Lee Fowler went into this opening game of the season minus 10 1st team squad players (5 transfers awaiting international clearance, 3 suspensions held over from last season and 2 injuries), so he had to rely heavily on the club’s Academy players and was only able to name three substitutes. Nevertheless, the youngsters who came in, did both him and the club proud, as they played their part in earning Flint an important opening day win in front of a healthy 400 plus crowd at the Essity stadium.
The Silkmen got off to a dream start, scoring just after the minute mark. The ball was played over from the right, finding Ashton Mather in space on the left side of the 6 yard box. He looped the ball back across the goal, and it struck the bar before bouncing down, and Harley Peagram showed great alertness to follow it in and stab the ball home.
This was the start of a purple period for the home side who created several chances in the opening 25 minutes, but were unable to convert any of them. A Jake Phillips long throw on 6 minutes found the head of Elliott Reeves, but his flicked effort was cleared off the line in front of the far post.
Flint continued to dominate possession in the attacking third, but were unable to find a second goal. Then, on 17 minutes, and completely out of the blue, Denbigh had the ball in the back of the Flint net from a spectacular thirty yard strike only to see it disallowed. From a drop ball that fell to Ryan Kershaw, awarded after the ball had struck the referee during a passage of play, the Denbigh player looked up, saw his chance and smashed the ball home from distance. Unfortunately for the away team, a second player had not touched the ball, which is now a necessity following an uncontested drop ball, and so the effort was ruled out.
Following that let off, Flint should have increased their lead on 20 minutes. Elliott Reeves was through on goal with just the keeper to beat, but sent his shot the wrong side of the post, to the dismay of the Flint faithful.
Denbigh then started to assert themselves as more of an attacking force, and started to create some half chances. They were rewarded on 34 minutes, when a ball was centred from the left and ex-Flint player Tom Weir was on hand to score from close range.
With 3 minutes to go before the break, Jake Phillips cut in from the right and unleashed a shot that Denbigh keeper Aaron Jones did well to keep out.
With the sides all square at the break, an intriguing second half was in prospect, as the question was asked as to whether Flint’s youngsters would let their heads to drop having been pegged back after such a bright start. The answer was an emphatic no, as the likes of Morgan Roberts, Ashton Mather and Harry Cartwright all stuck to their tasks, and Pegram continued to be a constant threat up front with his enthusiasm and pace.
Having withstood an early period of pressure from a Denbigh side who now had the wind in their sails, Flint struck what proved to be the decisive second goal on 56 minutes. Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro, occupying a deeper midfield role, struck a sublime through ball into the path of Reeves, He deftly took it in his stride, before shooting past Jones in the Denbigh goal from a wide angle, more than making up for his earlier miss in the process.
A couple of minutes later, Flint could have opened up a two goal lead, as Ben Hughes found himself through on goal with just Jones to beat. He shot past the keeper, only to see his attempt come agonisingly back off the post. Jones was then able to recover and did well to block Peagram’s follow up effort.
As the game entered the last quarter, and fatigue started to set in for the youngsters, the experienced players in the Flint team came to the fore with Akpa-Akpro, Danny Harrison and Anthony Stephens using all their guile and experience to blunt Denbigh’s attack by sticking in a foot in here and getting a block in there.
Rhys Williams, making his debut in the Flint goal, remained relatively untroubled until added on time, when Denbigh decided to throw the kitchen sink at it, in an attempt to grab an equaliser. Jake Walker met a ball at the far post that Williams managed to parry, before Harrrison was on hand to hack it clear from just in front of the goal-line. Then, shortly after, following a corner, another effort was cleared off the line as Flint gamely hung on. After 6 minutes of injury time, the referee’s whistle brought relief and celebration to the Flint ranks in equal measure, as they marked their return to the Cymru North with a hard earned, and very welcome, 3 points.
Report by Nigel Sheen, Photos by Steve Parker (All Sports Photos)
Line Ups :
Flint Town United – R, Williams, J. Phillips, A. Mather, A. Stephens (c), M. Roberts, D, Harrison, B. Hughes, H. Cartwright, H. Peagram, E. Reeves, J-L Akpa-Akpro. Unused Subs – N.Collings (GK), H. Drazdauskas, S. Ward
Denbigh Town – A. Williams (GK), B. Lockley, H. Lockley, M. Thomas-Sadler, W. Holmes, R. Kershaw, T. Weir (C. Pritchard 46), P. Fleming (c) (J. Walker 85), M. Worrall (D. Clarke 85), M. Blackwell, N. Brown
Flint MOM – Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro (excelled in a deeper midfield role playing a pivotal role for his side)