Stansted fought back from a goal down to claim their second win of the 2021/22 Essex Senior League season at the expense of Ilford, who began their campaign with a loss on Wednesday.
Ilford dominated for much of the first half, but found themselves on level terms at the break before a dominate performance from the Airportmen in the second half helped them onto a win.
Right from the off, Ilford looked to come forward as they sought to break the deadlock. Tigana Quebe came close in the 2nd-minute as he cut inside and fired an effort towards goal, but his effort sailed just over the bar. The hosts continued the pressure in the opening 5-minutes, pegging back Stansted, but they couldn’t profit as their crosses were well defended.
Stansted had a brief flurry forward, but weren’t able to do much with the ball before they called for a penalty for handball as an Ilford defender fell on it, but the referee awarded a free-kick the other way instead. Despite being on the back foot briefly, Ilford continued to come forward. Quebe came close once again, with an almost carbon-copy of his first effort, but again, it was inches over the crossbar.
The deadlock was broken in the 23rd-minute as the Foxes took the lead. The ball was delivered across the face of goal and fell kindly for Dion Lewis-Kirwan, who fired his shot beyond the keeper. Stansted had looked to respond to going a goal down, but Ilford defended well before coming forward themselves. Josh Taylor fed the ball to Quebe, who crossed the ball into Reece Sayers, but he didn’t get the right contact on the header and his effort was just wide.
Ilford couldn’t make their possession count as they found themselves pegged back by the visitors. The Airportmen had found themselves level again the run of play as Connor Hammond got on the end of a delivery and headed the ball beyond the keeper. As the half had drawn to a close, Ilford struggled to get it beyond the Stansted defence as they looked to bring themselves back ahead, but it was the visitors who finished the half the strongest. A long throw was launched into the box by John Clarke, but the resulting diving header was well saved and tipped onto the crossbar by Josh Blackburn.
Stansted continued on from their bright end to the first half as they dominated the opening minutes of the second half. The Airportmen were almost ahead a couple of minutes into the second period as a free-kick was floated towards the box and a flicked on header was cleared off the line. Both sides were battling well, but it continued to be Stansted on top as they looked to take the lead.
Hammond almost had his second of the game as he looked to get on the end of another good delivery, but a ricochet off a defender took the chance away before the visitors came close 62nd-minute as Mike Salako looked to be through on goal, but a superb double save from Blackburn kept the scores level. The pressure paid off two-minutes later though as the visitors took the lead. They were handed a penalty for a handball with Jack Mitchell stepping up to put them ahead.
The game became a fiery affair as the game approached the last 15-minutes as both slides jumped into challenges all over the pitch. Despite being a good contest between the two sides, Stansted extended their lead in the 71st-minute. The ball was played into the feet of Ruben Kennedy, with the attacker bending the ball into the far corner.
Ilford frantically looked to come forward as they sought a way back into the game, but Stansted were well in control of proceedings. A free-kick was floated into the box by Sayers, but James Dillon was out quickly to claim before the frustration echoed around the Ilford ranks as they looked to lump the ball forward, but kept handing the away side the possession. In the last few minutes, a ball was floated towards the back post by the hosts, but was just the wrong side of the post, before Stansted looked to add to their tally in injury time. The hosts were reduced to 10-men in the 92nd-minute as Josh Fisher was dismissed for handling the ball on the line. The resulting penalty in the final minute of added-time saw Mitchell step up again, but he couldn’t double his tally for the evening as Josh Blackburn made a good save before blocking the rebounded shot.