Ware 2 Brentwood Town 0
By Stephen King
McLeod's silver lining is an assist as Ware make it five wins and two draws from their seven home games.
This match saw the home debut for Mekhi McLeod and a less trumpeted debut for Luis Fernandes. Neither disappointed and when Mcleod left the pitch on 67 minutes he received appreciative applause from the main stand.
Fernandes came in at left back for the suspended Alaa Oujdi and grew into the game. A strong defender who was quick to get the ball up to his forwards he could well become more than a stand in.
With Jack Mace also suspended Aston Goss dropped into the right back position. This put him in direct contention with Brentwood's Lamar Reynolds, the Ryman League's top scorer. This should have been a cause for concern but after the initial stages of the game where it was clear that the visitors were doing all they could to get the ball to Reynolds he was well contained and the home defence was generally untroubled.
The same was not true of the visiting back line who were constantly stretched by the Ware attack. Speed seemed to be the key word for the home side whether it was in terms of turning defence into attack, the fast interchange of passes by the front men or the rate at which they closed down opposition players.
It paid dividends as Ware dictated proceedings with Evandro Delgado in a particularly good spell of form in the first half. His pass to Brian Haule in the sixth minute allowed the Ware man a close range shot that brought a great one-handed save from former Royston keeper Ronnie Yates. It was good practice for what was to follow.
Murat Karagul headed a Price corner firmly straight at Yates after 15 minutes before the two combined to give Karagul another crack three minutes later. Then it was McLeod jinking down the right before putting a cross over to Haule who couldn't make the most of it.
The pressure told and Janel Alexander was guilty of a poor tackle on Price as he looked for an opening on the edge of the area. The Brentwood man was a little lucky to escape with a lecture, a leniency not extended to Marcus Rose for what seemed a run of the mill tackle on Reynolds after half an hour that earned him a yellow card.
All that was forgotten five minutes later when Kyle Forster was quick to spot an opportunity and his long clearance found Price deep in enemy territory. Shaking off a lone defender just inside the area he stroked the ball confidently past Yates for the lead. For all Ware's good approach work it was the more direct route that brought a result.
There was still time before the break for McLeod to give Haule a clear chance in front of goal but his header was well wide.
The second half started in the same way and McLeod was in evidence again as he tried to trick his way through the visiting defence. At times it seemed as though he was trying too hard to justify the expectation that his arrival had engendered and it was not entirely surprising when he was substituted after 67 minutes. He almost certainly needed the rest.
But he had made his point ten minutes before. Another bit of twisting and turning in the penalty area opened up the opportunity for a pass across the face of Yates' goal and there was Haule to power the ball into the roof of the net from no more than a yard out.
McLeod's departure left the stage clear for Price who had been a thorn in Brentwood's side all game and he continued to work openings for his team showing pace and good control. Despite the ballyhoo surrounding McLeod's arrival it was his day and he seemed to know it, playing with confidence throughout the ninety minutes for a man of the match performance.
With the game seemingly in the bag it was then that Ware found Brentwood were no pushovers. Lamar Reynolds was denied by a good Forster save after 65 minutes and it was as if Ware had been a boxer cruising to victory suddenly caught by an uppercut. Almost immediately after, Reynolds was through again and only Forster's feet prevented a goal this time.
Ware recovered and Haule might have done more with a couple of chances first from Price and then a Goss free kick before the final whistle and Ware's first clean sheet in five games.
Which reminds me that it is just five games to go before Ware's 5,000th since 1892. As things currently stand that will be the home game against Bowers & Pitsea on 19th November. Put a note in your diary.
Ware: Kyle Forster, Aston Goss, Luis Fernandes, Murat Karagul (Ryan Hervel 90+1mins), Marcus Rose, Tom Bradbury, Mekhi McLeod (James Mays 67mins), Joe Reynolds, Brian Haule, Gareth Price (Paolo Montella 89mins), Evandro Delgado. Unused subs: Dani Ladeira. Josh Oyibo.