February will be remembered for the amount of rain affected matches that has decimated the league programme but somehow, Chertsey Town has been affected the least.
They have ploughed through five matches in the month and revelled in the process. The home game against modest Banstead Athletic was no exception.
Substantial rain in the hours leading up to the game, including a heavy shower during the pre-match warm up, did the groundsman’s task in producing a decent playing surface no favours.
But the Chertsey Town players and management alike will be happy to play in waterhole conditions every week if it means such emphatic victories can be regularly repeated until the end of the
Striker Phil Page will be even happier after he recorded a well rounded four goals to underline his side’s dominance. Tom O’Regan also found the net in the last knockings to set up Chertsey’s
eighth successive win, a feat not achieved for 18 seasons.
It was also a fitting farewell to Town’s skipper Jack Francis who has found work in new Zealand.
He was drafted in after injury to provide cover in central defence as Leika Saku (under suspension) and Simon Cox (unavailable) were both missing. It was a successful return as the Banstead forward
line was kept quiet throughout the game.
Although a comfortable score line suggested how one sided the encounter was, the final three Chertsey goals only arrived in the final ten minutes giving the suggestion that a draw might, by some
fluke, be engineered. Such a result would have been a travesty as Chertsey really should have been out of sight and over the horizon well before the final whistle.
What Chertsey might have achieved on a very tacky surface had they employed their hitherto pretty, pretty football which relied on short square passes to break down defences is anyone guess.
They show more focus these days which was just as well as medium to long passes in the forward direction proved to be key on the sticky surface.
Time again Town broke though the Banstead defences and it was only some astute skills from the visitor’s goalkeeper Steve Windeguaard, the woodwork (twice) and the wrong side of his side netting
that kept the score down to single figures.
The keeper did not shine at the start however as Chertsey took a seventh minute lead.
Dan Bennett received the ball on the left. The advanced Windeguaard was bypassed leaving Page in the goalmouth with a simple tap in goal.
All the action was directed towards the Banstead goal with a defender heading of the line before goal number two was inevitably notched.
It was Page again. A low diagonal pass towards the penalty spot was delivered along the ground by O’Regan. The pass looked likely to be cleared but Page was first to the ball and slotted it home
from just six yards.
Matt Harmsworth for Banstead delivered a weak shot as some sort of reply but they hardly looked likely to break back.
O’Regan worked a good position but his shot skidded along the side netting and the two goal gap remained.
But to the surprise of everyone, the 42nd minute saw an unheralded success for the visitors when the ball was lost in the Chertsey midfield.
A lob at goal from distance, with Craig Bradshaw off his line was thwarted at first as Ollie Treacher blocked the attempt, but in following up the pump forward, Joe Jackson took a couple of
attempts with Treacher trying to frustrate, before forcing the ball home with three minutes remaining on the first half clock.
Andy Crossley might have restored the cushion at the other end but his shot clipped an upright.
Chertsey pressed even harder after the break but could not find the net for quite some time. A succession of crosses, mainly delivered from the right, looked potent enough but the narrow Chertsey
lead prevailed. Page hit the ball wide then Papali did the same.
A strong Bennett run set up Papali again but his shot was again saved. Marcus Moody also broke though but could not put the ball away.
The ever lurking fear of a major upset was never far away but in truth, the back line and sure goalkeeping did not suggest it likely.
But Page at last settled the nerves with a 35 yard shot that fooled Windeguaard as it skidded off the park and through him on its way to the back of the Banstead net on 80 minutes.
Town continued to slice through as Page beat the offside flag and although took two bites at finishing off, managed to record his fourth on 83 minutes with the aid of the left hand goal post.
Chertsey were not done even then as O’Regan captured a low struck 35 yard free kick from Francis, to turn and fire home with three minutes to spare.
Town’s rivals failed to beat the weather and although they have games in hand, Chertsey, in resuming their place at the top of the table will have increased the pressure at the top.