Ide Hill Manager surmised that he was “pleased to get a point on the board but disappointed it wasn’t all three – we’re going to bounce back on Tuesday with three points hopefully”.
In a bitter sweet game for Ide Hill, they will overall be elated with their solid performance against one of last year’s title contenders and will look to use the momentum gained in their local derby just three days later away to Otford FC. Kick off is at 7.30pm.