Romford 3 Ware 1
Defeat at the end of best season for six years.
As the half time whistle sounded Ware were 3-0 down and facing their worst league defeat of the season. They hadn't played badly and after a poor start competed well, looking the more likely to score until the home side broke away to claim their second goal.
The difference between the two sides however had been that one needed the points to avoid finishing in the relegation positions and the other didn't. That gap was marginal but enough of one for it to count. Romford were always likely to get a reprieve had they finished third from bottom (the worst "what if" situation they faced) but the high fives between supporters and players at the end suggested that no-one wanted to rely on that.
As a result Romford had played a high tempo game for much of the time, harrying Ware into misplaced passes and hurried clearances. It wasn't flowing football but on a day of nervous tension for the home side it served its purpose well.
Not that Romford needed to try very hard for their opening goal. For some unaccountable reason Anthony Thomas played a short ball across the edge of the Ware penalty area after ten minutes. There was only one man able to reach it and he was Romford's Nick Reynolds who held his nerve to shoot past the diving Tom Coulton.
Thomas looked abashed and clearly wished to make amends after the game restarted but shooting tamely from distance when a pass would have been better only compounded matters. For a time Ware were on the back foot as Romford raided down their own right side and more than once caused difficulties in the penalty area.
The solution was to move Alaa Oujdi from right back to a more attacking role on the left with Sean Johnson dropping back on the right side. In this formation Ware started to match their opponents and their travelling support were starting to believe an equaliser was on the cards especially when the home defence had to clear one shot from the goal line.
But Ware's luck was out and with five minutes to the break a long clearance upfield found Romford's Joe Scott free to shoot over Coulton who had moved forward from his line as his team mates pressed forward. If this was not enough the home side made it three at the end of the half when a well worked ball from the left fell to Reynolds who claimed his second goal of the afternoon from close range.
Romford may well have enjoyed the rub of the green in the opening 45 minutes but they had worked hard during this time and wouldn't have thanked you for suggesting that they hadn't earned the breaks.
The home side continued their high pressure game fitfully in the second half (in the most notable case Ajet Shehu was forced to cover under duress and hit the goal post with his clearance) but the sting had gone out of the contest from their point of view. Ware meanwhile continued to compete and once again it was Khale Dacosta causing the most trouble.
One determined sortie down the right ended with a cross to Abobaker Eisa whose shot on the turn was blocked by defenders but after 68 minutes the same combination tried again. As before defenders blocked Eisa's chance but DaCosta, learning from the earlier example, had followed through on his pass and was there in time to bundle the loose ball home for Ware's goal.
By this time Marco Tuzzeo had made his debut between the sticks after Coulton retired under the effects of the groin injury picked up the week before. The young keeper didn't let the side down and made a couple of good saves though Romford were not the force they had been earlier.
And so a game that never once showed signs of its place at the end of a long and tiring season came to its own finale amid the cheers of a relieved home support. Ware could console themselves that tenth place in the table was their best finish since 2008/9.
Ware: Tom Coulton (Marco Tuzzeo 55mins), Alaa Oujdi, James Manlove (Lorenzo Correia 81mins), Ryan Hervel, Ajet Shehu, Murat Karagul, Khale Dacosta, Joshua Oyibo, Abobaker Eisa, Anthony Thomas, Sean Johnson. Unused subs: Tyler Christian-Law, Kevin Kuhn, Ryan Ladyman.