Chertsey Town 2 Sandhurst Town 1
Chertsey extended their winning run into double figures with a less convincing but deserved victory over Sandhurst Town, to retain full pressure at the top end of the Combined Counties League table.
Prime rivals Guildford City and Camberley Town also won but Molesey drew. Time may eventually run out for the Curfews as they chip away at the title race which still has City sitting as marginal favourites but the desire to complete overtaking manoeuvres is still evident.
A rock hard pitch, still recovering from the battering it received through the squalls of a fortnight previous, combined with a keen diagonal wind was no friend of football and the contest was not the prettiest seen at Alwyns Lane this season.
To their credit, visitors Sandhurst Town tried to keep the ball on the deck and knock it about in style. They succeeded to a reasonable standard but one must question the tactic.
Chertsey’s approach, especially after the break when the wind was behind them, was more aerial and direct.
Cutting out midfield movement may not have advanced the aesthetic impression of their play but it did get the ball into danger areas far more readily and in the end it was a matter of percentages that counted as Chertsey were able to nick one more success from their raids than did Sandhurst.
With injuries and player suspension problems receding into the distance, manager Spencer Day’s selection options are as good as can have wished.
His side is settled too, and Mark McGibbon replacing Simon Cox was the only line up change from Chertsey’s previous midweek outing.
Tacking against the semi cross breeze, Chertsey took immediate control and forced Sandhurst onto the back foot. The pressure generated an immediate result when, on just five minutes, the lead was taken.
Dan Bennett was put through and, in attempting to round the goalkeeper, was clipped in full flight. Chris Baker escaped any referee’s cards due to the remoteness of the offence in the penalty area, but a penalty kick it surely was.
Dean Papali crashed the ball home, giving an expectation that another Chertsey victory was well on the way.
The perception was premature for their performance suddenly fell away and a stalemate descended.
The visitor’s striker James Meopham began to look menacing. He forced an early save from Craig Bradshaw but then was on hand for the easiest equalising goal he is ever likely to score.
On 19 minutes, a hopeful wind assisted lob through the middle was pumped upfield. In cricketing parlance, the ball was met by Bradshaw as a sort of yorker. The ball jerked under his swinging foot and loped on behind him where Meopham ran on to gently guide the ball into the massively gaping net.
Chertsey tried to strike back with immediate effect. Two Phil Page headed efforts from a Tom O’Regan free kick and a Bennett cross both went wide. Bennett’s trickery with the ball in tight situations also created big problems at the rear, but nothing came to fruition.
Meanwhile, Sandhurst may have been encouraged by their neat football but strong defending in the Chertsey back line stopped any real chance of them nudging a lead by half-time.
Chertsey hinted as having the greater attacking force of the two sides but too often the offside flag waived down progress with Dean Papali being the greatest, but not the only, transgressor.
An eye on the line was needed even more with the long ball over the top strategy but time and again good space was wasted by pushing forward too quickly.
An establishing pattern of late is the introduction from the bench , midway through the second period, of Lee Weemes and Miles Smith.
They were also joined by Andy Crossley as Town freshened up the attack. Defending too, took a greater share of the Curfews attention when Sandhurst enjoyed a bright quarter of an hour of regular possession midway through the period.
Again the home defence worked well to stop progress with Lloyd Boating receiving the clubhouse plaudits in the after match man of the match award.
It was as well that the back line gelled well as the ball kept coming back at them. The challenging might have been superb but the distribution had less effectiveness and was the sole reason for the boomerang syndrome.
But eventually the midfield sluice gates eased open a little and the pressure was relieved for Chertsey to re-emerge as being the more likely to find the net once more and a goal did come, ten minutes from the end.
A high diagonal cross from the leeward flank by Weemes looked to be too long, but then the ball caught the wind, to be held up. It dropped like a stone to Dan Bennett, waiting at the back.
Although in space, he had a bit of positional work to complete before coolly thumping the ball home in fine style.
The much relieved Alwyns Lane crowd of 155 suddenly went into jubilation mode which was conveyed on to the pitch. With the qualified luxury of a one goal lead under their belt, the Chertsey attack became more confident on the ball in and around the Sandhurst penalty area.
Almost bordering on a showboating display with the ball, it seemed another goal might be recorded, probably at close range, through sheer impudence as the clock ticked away.
The defence still had a bit to do at the other end however as Sandhurst’s ambitions were far from fizzled out. Goalkeeping is invariably a hero or zero position but Bradshaw turned to be the latter at the end.
A conceded 25 yard free kick clipped the Chertsey defensive wall and the ball took a wicked deflection.
Bradshaw was in the process of mopping up to his right but was then forced into a full length save in the opposite direction to secure his side the full points allocation.
The effervescence that has produced relentless football by Chertsey over the past ten games may have been slightly flat on this occasion but there was still enough fizz in the barrel to maintain the winning run and continued sights on the league title and promotion.
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