Date: Friday 3rd May 2024
Essex Senior League Play Off Semi Final
Rookery Hill
Attendance: 195

Starters: Max Spence, Bleron Ademi, Joe Clark, Pat Ahern, Kenedi Dariri (C), Jack Folan, Jack Dickinson, Karl Kayembe, Fahad Nyanja, Izzy Bademosi, Shaye La-Rose
Substitutes:  George Forrest, Brad Rowland, Michael Osei, Sam Dowridge, Declan Nche
HT Nche for La-Rose
61′ Rowland
for Ademi
61′ Osei for Dickinson
87′ Dowridge for Ahern
Kris Newby Penalty (Romford) 45′ 0-1

Yellow cards: None
Red cards: None


Barking’s promotion hopes were crushed in the cruellest way possible in a play-off semi-final that ultimately became a tale of two penalties at Rookery Hill on Friday night.

Barking went into the game on an incredible run of form. Instigated entirely by the appointment of Jonny Fowell and Mike Walther as joint Managers at the end of October, Barking lost only one league game, ironically at home to Romford, in a run that saw them rise from 13th in the league to finish fourth and qualify for tonight’s semi-final.

Barking were again missing striker Luke Hirst, this game being the fourth and last game of his suspension following his red card at Takeley. But every player that has played a part in our recent run of form should feel well satisfied with their efforts. Similarly every player that played a part in this game for Barking should be immensely proud of their efforts as they gave everything but never got the run of the ball for the whole evening.

This was an extremely cagey affair from start to finish, chances were few and far between with the Rookery Hill pitch making our usual flowing football completely impossible.

But the first chance fell Barking’s way when Karl Kayembe did well to win possession in the middle before playing in Izzy Bademosi down the left-hand side. The striker’s cross was deflected but Jake Anderson, who gave a comprehensive performance in the Romford goal did well to get down sharply and turn the ball around the post for a corner. Romford are nothing if not a combative side and Adelberto Pinto was the first player into the referee’s book for a robust challenge on Farhad Nyanja. The hosts came into the game more as the first half wore on with Sam Deering looking to pull the strings and dictate play but two corners from the well-travelled midfielder were easily gathered in by Max Spence in the Barking goal.

It is worth noting that Spence is a product of our very successful partnership with Barking Abbey School and was a member of the Barking youth team that made a record-breaking run to the third round proper of the FA Youth Cup this season and was facing Finlay Dorrell and Dan Nakipov-Getmansky who were Max’s team-mates during the youth cup adventure.

With Barking looking to be a bit more direct than usual Joe Clark’s long throws became an effective tool and on 24 minutes one of these was flicked on to Bademosi but his shot was cleared for a corner. A minute later the livewire Jack Dickinson sent in a deep cross that very nearly caught out Anderson but the Romford stopper was able to collect the ball under the crossbar.

On the half-hour mark Junior Luke’s shot was blocked for the hosts and Hassan Nalbent’s shot from the resultant corner sailed wide of the upright. On 37 minutes Barking two midfield Jack’s, Folan and Dickinson combined well resulting in a lovely Folan through ball to Bademosi but the striker again failed to hit the target. On 43 minutes Dickinson put in another long cross that was only half-cleared by Dorrell, working hard to track back but Bademosi’s shot sailed over the bar.

The game was decided in controversial fashion on 44 minutes as Deering bore down on the Barking goal and Clarke tackled him, winning the ball before Deering acrobatically threw himself to the ground. Romford players and supporters appealed for a penalty but the referee, viewing the incident from within the centre-circle seemed unmoved. However, after a delay the linesman signalled a penalty and the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot. Barking’s appeals fell on deaf ears and Kris Newby appeared to be the coolest head in the whole ground as he sent Spence the wrong way and smacked the penalty home.

With the game changing in such dramatic fashion on the stroke of half-time Barking’s joint Managers knew they had to adapt and the second half started with Declan Nche replacing Shaye La-Rose on the left hand-side. Barking went straight on the attack but Folan, possibly overcompensating for the awful surface, overhit his through ball to Bademosi.

Barking knew they had to move possession up field and despite having the lion’s share of possession they left themselves open to Romford’s swift counter attacks. They don’t come much swifter than one of Scott Doe’s trademark lobbed clearances, one of which in the 57th minute found Nalbent but his volley bounced off the top of the crossbar.

Just after the hour mark Barking again rang the changes, bringing on Brad Rowland and Michael Osei for Bleron Ademi and Jack Dickinson.

The second great moment of controversy came on 64 minutes when Nche, this time popping up on the right-hand side, crossed for the unmarked Bademosi in front of goal. But just as the striker went to get his shot away Doe clattered into him, taking his standing leg away and getting nowhere near the ball. This time the referee, again operating from his safe space of the centre-circle and assistant, equally a long way behind play remained completely unmoved. Romford acted quickly and as Barking’s players and supporters were screaming for the penalty the hosts shot upfield and Kayembe had to be called upon to make a goal-line clearance from Charlie Morris’s shot.

Barking pushed Nyanja up front in an increased effort to draw level but this merely made the game even more end to end. The visitors had more of the ball in the middle of the park but Romford defended in numbers, remained resolute and continued to look for opportunities to get the ball forward quickly. On 73 minutes Nalbent won the ball on the left and fed Morris, unmarked on the edge of the box but his shot was straight at Spence.

Nche, tying any number of Romford players up to try stop his forward forays, showed fabulous footwork and then tried to find Nyanja on the edge of the box but the cross was cleared.

Having a lino that didn’t fancy running past the 18 yard line again hampered Barking as the clock ran down. Nyanja’s long throw was flicked on by big Pat Ahern, another Barking player having an outstanding game. The ball glanced off Doe’s head and bounced out for a corner. Anderson, scampered across and gathered the ball up, from well over the line and just continued playing, the officials were happy with this. Barking’s travelling supporters right on top of the incident behind the goal, were not.

With ten minutes left on the clock Barking had Nyanja and Kenedi Dariri up front almost the whole time with Ahern venturing forward at every opportunity. And it was another of his flick-ons that found Nche but his shot was blocked. The lino made his last major contribution late on as Nche again burst into attack and again tied up multiple Romford defenders. His potential cross hit Nalbent, helping out in defence and went out for a corner. Going out of play by at least a yard. However, with the Mayesbrook faithful behind the goal roaring encouragement to their team for the corner, a Romford defender hammered the ball back into play and upfield and again the officials were happy for the game to restart in this fashion.

It may have been at this stage that even the most optimistic Barking supporter knew it wasn’t going to be their night.

With three minutes of regular time left Ahern, having thrown himself into challenge after a challenge, had  to leave the field with a dislocated shoulder. He was replaced by Sam Dowridge, further putting the emphasis on attack.  

With a couple of Romford players booked for time wasting the fourth official signalled seven minutes of injury time. However the best opportunity Barking could fashion in added time came on 92 minutes and again Nche was the catalyst, but with the box filled with Barking players his floated cross was gratefully collected by the excellent Anderson and Barking’s race was run.

Romford saw out the rest of added time and will face Sporting Bengal on bank holiday Monday, again at Rookery Hill, for a place in step four of the non-league pyramid.

Report source: Mark Harris/Barking FC

Please note that the opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to Barking Football Club.