Ipswich Wanderers 0-2 Stow

The opening day of the season presented Walthamstow with a taste of a journey that will become a well-worn path this season. The boys from E17 headed further east still to open their campaign in the Isthmian North Division One, with a visit to last season’s Thurlow  Nunn Premier Champions, Ipswich Wanderers.

Such is life at Step Four that information on opponents is scant but Ipswich had recorded back-to-back promotions and started their league campaign after a comfortable win in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round. 

For the Walthamstow fans, who’d made the pilgrimage from the land of William Morris, it presented the chance to see some familiar faces, as well as some new ones, in the kit that broke the internet. 

The opening exchanges saw two teams trying to work each other out and as the opening 45 minutes ebbed and flowed, Stow had the better of the play. Demaray Anyadike, on the right of an attacking three, led the charge for Walthamstow. The first meaningful chance came from a corner that dropped to George Ironton on the edge of the box and his daisy-cutter was well saved by the Ipswich keeper. 

From there, Stow continued to pile on the pressure. An Anyadike cross was flicked on by Big Duncan Culley and his header was instinctively saved by Ipswich’s number one. A George Ironton free kick then led to strong shouts for a penalty as the one man Ipswich wall clearly handled the ball – but the referee was looking the other way, metaphorically and physically. Ironton then went one better with his next free kick, from 25 yards out. He got it up and over the wall and the keeper was well beaten. But his blushes were saved by the crossbar, that’s likely still shaking from the Mitre clattering against it. 

You’d be forgiven for thinking that it was all Stow but a smart Ipswich move, on the cusp of half time, led to a tantalising chance. Matt Nolan, making his league debut between the sticks for Walthamstow, was alert to the danger and made a fantastic save to keep the scores level at half time. 

Nicky Ironton sent his side out for the second half with Jay Rolfe on for the impressive birthday boy Louis Mallandain at right back. Presumably, he also sent them out with a bit of a rocket, too, as the boys in blueish-green didn’t relent in their attacking intent. Ipswich’s resolute defending in the first half would have to be even more resolute in the second 45 of this contest. 

It didn’t take long for the pressure to start showing with a Culley header going back across goal and Ibe’s effort being scrambled off the line. This was just a taste of things to come.  

Jared Small – impressive all afternoon, playing anywhere he was asked – put in an inch-perfect cross from deep and as the Ipswich defence pushed up, Ibe ghosted in unmarked and nodded it past the helpless Ipswich keeper. A precise, powerful header that set the tone for the rest of the game.

From then, there was only ever going to be one winner. Anyadike continued to torment, Culley won flicks and outmuscled their defence while at the other end, Carl Mensah led the line perfectly at the back. A special shout out for J’Ardell Stirling alongside Carl. J’Ardell was impeccable all afternoon, a calm but strong presence in the back line. 

If Ipswich had wilted after the first goal – resorting to booting it long in the hope of catching us on the attack – the second goal was like a flower being pressed in a book. Anyadike once again at the heart of the move, breaking forward and playing in Culley, who’s ball into the middle was tucked into an empty net by substitute Jordon Watson. 

It was what Walthamstow deserved and from then, they marshalled the game towards its conclusion. A few odd refereeing decisions here, and some handbags there meant there was still something to get worked up about. A late reducer on Anyadike led to some pushing and shoving but the game had petered out enough for it to remain as handbags.

Ipswich will prove tricky to break down for many clubs this year but Stow possessed enough nous and trickery to dominate the second half and come away with three points to start the season. Defensively solid, repelling attacks when they came our way, and incisive in attack, they set the tone for a fantastic afternoon in Suffolk. The twenty Walthamstow fans left the Humber Doucey happy, three points in the bag with an FA Cup tie to look forward to.

Confetti Cannons let off – three (one failed to deploy) 

Burgers ate – one (not the best, not the worst)

Did we win the 50/50? No, the chairman’s wife did. 

Morris jackets/shirts spotted – five 

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