Longlevens secure highest ever finish thanks to comfortable 3-0 win

Longlevens saw off a spirited Woodley United side on Saturday afternoon to secure a 9th placed finish in the Hellenic Premier, their highest ever finish at that level of football.

Goals from Brad Martin, Shaun O’Connor and Connor Linham saw Mark Moore’s men take the spoils and reinstated some pride after being beaten 4-1 at Saw Mills by Woodley just 9 days ago.

Longlevens played positively throughout the game and deservedly took the lead through Brad Martin. A diagonal ball from the left to the back post by Dave Rich was met by the Levens forward, who looped his header up and over Woodley keeper Alex Reed.

Whilst Gloucester based player Robert Milkins was playing at the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield it was Brad Martin who notched up a perfect 147, with his header now leaving him 3 goals short of 150 goals for Longlevens.

After dominating the ball in the first half the visitors continued their dominance in the opening of the second half, until Woodley reverted to three at the back in order to chase a turn around to potentially avoid relegation.

It wasn’t meant to be for the hosts though, with Ash Wintle not forced into making any strenuous saves throughout the 90 minutes. Wintle was aided by a solid defence that saw the impressive Ed Smyllie come into the side at left back.

Shaun O’Connor entered the game midway into the second half for the first time in nearly a month following ankle problems and it didn’t take long for O’Connor to do what he does best, score good goals.

After the initial shot from Brad Martin was blocked O’Connor needed only two touches 20+ yards out. One to flick it up and one to fire in a volley that Reed could only help into the top corner, a stunning effort to give Levens the cushion they deserved.

Craig Martin started the game at centre back but ended up finishing the game on the right hand side and it was through Martin that the third came.

Moments after Connor Linham rifled a shot from the edge of the box against the post, he was found by a pinpoint curled cross from Craig Martin. Linham opened his body up and side footed his shot right into the top corner, scoring his second goal for the Longlevens first team and it really was truly deserved.

Man of the match on the day was Ed Smyllie for his all round play. In reality any of the Longlevens players could have been named MOTM after ending the season by winning three of their last four games, especially after going on a nine game winless run at the start of 2018.

Throughout the 2017/18 season we have been all over the county and country with Longlevens and our man Ryan Butler caught up with manager Mark Moore about a historic first season in charge of the Longlevens first team.

R: Not a bad season Mark. 9th placed finish in the league in which you matched the big boys for the most part in matches and you reached the 1st round of the FA Vase. Did you expect this much?

“If you had said at the start of the season that we would finish 9th in the league, go toe to toe against the league’s big boys and reach the FA Vase 1st Round I would have bitten your hand off. It is one hell of an achievement. We know we have a good group of players even though we don’t have the depth of squad some teams in this league do. It only takes a few injuries and it can really throw us off our stride plus you always need a bit of luck.”

R: Is there a game that stands out for you during the season that you look at as potentially Longlevens’ best performance?

“Windsor away. The 3-0 win. We had a massive cloud over our head. We were suffering from defensive frailties as well. It was the first game where we really implemented a game plan and pulled it off. A clean sheet away from home and scoring 3 goals on the day, it was a big result. As a team our defensive shape was superb and we were ruthless on the counter attack. The result and performance gave the boys the belief that we can kick on.”

R: As the season has gone on you have tried to mix younger players in with the more experienced heads. How hard has it been to keep everyone happy?

“It’s simple for me. At Longlevens you need a certain character of player. They need to want to play for the club. We are so lucky that we have had a crop of lads that are first team regulars but are getting to the age where the mantel needs to be passed over. They understand that fresh blood needs to be given a chance, but of course only if they deserve it. So it is more of a case of everyone pulling in the right direction, we got decisions wrong but over the course of the season I believe we got the majority right.”

R: A bit of a quickfire round. Starting with moment of the season

“Hard to say really. I would say in terms of moments for the club as a whole it is the amount of youth players we have given a chance and the fact they have all looked comfortable at this level. The future of Longlevens looks bright!”

R: Result of the season?

“The 3-0 win at Windsor for sure. It meant more than just on the day.”

R: Goal of the season?

“Shaun O’Connor’s goal at Thatcham in the Challenge Cup. A 35 yard strike that I felt made Thatcham take note that we were there to upset them. We were very unlucky to lose 2-1”