Bethnal Green United draw a blank in Barking clash
Bethnal Green United were held to a frustrating goalless draw by rivals Barking
Bethnal Green United 0-0 Barking
Bethnal Green United were held to a frustrating goalless draw by rivals Barking on Saturday after failing to turn a dominant second-half display into a clear advantage.
The Greens recovered from a shaky opening 10 minutes and bossed the remainder of an entertaining encounter that drew the Essex Senior League's largest crowd of the day to Mile End Stadium, but were unable to press home their superiority as Barking held out.
The clash marked the second of five scheduled meetings between the East London rivals this season - with two cup fixtures due to take place next month - but United were unable to replicate the comfortable win they had achieved in their first encounter.
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On that occasion, Marlon Campbell's clinical hat-trick had inspired a 4-0 triumph, but the Bethnal Green striker was unable to emulate those feats in the second meeting and an 87th-minute effort that shaved the outside of the post was as close as he or United came to fashioning a winner.
The stalemate represented a frustrating outcome for Bethnal Green boss Justin Gardner, though he was impressed by Barking's newfound resolve.
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He said: "To be fair, Barking are much improved since we beat them and I told the players beforehand that this would be our hardest match of the season so far because Barking are the only team who know how we play.
"They obviously learned the lessons from their mistakes in the first match and they stopped our best players from playing.
"They came to get a point, which is what they did and despite the fact that we were the better team for the most part, they probably deserved it."
Barking could even have taken all three points had they converted two early chances.
Jared Small broke free on the right in the fifth minute bur his rasping shot was tipped over by United goalkeeper Ashley King, who was called into action again five minutes later to deny Danny Mackin after the Barking player beat the offside trap.
The early flurry was Barking's only spell of genuine pressure in the match and United soon took hold of the encounter, with Anton Stephenson heading straight at the keeper from a corner and seeing a long-range effort tipped over.
Danny Sabroche and Marvin Abegunde were also denied as Bethnal Green, without midfielders Alfred Kamara, Marlon Boateng, Kadir Jama and Amos Foweya, struggled to create clear-cut chances after the break.
In a bid to break the deadlock, Gardner turned to promising teenager Akil Bakari, who came on as a 70th-minute substitute following his promotion from the club's Under-18 side last week.
The 17-year-old - who Gardner hailed as "a very talented boy" - almost enjoyed a fairytale debut when sent clear by Sabroche, only for a last-ditch tackle to snuff out the chance, while Campbell's late effort grazed the post as United were denied.
Bethnal Green United travel to London Colney in the first round of the FA Vase on Saturday (3pm).