Anyone Got Any Players?

PRE-SEASON FRIENDLY | Att: N/A

CHERTSEY TOWN – 2 [Burton 27. Lewis 62]

SUTTON UNITED – 3 [Corbett 15. Watson 22. 30]

Another day, another pre-season friendly.

After the stuttering performance at Molesey on Saturday, we make the trip down to Chertsey’s Alwyns Lane for the latest exciting instalment of what is proving to be a slightly underwhelming\depressing pre-season. With each passing game showing us just how thin our resources are and pointing quite simply to little more than a season of struggle.

The side once again has changed little. The only difference tonight being that we’ve been able to name just  2 subs. And one of those hasn’t shown up! The unlucky bastard on his jack in the dugout is Kevin Cooper. Wonder if he’s gonna be doing the sponge work as well??

Mark Watson remains up front, but we’re still not sure if this is just to get him fit so Aldershot can sell him to a club who can actually afford him or he’s just flat out not wanted by the Shots and is just looking to play some footy. Personally, I hope it’s the latter. ‘Cos it would be dead funny if he stuck around here and scored 20+ goals as that would surely piss off our friends in Hampshire after his less than stellar return for them. In fact, if he could pop in a late winner at their place at Xmas, I’d find it doubly amusing.

Yours truly eventually bundles off his, as per usual, late South West train service at Chertsey to find a parched Bob reclining on the platform. I know this because he told me. We start to head ground/pubwards when I remember that Chalmers had called moments earlier to inform me of his arrival in the vicinity and he was on his way towards the station to get his bearings. I think we’ll wait here then!

A couple of minutes later, we’ve ambushed Mr Chalmers and forced him to drive us to the ground. Although, we have no trouble persuading him to join us for a swift pre-match bevvy in the rather nice Fullers pub by the ground. Funny that.

We hit the turnstiles and purchase our proggies. However our team list on the back is somewhat strange looking, mainly because it’s around 2 years out of date containing names such as Paul Whitmarsh and Neil Baker! Hmm, we might not have sent them a team list, but how bloody hard is it to jump on the net and check out one of our sites these days? Lazy buggers!

The match gets underway and  it’s soon evident that the home defence is a bit wobbly. Another thing we notice is they’re also taking it all rather too seriously, with one or two hefty challenges going in. Steady on lads, it’s a fucking friendly remember! Nothing wrong with being competitive, but there is a limit. It’s not hard to see why this lot had the 3rd worst disciplinary record in the whole Ryman league last season and judging by this, there’ll be one or two more cards shown to Curfews players again this year. Best call the FA and reserve a couple of parking spots now lads, it looks like you’re going to need them.

The U’s front running pays off after around 15 minutes, when Ben Shannon makes a strong run down the left, holding off a defender before firing the ball low across the 6 yard box. With 2 or 3 Amber shirts queuing up and the ‘keeper puzzlingly absent, Scott Corbett heads the large queue of Sutton players and sweeps the ball into an empty net.

About 5 minutes later a ball forwards from deep in our own half sails over the Chertsey defence and sets Watson off on his way. The back four stand and shout for an offside flag that never comes, meanwhile Watson runs unchallenged towards goal. He slips the ball past the ‘keeper who clearly has his eye on playing man rather than said ball, which if we’re honest we always thought was pretty much the first rule of being a ‘keeper, but hey ho. Thankfully the big man shrugs off the challenge\blatant attempt to block him, jogs on up to the line and toes the ball into a once more unguarded net to put the U’s 2-0 up.

Shortly after this, Chertsey win a free-kick on our right around 25 yards out. The ball is played to the near post, where it gets a slight touch and ex-U Warren Burton applies the final touch with his head past a stranded Dunn. Nice to see the poor marking and silly goals part of our game is still intact. Sutton respond immediately and within 5 minutes, the 2 goal advantage is restored as a deep cross from the left picks out Watson at the back post and he places a deft downward header inside the near post with the ‘keeper rooted to the spot.

The home side step up the tempo and their robust approach. I mean, why just try harder when you can kick the fuck out of the oppo too? Not long after the third goal, the Chertsey No7 piles into the back of Nick Bailey out on the far touchline. It’s his second naughty challenge of the night and he’s soon being subbed at the request of the ref. Which is about the only thing the man in black accomplishes all night. It’s one thing I hate about friendlies if I’m honest, you can be literally as unfriendly as you like and all that happens is that you get subbed off and your lot get to stay with 11. Fuck that, at least make them play a man short if you can’t be arsed with the paperwork…

Chertsey almost reduce the deficit again shortly before the half time when a run and shot from outside the box has Dunn beaten but clips the top of his crossbar. A half time cuppa and a burger for dinner later, we wander round to the other end for the second half.

Neither side makes any changes at the start of the half (us unsurprisingly so, given we’ve not got any fresh legs!) but it’s the home side that start the liveliest and within a few minutes of the restart they’ve pulled another goal back. A cross from the U’s left is met in the D by Lewis, who guides his header in off the far post.

Steadily Chertsey gain more control of proceedings, with the U’s reduced to the odd breakout. Of which there are a few, but all are poorly supported and cut out before they can cause any danger. The best chance falls to Nick Bailey who races onto a through ball and beats the ‘keeper in a race for the ball, but his chip lands just wide of the right hand post. Then, not to be outdone in the physical stakes, Mark Watson wins a race for a loose ball out on the far touchline, burying his opponent into the concrete barrier surrounding the pitch with a loud thud. Ouch!

The home side make numerous changes to their line up and the fresh legs just allow them to assert further pressure on our harassed defence, but most of their efforts are either off the mark or straight at Dunn.

The ‘Curfews’ somewhat physical approach finally reaps what it has sown with about 5 minutes remaining when Paul Honey gets stuck in on the touchline in front of the dugouts, winning 2 fierce tackles, before a Chertsey player takes ‘revenge’ by piling into the back of Ben Shannon who isn’t even close to being in possession at the time. It’s a wankers challenge and naturally, he’s not too happy about this and reacts. Within moments a 15 man free for all is going off and once the furore has died down, the ref calls his linesman over for a discussion about how little paperwork they really want to do before awarding Sutton a free-kick and not so much as talking to anyone involved. You can’t help thinking if he’d stepped in and sorted things out in the first half, mostly by telling them to chill the fuck out, it might not have got this far.

The last couple of minutes are pretty frantic and both sides have chances. First Matt Gray gets clear of the defence but his ball across the box just eludes Watson. Chertsey meanwhile blow a complete sitter with almost the last kick. A move down the Sutton left ends with a ball across the edge of the box finds a striker in enough space to snatch an equaliser. But he blazes his effort way over Tommy’s goal and holds his head as if he’s just missed a winner in a cup final.

So the U’s hang on, just, for a hard earned win from a bruising encounter. But it’s still looking ominous for the coming season as we’re going to be relying heavily on a team of mainly 17-20 year olds with only a couple of experienced heads in there to steady the ship. Could be a long campaign!

We’ll see.

Team: Dunn, Howard, Gonsalves, Beale, Shannon, Honey, Gray, Corbett, Hanlan, Watson, Bailey SUB : Cooper

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