Essex Senior League

Stanway Rovers had to settle for an Essex Senior League point in their opening game with new boss Terry Spillane at the managerial helm.

It was an encouraging start to life under their new manager and Stanway looked worthy of all three points through much of their encounter with Woodford Town after Marley Okosi gave them the lead in the first half.

However, Woodford battled doggedly and managed to grab a late leveller to make sure the two sides shared a point apiece.

It was a confident start from Stanway’s players as they looked to impress their new boss and Regan Farley-Hearn forced Woodford keeper Alfie Reed into a save with barely a minute on the clock.

That was followed by an even closer call for the visitors on six minutes when Finlay Hughes unleashed a superb drive from 25 yards that dipped over Reed and clattered away off the crossbar.

They were unable to force the early breakthrough, though, and the game settled down to be fairly even.

Stanway kept their tempo high, moving the ball effectively in a well-contested battle in midfield, but some scrappy play allowed Woodford the chance to gain more of a foothold to press the Rovers back line.

They weren’t able to craft much in the way of clear-cut chances, though, and with Rovers keeper Lewis Hawley not unduly troubled, it was his opposite number who was the more active.

On 26 minutes, Reed had to be alert again when Dean Wallace tried his luck from a similar area to where Hughes had earlier shot from and the Town keeper had to tip the ball over the crossbar on this occasion.

However, the breakthrough did arrive five minutes later for the hosts.

The first goal of Spillane’s managerial tenure came when a wonderfully-weighted ball from Farley-Hearn into the Woodford box was deftly turned past Reed by Okosi.

It was a deserved lead that Rovers held on to comfortably until half-time and there was little change at the start of the second half as Hawley remained the quieter of the two goalkeepers.

Milo Grimes thought he had extended Rovers' advantage when he headed in from a free-kick only to be denied by a raised flag for offside, while the closest Woodford went was just after the hour mark when striker Samir Ali headed wide of the target from a cross from the right.

With neither side able to consistently press in their respective final thirds of the pitch, though, the game became disjointed and was further fractured by the blowing of referee Michael Scott's whistle for a variety of infringements by both sets of players.

It meant Stanway's lead rarely looked in danger, so it was a sucker punch when they conceded in the 85th minute.

The equaliser followed a period when Woodford had managed to press a bit harder and they got their reward when Stanway's defence failed to clear its lines and Town substitute Adam Harris tucked the ball in from close range.

Stanway tried to regain their lead in the remaining minutes and Farley-Hearn fired just over from a free-kick, but there was no further scoring as they had to be content with just the point rather than all three to start Spillane's time in charge.

Stanway Rovers: Lewis Hawley, Regan Farley-Hearn, Teddy Nesbitt, Jett Hogan, Danny Nesbitt, Milo Grimes, Dean Wallace, Finlay Hughes, Marley Okosi, Alfie Cleal, Marley Andews.

Subs: Callum Griffiths.