BRACKNELL Town made an impressive start to their Bostik League campaign, defeating Waltham Abbey 1-0 at Larges Lane on Saturday, writes Dave Wright.

Liam Ferdinand netted the winner on 77 minutes in a game where they squandered numerous chances, with the visitors also having a few scoring opportunities themselves.

It was an entertaining affair, played in a good spirit by two very competitive sides.

As you would expect, the general standard was a step above the usual Hellenic League fare with the pace of the game the main factor. The Robins were not allowed space or time to dwell on the ball by a useful visiting side managed by former Football League player Mark Stimson.

He and a large chunk of his players had been with Bostik Premier Division club Thurrock last season, so this was a strong first test for Town.

They came through it well and, while there is still room for improvement, this performance can only have boosted confidence in the camp.

Their starting line-up showed four changes to the squad which had secured promotion last season, with new signings Mark Scott replacing Chris Grace in goal, Matt Day coming into the heart of the defence alongside Carl Davies, and former Thatcham duo Liam Ferdinand and Gavin James reunited up front.

The latter pair certainly caused plenty of problems for the Abbey defence with their acceleration and direct running.

Bracknell also troubled their Essex visitors in the air, with player-manager Davies and right-back Joe Gater both looking to get on the end of corners and free-kicks.

Skipper Dave Hancock had switched from right back to the left, and was in the right position when his goal-line clearance prevented Ibrahim Kehinde giving the visitors an early lead.

There was another scare for Town when Rob Clark, spotting Scott off his line, unleashed a long-range lob, but the keeper back-pedalled and pushed the ball behind for a corner.

The former Slough No. 1, playing his first competitive game since breaking his neck 18 months ago, was back in action early in the second half, blocking the path of Ellis Brown after he had got behind the home defence.

But generally, Town continued to look the more dangerous side going forward, with their slick and sweeping moves stretching the Abbots.

In the space of five minutes, Ferdinand and James were both denied by keeper Arthur Janata, who also produced a fine save to thwart Joe Grant, while a counter-attack led to Scott making another save.

James had another effort deflected into the side-netting before being replaced by substitute Adam Cornell with 20 minutes remaining.

Former England Schools international Ashleigh Artwell and Kane Fitzgerald, having rejoined the club from Binfield, also made their Bostik League debuts on a day when all five Bracknell substitutes were attacking players.

There was no let up in the pressure and it finally paid off in the 77th minute when Grant found Ferdinand, who drove into the area from the right side and had time to fire a low shot into the left-hand corner.

Soon afterwards Town nearly scored again when, from Gater’s long pass out of defence, Ferdinand moved the ball onto Cornell, but his effort flashed just wide.

Considering the number of chances created, Town need to start turning more of them into goals – and that was the main lesson to be learned on their return to this level of football after an absence of 14 years.

The attendance of 236 was slightly disappointing compared to last season, but was still by far the highest on the day in the South Central Division.

This Saturday, the Robins travel to Molesey, who lost 3-0 at Marlow in their opening game of the season (3pm).

  • SANDHURST Town, back in the FA Cup following a four-year absence, were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Lymington and will replay at New Milton FC tonight (Wednesday).

Paul Rake, his side’s man of the match, put the Fizzers ahead in the first half with Sam House equalising for the visitors.

The winners will be home to Frimley Green in the preliminary round on August 25.

  • EVERSLEY & California made it two wins out of two in Division One of the Combined Counties League by defeating AC London 2-0 with Stephen Peacock netting both goals, the second coming from the penalty spot.

They played the last 20 minutes with 10 men following a second yellow card for Brad Brown.

The Boars are away to Frimley Green this Saturday (3pm) and next Tuesday (7.45pm) host Andover New Street in the Hampshire Senior Cup.

  • WOKINGHAM & Emmbrook launch their Hellenic League Division One East campaign this Saturday when they host AFC Aldermaston at their new temporary home home, Bracknell Town's Larges Lane ground (3pm).