Full time: Chelmsford City 1-1 Slough Town

Slough Town earned a late point at Melbourne Community Stadium against a nine-man Chelmsford City side.

An eventful first half of action in Essex saw both teams come close to scoring. Henry Gray made a fine penalty save to deny Rebels man Johnny Goddard his 12th league goal of the season, while City top scorer Charlie Ruff’s long-range effort slammed off the underside of the crossbar and away from goal rather than over the line.

George Alexander clinically put Simpson’s Clarets ahead early in the second half after referee Tom Ellsmore awarded another spot-kick, this time in City’s favour.

Referee Ellsmore continued to take centre stage but to City’s detriment though, as he showed both Josh Castiglione and goalscorer Alexander red cards later in the half.

Despite digging in as deep defensively, City were unable to prevent their visitors from scoring when substitute Trae Cook-Appiah finished past Gray in the 88th minute.

Following a frustrating Easter Monday defeat to Dover Athletic, Robbie Simpson nearly reverted back to the side which beat Dartford on Good Friday. The Clarets boss was forced into making one change from the eleven which started that day; Henry Ochieng replaced the sidelined Finley Barbrook.

Both sets of players struggled with the extremely windy conditions in Essex on Saturday afternoon, but the visitors, managed by former Claret Scott Davies, adapted better to the weather and came closest to scoring in the first half.

Referee Ellsmore’s first big moment of the afternoon came in the 17th minute when he awarded the Rebels a penalty kick after he judged Dave Winfield to have brought down forward Nathan Minhas in the penalty box. Goddard stepped forward from 12-yards, but Gray dived the right way and produced a strong hand to save the Slough top-scorer’s effort.

Goddard still couldn’t find his shooting boots minutes later when he was presented with another good goalscoring opportunity. Slough Town winger David Ogbonna won the ball back for his side high up the pitch and delivered a dangerous ball across the goal into the path of Goddard, who was unable to guide his shot on target with his outstretched leg.

City’s best moment in the first half came just before the half an hour mark, when Charlie Ruff unleashed a powerful effort from distance. Ruff’s strike came almightily close to breaking the deadlock when it hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced down onto the ground. Unfortunately for City, Ruff was denied another excellent goal though, with the bounce of the ball taking it away from goal rather than into the back of the net.

City struck the first blow of the second half when Alexander gave his side the lead from the penalty spot in the 55th minute. Jermaine Francis won his side their spot-kick after drawing a foul from Rebels player-manager Davies inside the penalty area.

Ellsmore took centre stage again when he showed City winger Josh Castiglione a straight red card in the 66th minute. Castiglione, who was challenging Leon Chambers-Parillon for possession in the middle of the pitch, appeared to stand on the Slough Town midfielder as he fell to the floor after passing the ball to a teammate.

City were then reduced to nine-men in the 79th minute, when Ellsmore showed Alexander his second yellow card of the afternoon. The City goalscorer had been handed his first caution in the 34th minute and saw yellow again after making a clumsy challenge on the edge of the penalty area.

Despite some impressive saves from Gray and a number of heroic blocks by City defenders throughout the latter stages of the second half, Simpson’s men were unable to keep the Rebels at bay for the full duration of the game.

Johnny Goddard intercepted the ball in midfield and found substitute Trae Cook-Appiah in the penalty area. Despite being under pressure from the defending Winfield, Cook-Appiah was able to do enough to guide his effort past Gray from close-range, leaving City hearts broken after conceding in the 88th minute.

The Clarets were able to preserve their point in the six minutes of added time in Essex, meaning Simpson’s side have now collected 80 points this season and remain 2nd in the National League South table. 3rd place Braintree Town and 4th place Maidstone United both trail City in the standings by three points but have each played a game less than their 2nd place rivals, who currently have a superior goal difference over both the chasing teams.

In the final game of the regular league season at Melbourne Community Stadium next week, City will welcome Tonbridge Angels to Essex.

Chelmsford City XI: Gray (GK); Barnum-Bobb, Jenkins, Winfield ©, Brookes; Watts, Ocheing; Francis (Alfa 86’), Ruff (Hockey 86’), Castiglione; Alexander.

Unused substitutes: Marsden (GK), Dunne, Carruthers.

Yellow cards: Winfield, Jenkins, Brookes, Barnum-Bobb.

Red cards: Castiglione, Alexander (2nd yellow).

Slough Town XI: Sobte (GK), Jackman ©, George (Cook-Appiah 69’), Prosper, Lench (Abisogun 86’), Minhas, Goddard, Chambers-Parillion, Davies, Eweka, Ogbonna.

Unused substitutes: Dandy, Dyce, Spicer.

Yellow cards: Prosper.

Match Officials: Tom Ellsmore (Referee), Thomas Wyatt (1st Assistant), Andrew Tregoning (2nd Assistant).

Attendance: 1064

Report by Jake Dixon

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