By ADAM MAY
TWO goals in the space of a minute from Luke Callander and a half-volley from Michael Cheek recorded Chelmsford City’s first victory of the new season as they raced into a 3-0 lead.
For the Clarets, goals had been a rarity prior to this match, with Glen Southam opening City’s goal scoring account from the penalty spot two days prior to this lively Bank Holiday encounter. But Mark Hawkes’s men could take some pride in their recent 1-1 draw with promotion hopefuls Sutton United, even if an attacking threat was perhaps lacking.
However, in the pre-match warm-up, the Clarets looked like a team ready to go out and prove that they can be a threat and improve on last season’s 17th-placed finish. Cheek scored a well-taken goal and Callander looked threatening.
So it was perhaps little surprise that City scored two in quick succession and both strikers got off the mark. After all, it had to be a matter of time before the Clarets scored their first goal from open play, didn’t it? Stortford did threaten to rattle the visitors after Anthony Church and Mikel Suarez, from the penalty spot, pulled two back but the damage had already been done by the Clarets.
City certainly demonstrated their intent early on and attacked from the off when Callander carved a perfect chance for Cheek, but the frontman miss controlled the cross and the attack came to nothing.
The visitors were not to be depleted though and Joe Ward went close with a couple of efforts, the first dipping narrowly over the bar and the second was collected comfortably by Joe Wright in the Blues’ goal.
Rod Stringer’s men did regain some authority in the middle of the park but only really threatened from long range, with Joe Tabiri shooting high and wide.
City had to be patient in their build-up phases and played the ball across the defence and midfield areas competently while pressing well. Callander, in particular, came deep to ensure the Clarets retained the ball and kept the flow ticking along.
Former Clarets’ midfielder Church almost broke the deadlock against the run of play when Johnny Herd pulled the ball back from the by-line, only for the Blues’ skipper to side foot into the grateful arms of Nicky Eyre.
But it didn’t take too long before Chelmsford City threatened the goal again when Callander turned easily past George Allen, but Joe Wright was equal to his efforts and executed a fine save.
Bishop’s Stortford, who lost influential centre-back Callum McNaughton in the close-season, struggled to represent much of a threat as the Clarets continued to dominate in the second-half.
A chance went a begging for Stortford five minutes into the second-half when Mikel Suarez shaped to shoot but lost his footing at the vital moment on the slippery pitch, and watched as his weak effort dribbled wide.
Marvin Ekpiteta, who has recently been recalled to the Clarets’ starting line-up following the departure of Matt Fry, had to block Ryan Auger who cut inside to shoot as City withstood some pressure.
The ball began to stick to the pitch which caused a number of players difficulty, particularly when Joe Ward tried to cut the ball back to Callander, only to find a puddle and scuff the effort.
But the Clarets soon broke the deadlock just shy of the hour. City skipper Mark Hughes sprayed the ball out wide to James Love who sent a left-footed cross to Cheek who nodded down to Callander, allowing the striker to stab the ball home from close range.
And Callander soon doubled his lead a minute later when Cheek had his initial shot blocked on the line. Callander was in the right place at the right time though and comfortably tucked away the rebound to send the City faithful into euphoria.
The Clarets were in control just as the heavens opened at the ProKit UK Stadium as it became difficult to pass the ball accurately but it didn’t stop the visitors adding to their goal tally. Cheek cropped up to slam the ball home on the half-volley following a poor clearance from Glen Southam’s corner as he too opened his account for the new season.
Bishop’s Stortford pulled one back on 76-minutes when skipper Church scored from close-range despite hints of a handball which Nicky Eyre was clearly aggrieved about.
Marvin Ekpiteta then appeared to commit a foul just outside the area, but the referee awarded a penalty kick which Mikel Suarez made no mistake in tucking away, sending Nicky Eyre the wrong way.
But the damage had already been done by Callander and co, with the Clarets managing to hold on for their first victory of the season despite the late surge by Stortford.