PRE SEASON FRIENDLY
LEATHERHEAD – 2 [Ruggles 51. Charles-Smith 85]
SUTTON UNITED – 3 [Collins 27. Fowler 33.63p]
Next up for the U’s Surrey based pre-season bandwagon? Why Leatherhead of course!
A pre-match meet in the Old Bank by Sutton finds Mr Bell his usual jovial self, the greek fella scoffing a bacon roll and Gareth nursing a huge hangover from a late night out at not-so-top Sutton night spot “Alley Cats”
“I only went out for a game of pool!” He whimpers, nursing a halfpint of water & ice. Wuss.
There’s no Chalmers though. He was off getting destroyed in Enfield last night at a wedding & is still trying to battle his way home in the traffic apparently.
After a quick refreshment, we head off to Fetcham Grove, a ground the U’s last visited several years ago in a League Cup match (I think) that we then won 6-0. A repeat would be nice.
We’re a little less confident as we view our boys warming up from the bar. Hang on, we’re missing a few here! No Bolt, no Rogers for starters. Akuamouah is stood chatting to someone nearby, obviously not taking part and Scott Forrester is chatting with the big chiefs in the aforementioned bar. Ah.
Eddie & Scott are apparently both suffering from knocks. Bolty we’re told has just become a dad in the last 24 hours or so. (Congrats Dan!). Rogers? We have no idea! And with Hamlin and others away at a reserve fixture, we’re a little thin on the ground. The numbers are boosted slightly with the inclusion of 2 triallists. Andy Iga, who was here briefly as reserve ‘keeper as couple of seasons ago and recently at Hampton plus Rob Collins, a striker from Horsham. When the teams are announced, the name Stuart Reeks is also added to the list.
Scratch Reeks. It’s soon clear that the only sub on our bench is Kevin Davis. A keeper. err…
Iga starts between the sticks with Collins partnering Watson up front and Fowler playing in an unfamiliar attacking midfield role.
With it being a tad on the warm side, a frenetic opening is never on the cards. The only real event of not near the start is Bailey putting a free-kick round the wall, but straight at the ‘keeper. It’s a good 25 minutes in before the first real chance occurs. Gray makes a surging run down the right, putting a low ball into the near post. Collins (having had a somewhat quiet first 20 minutes or so!) pops up, controls and then turns the ball goalwards. The ‘keeper does his job, blocking with his feet. The ball breaks loose in the box and Fowler manages to touch it back to Collins. Who with his back to goal, makes himself some space, turns and flashes a shot just over.
Collins now springs to life and a couple of minutes later, bursts away down the left, rides 2 challenges and makes it to the byeline. But he’s simply crowded out and with no-one close enough to offer support, the ball eventually runs out for a goal-kick. He makes amends though on the half hour, Gray knocking a nice ball through the Leatherhead defence. Any suspicions of offside are killed as a stretched defender can only help the ball on into the path of Collins. He hits the box and steadying himself, dispatches a lovely finish, whipping an effort past the ‘keeper and into the far corner via the inside of the near post.
The U’s double their lead 5 minutes later. A long ball forwards is chased down by Watson to the right of the 18 yard box. But a defender gets there first. The Sutton man doesn’t give up and forces an error out of the Tanners man, winning the ball back. Calmly he turns into the box and with both Collins and Fowler waiting, he picks out Fowler on the penalty spot with a simple pass. Matty sweeping the ball across the ‘keeper and into the bottom far corner. Another classy finish!
Very little happens until the break, with the heat again seeming to take it’s toll and keep the pace of the game down.
Appearing for the second half, we’ve barely got to the covering at the far end before the Tanners have pulled one back. Matt Gray is caught out of position on the right and Ruggles gets behind him. His low cross-shot then seems to decieve Davis at his near post and despite the ‘keepers desperate attempt to keep the ball out, it bobbles past him and into the net. A most definately shit goal.
The U’s continue to produce the better of the chances, first Gray puts another good ball into the near post, with the ‘keeper just beating Watson to it. Then another cross from the right is flicked onto the target by Fowler, but the ‘keeper blocks. It comes back out to Honey on the right and he’s bundled over winning a free-kick. Bailey then puts the set piece onto Corbetts head at the far post, but the header is straight at the ‘keeper.
The right continues to be a problem for the U’s. Gray is getting forward no problem, but his lack of defensive abilites are catching him out. Another move to that flank results in a cross finding a Tanners striker in space at the far post. But he can only put his header straight at Davis.
Just after the hour, Sutton restore their 2 goal advantage. Collins battles for the ball 30 yards out and the plays it through the home defence. Bailey bursts into the box, challenged by a defender, he gets away from him before tumbling to the ground. Errrrr………well, we were convinced Nick. no really, we were…….
Much to the dismay of the home side, the ref points to the spot. Oh well, about time we were due a dubious penalty. We missed out on god knows how many stonewall peno’s last season! Fowler places the ball and rattles his spot kick in off the underside of the bar to the ‘keepers right to make it 3-1.
Shortly after this (we’re not sure when exactly! We only noticed when we saw Watson playing at the back!) Danny Hodges limps off injured. And with no outfield subs on the bench, the lads end up playing out the last 20-25 minutes with just the 10 men.
The man advantage & the fact that they’ve got substitutes puts Leatherhead on top. But it takes them a while to break through. With 7 minutes to play a good movement through the middle sets up a striking opportunity. But Davis does well and saves low to his right. 2 minutes later, we’re again caught out down the right. The resulting ball into the box is met with a thumping volley and Davis again reacts well to beat out the shot, but Charles-Smith is on hand to ram the loose ball into the net.
Sutton manage one last foray forwards. Bailey powering in a low free-kick that the keeper manages to gather at the foot of his near post. We’re then treated to the bizarre sight of the lads running down the clock by taking the ball to the corner flag as often as possible in a pre-season friendly!
So, another win, but only just. In the end, the worrying lack of bodies on the bench didn’t come back & bite us on the arse. And the lads benefited from reorganising and playing as a unit when that one man short. Again, another solid workout.
Right, back to Sutton with us. Whose round is it?
TEAM : Iga, Palmer, Hodges, Gonsalves, Gray, Honey, Corbett, Bailey, Fowler, Collins, Watson.
SUBS : Davis