Fortune made to wait by inspired Wanderers
A goal in each half from Jerome Marks and Darryl Green saw Woodford keep Temple Fortune's title celebrations on ice as they claimed an impressive win at Redbridge Sports Centre.
Fortune needed a victory to win the club's first championship since 1986. The fixture against Woodford was hard-fought and closely contested and the first half presented few chances.
Lacking any fluidity, Fortune put in a bitty performance with very little happening up front. The home side seemed intent marking Ben Isaacs tightly at every opportunity from the start but just about had more of the ball during the opening period without creating much threat to Adam Glekin's goal.
At the other end, Fortune looked out of sorts as an attacking side and Rob Benson's sole on-target shot late in the half, which was smothered by the Woodford goalkeeper, was virtually the away side's only decent opportunity.
The followed a period with little happening in either goal-mouth until an unfortunate misjudgement by inspiration skipper Scott Shindler midway through the half broke the deadlock. He 'handled' the ball with his right arm whilst attempting to chest it down, giving Woodford a gift of a penalty. This they duly converted and suddenly the game started opening up more.
After Adam Glekin had made a couple of saves, Fortune equalised when Michael Goldberg headed home a corner and suddenly the visitors looked to be in the ascendancy.
A few minutes later, Dan Natoff's strong header towards the gaping Woodford net was knocked high over the bar by the on-rushing Isaacs from only a few yards out, a bad miss which will provoke nightmares for Fortune players for the next few days.
The Woodford keeper kept out another Isaacs effort near the edge of his area, whilst Glekin pulled off a great save at the other end as the team in black and yellow pressed for a winner.
And then, with seven minutes remaining, the decisive moment arrived when the home Green broke free on the left and fired home past the despairing dive of Glekin.
Fortune mustered little in the closing minutes, snuffled out by the snapping attentions of a committed Wanderers team whilst Glekin kept the Yellows in contention with another excellent save.
Fortune had two players cautioned – Jonathan Cohen and Paul Walker – whilst somehow Woodford escaped unblemished despite a few hairy tackles and intentional off-ball impeding. Jonathan's booking just before half-time (with Lee Fegan off the pitch injured) was for entering the field of play without the referee's permission following a botched-up substitution.
Overall, a disappointing Temple Fortune performance in a very tight match which Woodford just about shaded.
MSFL Chairman David Wolff watched the fixture and enjoyed what he saw as a very competitive match which was played without the nastiness of the first encounter at Hatch End.
Brixton's 7-1 victory against Faithfold B compounded the Woodford defeat and will make next week's MSFL Division Two climax very exciting and tense too for all concerned. However, the Yellows live to fight another day and this team's winning mentality will hopefully see the Fortune through next Sunday. But it will need a far improved display to overcome Faithfold B for the second time in three weeks.
Yet, Fortune's championship aspirations could be aided by a similar Woodford performance against second-placed Brixton who will find it very difficult if the Wanderers approach the game with the same fighting attitude. Another tense Sunday morning will be in store at the Faithfold B v Fortune 'D-Day' encounter.
Woodford player-manager Alex Aviram told JC Sport: "Today we showed what we are all about. The result speaks for itself. The scoreline flattered them."
Fortune boss Andrew Souber told JC Sport: "We always knew it would be tough going over there. It was a tight game and I think a draw would have been a fair result.
"My strikers will know that we had chances to kill the game off but by the same token they also had some very good chances.
"I am pleased to say that the game was played in a much better spirit then the first time around and the main thing is we live to fight another day."