Superb finishing and excellent defensive work in the face of swirling wind with rain and hail lashing down meant that this game had everything to warm the hearts of the Waltham Forest faithful.
With Simon Tickner, Ian Cooper, Paul Armand and Carlos Brown all missing it was good to know that their replacements were every bit as good. Didier Batunga who made his debut looked as if he’d been a first teamer all his life.
The opening exchanges were to be a precursor for the rest of the match with Chatham trying to press the game into midfield and the Stags looking to profit from the defensive frailties of a team that had not won in the last fifteen. Indeed, the trap was spring after only 16 minutes when Dewayne Clarke found the home defence strung out flat across the park. A long ball came through from the Stags’ midfield to find Clarke one on one with Andy Larkin: he quickly came inside him and bore down on the goal. Town’s ‘keeper Louis Green quickly saw the danger and came out almost to the edge of the penalty area. Clarke coolly shot to the advancing ‘keeper’s left and the ball ran the distance to the bottom left side of the net.
Papy Kanyuka, Matthew Judge and Clarke began to combine well together and, if the truth be told, tried some very ambitious moves on a very demanding playing surface. However, the ascendancy was with the Stags whilst Chatham were limited to a few attacks which were easily dealt with by the dominant Stags’ defence.
As the half continued, the Stags could have had two or three goals from the front runners were it not for some good goalkeeping and desperate defending from Steve Best who managed to save the ball on his own line. For the remaining ten minutes of the half, Chatham regained their composure and managed to sow up the midfield thus preventing any further attempts on their goal.
Conditions did not improve for the second half but, to their credit, Chatham came looking for the equaliser and tried to play good football under difficult circumstances. They pulled a goal back on 55 minutes when, having won free kick on the right side of the penalty area, Glen Billiness was on hand to stab home the return ball at Gavin King’s left post.
This signalled more pressure from the home side and they nearly pulled ahead five minutes later when Frannie Collin struck the ball from 15 yards out only to see his effort rebound from King’s right post.
The Stags returned to attacking action and quickly won a free kick on the edge of Town’s penalty area from which Judge almost scored and Batunga had an excellent low 30 yarder well saved by Green.
Supremacy was restored after 65 minutes when Clarke outpaced the home defence down the inside left channel, ten yards out from the line he cut the ball back for judge to touch the ball goalwards. With Green beaten the goal hit the post and rebounded into the net.
Chatham were not dead though and were soon on the attack bringing an amazing save from King when he threw his whole body at the left post to prevent what seemed a certain goal from a close range shot by Collin.
The game was now all action end to end stuff as Dave Bastian joined the attack in Clarke’s channel, he cut his pass back to Papy Kanyuka whose shot rebounded from the crossbar this time into the arms of a grateful Green.
The game seemed sown up for the stags when, on 83 minutes, Kanyuka’s long ball out of defence swerved around the home side’s central defence and allowed Judge to run on to the ball, take it twenty yards then shoot low and hard past Green for the third.
With time to play out a violent hail storm took charge and Collin finally scored from a corner with the wind playing its part curling the ball in at the near post.
A freezing windy game ended with the Wadham Lodge faithful returning home with the warmth of a team firing on all cylinders and going for the play off place.