Lockdown is over and football is officially back! The boys took a trip to Rayners Lane in blistering weather to face NW London in a friendly this weekend.
Hilltop has come out victorious in the last three meetings between the clubs last season. The two sides are bound to become more familiar in the season to come, both competing in the Middlesex County League Premier Division once again. This week’s friendly was shaping up as a taster for the games to come.
The game kicked off with Hilltop hoarding possession, leading to an early chance for Jamz inside the first 10 minutes. A goal was imminent. And it came indeed, with Sharp chipping the keeper in his usual fashion. The NW London number 1 was caught a few yards off his line and couldn’t keep our skipper’s attempt out of his net. 1-0 to the Hilltop.
The pressure continued to build in the favour of our Blues. Some great combination play from Dinho and Miguil, which ended with the left-back fizzing the ball across the 6-yard box to be tapped in by Glasses at the back post – before the linesman lifted his flag to rule the goal out as offside. The Stonebridge side were asking all the right questions.
NW London came back on a vengeance deep into the first half, their number 18 causing problems on the right wing. Though, it was nothing that our Miguil couldn’t deal with.
The chances kept coming, but to no avail. Could’ve easily been 6 or 7, but the first half, frustratingly, ends 1-0.
The second half started in the favour of the home side and their first chance levelled the scoring. The NW London number 9 fired a low curler from outside of the box which nestled in the bottom right-hand corner. The boys had started the second period of the game half asleep but this had surely woken them up. 1-1.
Another spell of possession granted the boys a chance to get ahead. A beautiful ball into the box from Glasses was met by the right boot of Jamz, only to be cleared off the line by a NW London player, who seemed to have been standing in the goal. Shouts of the ball crossing the line were waved away by the referee and the score remained 1-1.
It is worth mentioning the talent and creativity hidden in the midfield three of Sharp, Dinho and Kamal. The trio are no strangers to each other and their combined play set the tempo of the game. Sharp’s vision, Dinho’s pace and Kamal’s unbelievable work rate formed the engine of this Hilltop squad. A joy to watch. The West London youngster, Kamal, especially had an exceptional game and was an unsung hero in this worthy win.
The Hilltop bench looked strong as always and a host of changes were dotted throughout the half. Seasoned veteran Afrah coming on for Ilyas I at right back to hold down that flank. Ibz came on to replace Hussein M with a burst of energy, who, between the two of them, surely gave the NW London full-back nightmares later that night. YouTube’s finest Musti subbed on to bring further creativity to an already star-studded midfield.
Almost immediately after the substitutions were made, the floodgates opened for goal-scoring opportunities. Michael, the final addition, capitalised from a goalkeeping howler to slot the ball calmly into the back of the net. 2-1 to the Blues.
Hilltop were comfortably in control of the game. The chances for NW London were few and far between. Zak, in the Hilltop net, was rarely troubled, dealing well with the loose balls that trickled through. This defensive dominance was largely thanks to the unorthodox centre back pairing that was Ilyas M and Hussein H. Hussein especially, a natural central midfielder, put in an unbelievable shift at the back. Between his intelligent decision making, and Hilltop’s resident brick wall, Ilyas, dealing with aerial dangers, the two were impassable.
Glasses, who had been outstanding throughout the fixture, played his trademark pass over the NW London defenders, finding Michael who took the ball into his path. His first shot was blocked by the recovering centre-back, but the ball fortunately fell to his feet once again and his second attempt flew over the retreating goalkeeper’s head as he scrambled back to his goal line. 3-1 Hilltop.
The way they were playing, the Blues were at risk of running riot. It was almost as if the final whistle had come too soon. Lessons to be learnt as always, but this was a hard-earned win.
Final score: Hilltop 3 – 1 NW London