PRE SEASON FRIENDLY
BANSTEAD ATH – 0
SUTTON UNITED – 1 [Collins 88]
Now onto the final rehersal. Sutton, for some reason, took the unusual step of playing a friendly mid-week, with most other sides taking it easy prior to tbe big kick-off on Saturday.
Now normally, we’d wonder about the wisdom of such a decision, but given the somewhat unusual side we’d fielded on the Saturday combined with the heat which would have made your average Saharan Bedouin saying “Fuck me. Bit warm out here innit?”, this fixture gave JR & TR the chance to have a final look at and make the decision as to who’ll start against Hayes.
Gareth kindly volunteers me a lift from Sutton and we wander into the Banstead clubhouse just after 6. Here we find Belly, having already made himself at home after arriving sometime just after 5!
A couple of pints later and Chalmers ambles in. Bob’s decided to give this one a miss, obviously pysching himself up for the biggy at the weekend and the Greek fella is on his hols (No, not Greece. Cyprus actually!).
For a change, tonights match is actually held inside the ground itself and not on the practice pitch behind the clubhouse. Banstead’s management abviously wanting to get their players used to operating in the tight & hostile surroundings of the footballing cauldron that is Merland Rise.
The U’s line up in a more familiar manner tonight with Palmer returning to the defence. Still no Hodges though, so Corbett is called upon for defensive duties this evening. On the opposition tonight are a couple of Ex-U’s. Aaron Smith, last seasons Ressies Captain and recently departed ‘keeper, Jamie Ribolla.
Things start a little slowly and it takes both sides a good few minutes to come to terms with the rather hard bumpy pitch. Matt Gray struggling especially out on the right. But 8 minutes in a quick free-kick is taken on the left and played along the edge of the box. Bolt is the recipient, but his nicely struck effort is a bit high.
Banstead are denied the lead a few moments later when a shot from the edge of the box strikes Corbett and deflects horribly. With Iga going the wrong way, it looks like a certain goal. But the big keeper corrects himself and dives to his left, somehow managing to parry the shot with his outstretched hand. A fine save.
The U’s are back on the offensive soon after when Gray makes progress down the right and puts a ball into the box. A defender goes to cut it out but only succeeds in slicing it to Watson just behind him. Unfortunately Watso pulls his shot just a little too high.
Just before the 15 minute mark, Bolt has a run from deep before firing over and then the half completely dies. With little of any note whatsoever to reoprt! Sutton struggle to really stamp any kind of authority on the game, but are never really in too much danger of conceding.
Christ knows how the Bobbins lost to this lot!
Right on half time, a rare moment of action see’s Gray put a high ball to the back post where Akuamouah has sneaked in behind his man. But Eddie misjudges the bounce on the rock hard surface and the ball connects with his arm.
Handball says the rather less than impressive referee. But only with the help of the equally
unimpressive lino. Thankfully the seconds half proves to be much better and ever so slightly more entertaining than the first.
Straight after the restart, Nick Bailey nips in down the left and delivers a teasing ball from the byeline to the back post, but Gray can’t keep his header down. Bolt then twists & turns on the edge of the box a couple of minutes later, before firing in a low effort that Ribolla is equal to.
Just to remind us they’re still around. The home side win a corner after 51 minutes. Put in from our left it picks out thier rather large No12, who despite having a completely free header, powers the ball inches over Iga’s bar.
Er, lads. Marking anyone?
But it’s a very rare opportunity for the hosts as they spend most of their time stuck in their own half, defending against a now lively U’s side. Bailey in particular shaking off a rather poor 1st half to be back to his best, charging around everywhere.
55 minutes gone and Gray puts one of his low crosses in from the right to the near post. Ribolla stoops to claim but misjudges the pace and the bal rebounds off his chest. Watson pounces, but can’t get a clear sight of goal and his effort is a little too high and wide of the mark.
Watso is again the cuplrit soon after with another miss, Folwer now operating more on the right in front of Gray puts a pass through for an overlapping Bailey. He skips a challenge, goes to the byeline and hangs up a lovely ball just under the crossbar. Watson arrives and with only a slight touch needed the ball skims off his forehead and flise wide of the far post. Although to be fair to our No10, he was stretching a bit for it and it was probably harder than it looked.
We keep plugging away, but with our pressure waning a bit, Corbett is replaced by Collins. Rob moves up front with Watson, with Folwer dropping back behind them.
Collins composure on the ball and running breathes new life into the game and gives the U’s a little boost. With 20 minutes remaining, Watson breaks through into the box out on the left, before laying the ball back to the edge for the supporting Honey. He makes good contact, but a defender gets a foot on it, sending the ball looping over a stranded Ribolla and saldy, just over the bar.
We keep getting closer to that elusive goal though. A Bolt corner on 75 minutes comes straight back to him. this time, the delivery is slightly better, picking out Fowler just beyond the far post. Despite the close attentions of a defender, his header flies over the shoulder of Ribolla and thumps back off the inside of the near post with the loose ball dropping just behind the supporting Watson.
Another chance goes begging inside the last 10 mins when a threaded pass down the left finds Bolt, he holds off a defender before getting in a good low cross. Another Banstead man cuts it out, but only succeeds in giving the ball straight to Watson. With the goal at his mercy, Watso turns on the ball and thumps his shot just over the bar from 8 yards.
With time running out, it looks like the 100% pre-season run is about to end. But with 2 minuets left, a moment of individual magic from Rob Collins nicks it.
A lovely crossfield ball picks out Collins on the left. He cuts infield before turning and bursting for the box. He rides one challenge, before skipping another just inside the 18 yard box before toe-ing the ball past the fast advancing ‘keeper and into the bottom far corner. At bloody last!
Not long after, it’s all over and we’ve managed to preserve our run. 8 friendlies played, 8 friedlies won. Ok, so the last 2 weren’t exactly of the highest standard, but they count!
Well done lads, top stuff.
Oh and one last thing……………….try not to go and get stuffed on saturday now eh?
TEAM : Iga, Palmer, Gonsalves, Corbett, Gray, Akuamouah, Honey, Bailey, Bolt, Fowler, Watson.
SUBS : Davis, Collins