Walthamstow made it six wins on the bounce and a seventh clean sheet in eight games with a hard-fought 1-0 win over a dogged Clapton side.
Stow started on the front foot, and had a couple of good chances in the early moments. Samrai Gebrai had a good opportunity when creeping in at the back post, but Emmanuel Olajide made himself big and blocked the winger’s shot.
Craig Pope could then only find the side-netting after pinball in the Clapton box, the visitors unable to deal with a Stow corner.
The only goal of the game came on 23 minutes when a long ball over the top caught Olajide and former Stow defender Dom Shephard out, the two Clapton players leaving the ball to each other, allowing Kieran Bishop to nip and and roll the ball into an empty net for a debut goal.
Bishop and Dwade James both had good chances to extend Stow’s lead before the break, but neither could direct their efforts towards goal.
Just before half time, Clapton should have been level. Giovanni Palmer caught Stow out at the back post, and after taking the ball around James Bransgrove, all he had to do was pick his spot in an almost empty net. But with Stow defenders rushing back to the line, Palmer – who spent an hour before kick off claiming he was too injured to play – could only spoon the ball over.
In truth, Stow found it hard to get through in the second half. They thought they should have a penalty when Bishop was bundled over in the box after beating two players, but the referee gave a free kick to Clapton, seemingly for a dive, though Bishop was not booked.
At the other end though, the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot when Jaydon Charles hit the deck, moving away from goal under a challenge from Nicky Symons.
Then came the moment which could define Stow’s season. Charles stepped up to take the penalty, but Bransgrove guessed the right way and pulled off a superb diving save. However, the ball fell back into the path of Charles, but with the goal at his mercy, he could only poke it back to Bransgrove’s grateful arms.
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There were few chances after the penalty for either side in a very stop-start game. James was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet with a couple of one-on-one chances, and despite Stow forcing a large number of corners, they couldn’t find a way through.
The game ended with Clapton forcing a late corner, with keeper Olajide making the trek upfield in an attempt to redeem himself, but Stow stood firm and picked up another crucial three points.
Image: Bill Badger