Article and photo by Stuart Tree
It was deja-vu for James Bracken and his Corinthian-Casuals side as they booked their place in the Bostik League South playoff final for the second consecutive year, defeating Greenwich Borough in the process.
Last year saw a dramatic 4-3 win with goals from Shaun Okojie, Reyon Dillon and Mu Maan clinching their first ever final spot. Two of those three were no longer an option for Bracken (Okojie’s move up the leagues and Dillon in attendance but on crutches). However, his front line of Harry Ottaway, Gabriel Odunaike and Josh Uzun is a threat to anyone in the league.
Greenwich came into the match in mixed form having only won once in April. Casuals similar – though the last minute equaliser on Saturday to book their place in the knockout stages had put Corinth on a high.
Casuals would be without top scorer Max Oldham and midfield general Kevant Serbony both of whom picked up injuries at Hythe. However, Coskun Ekim returned to the delight of many.
Naturally, the opening exchanges were cagey and Kaka Dembele looked the main threat for Borough down the flank. However, it was Casuals who took the lead on 23 minutes. A ball over the top to Odunaike was well saved by Michael McEntergart in goal but the rebound was collected by the striker before being fouled by Callum McGeehan. A calm and cool penalty was dispatched by Josh Uzun to take the lead.
13 minutes later and Casuals doubled their lead. A long ball through from Warren Morgan was skilfully controlled by Odunaike who made no mistake in hitting the mark.
Casuals were firmly in control though 2-0 is a dangerous score. A pivotal point was Gareth Williams, who’s expertly stepped in for the injured Danny Bracken, brilliantly saved from Sam Corne’s shot which looked to be bound for the bottom corner.
Returning from the tunnel, Casuals thought process was to kill the game off. And they were given a helping hand just seven minutes after the break when Danny Fitzsimons woefully sold short his backpass and Odunaike sprung into action to slot through the keeper’s legs and seal the result.
From a neutral’s perspective, this flattened the game but Casuals fans didn’t care. It was an easier ride than the rollercoaster of emotions felt here last year. Corinth resolutely held their ground and were able to see out the remaining time with relative ease. Substitute Junior Aikhionbare helped when getting himself sent off for a rash challenge on Morgan and involvement in some ‘afters’.
Eyes tuned into mobile phones for most of the half to see where they’d be heading come Saturday. As it turned out, home… in a most Casual affair.