Ide Hill turned in a performance laced with intensity last night in a frenetic 2-2 draw with Otford United, furthering the belief that they truly belong at this level and can thrive in the division.
Ide Hill followed up their opening day draw against Borden with the return of a few more regulars to the squad, the side bearing a closer resemblance to the one which won the league last season. The local derby had been hotly anticipated by the visitors and they duly brought a raucous and vocal crowd to cheer on the newly promoted side on a calm summer evening in Kent.
Ide Hill started brightly, the returning Matt Bunn piercing the back line with encouraging regularity, his running and hassling causing problems and panic all half, whilst Columb Grant dropped in to the hole and threaded pin point balls behind the defence for his strike partner and the rampaging Callum Heath. Bunn was played clean through on 15 minutes but, tussling with the defender in a possible penalty claim, scuffed his shot under pressure which was smothered.
However It was Otford who took the lead though after 25 minutes, somewhat against the run of play, but the goal was worth the wait; an Otford corner was headed clear by the Ide Hill defence to the edge of the box, finding the waiting Scott Ellison, who arrived and fired an unstoppable rising drive into the top corner to give the home side the lead.
Ide Hill dusted themselves down and picked up where they left off; the back three of Ben Pearson, Charlie James and Phil Alteirac were composed, strong and reduced Otford to half chances. At the other end, Alteirac was proving himself a constant menace at set pieces, coming close on a number of occasions and turning in a rounded Man of the Match performance which has become his standard over the past few seasons.
The Hill deservedly pulled level on 40 minutes; another bright break and quick interchange brought the ball to Grant’s feet in the box, who shuffled, got a shot away and the rebound was slammed home by an ecstatic Heath much to the joy of his teammates and the watching crowd. Heath’s tireless performance was further enhanced by a stunning goal line clearance before the break, using his athleticism to stop a certain goal for the home side.
Manager Paul McDonagh was pleased at the break but wanted more; unfortunately it would be Otford who took the lead on the hour, Jackson’s pass intercepted in the midfield and resulting in a lightning fast counter attack, the Otford striker streaming down the left before squaring to Rory Catt who slotted home; a lesson in the punishment that can be meted out by the quality sides and attackers at this level.
The visitors refused to go into their shells though, pinning Otford back for the final half hour, dominating possession, set pieces and looking for that final chance to get what they deserved from the game. Goalkeeper Mike McKay made a number of excellent saves throughout to keep the Hill in with a chance, saving impressively from point blank range in the 80th minute with the game in the balance. And Ide Hill did get their deserved equaliser on 85 minutes; A header was won in midfield, cleverly flicked through by the former Otford forward Josh Holland and raced on to by the talismanic Shaun Boyle, who strode clear and fired a volley home which the keeper got a hand to but could not keep out.
Ide Hill even had a manic chance to win it at the death, a final breakaway saw Josh Holland round the goalkeeper and fire into the side netting from a tight angle, denying him a poetic last word against his former club. But all in all, a hard-fought point which keeps Ide Hill unbeaten and more importantly, a strong performance to set the benchmark for tough games to come.
McDonagh had mixed emotions once more at the whistle “I feel very similar to the Borden game actually, proud of how we played and the fact we should have won having dominated, disappointed we passed up so many chances against a good side. But I was impressed with our intensity and how we fought back from behind” and on the skipper and MOTM Alteirac “He was dominant again today, won everything in the air at the back and in their box and was calm and cool on the ball throughout. Brilliant. And a word for Mike Mckay who made some crucial saves at important points to keep the game alive for us.”
So, two points from two games is not ideal, but the boys should be proud of their performances and if this level is maintained and improved upon as it should be, Ide Hill will be able to compete well against every side in this league and turn these draws in to wins.
Next Up Ide Hill have a busy Bank Holiday, first hosting Crockenhill on Saturday at Camberwell Lane, before travelling to Peckham Town on Monday; please come and show your support if you can.