South African hit-man Sinoxolo Mbekeni scored twice in the second half as Trojans reversed a 2-1 half-time deficit to beat London Academicals 3-2 at Bermondsey and so maintain the pressure at the top of South League Premier Division 2.
Two matches before the winter break, Trojans remain one point behind leaders Guildford, who beat Blackheath & Eltham 4-3, writes Toby Dudson.
A lively start produced missed chances at both ends, but an early lead for Trojans – Ian Bassett coming off the bench to score from a penalty stroke awarded for a shove on Rich Aves, who had been picked out by an imaginative piece of play by Ben Cole.
As Trojans turned the screw looking to build on that early lead, so Bassett sent a deflection wide and Paul Hilton struck a shot straight at the Academicals goalkeeper when another strike to add to his recent three-goal tally beckoned.
Trojans, whose return fixture with Guildford on January 19 is clearly going to have a major impact on the title race, were made to pay for their profligate finishing.
Academicals scored twice before half-time through a Seb Golding equaliser and a short corner conversion by Niall Kelly, which found Trojans all over the place at the back.
Bassett put Academicals under early second half pressure with an aerial pass, while Dave McNee’s leads upfront led to more chances being created and the game opening up.
Trojans eventually equalised through Sinoxolo Mbekeni, ‘Essex’ to his friends, who previously played for the Stoneham club in the second phase of the 2016/17 season, scoring nine times. Ben Cole provided the assist.
With the game delicately balanced 2-2, Trojans saw Chris Jackson retire for first aid and then lost Harry Warren to a green card (a bit of umpire back-chat), leaving Bassett and Toby ‘Costa’ Dudson to shore up the centre defence.
Warren’s return (alongside the patched up Jackson) proved crucial as he picked out Mbekeni, who dribbled through three defenders before putting the ball in the top right-hand corner for Trojans’ winner.
Academicals refused to lie down and forced several unconverted short corners before a relieved Trojans crew heard the final whistle.
* Trojans host winless Slough at Stoneham Lane on Saturday, 1.30.
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