Vale Of Plenty




SUTTON UNITED – 5    [Greene p4.46. McBean 75. Dundas 83. Opara 90]

Now, I’ve written some fast reports before. And by fast, I mean the velocity at which I was moving when I was tapping away, not the speed with which they were actually produced and published. There’s been a couple written on pretty fast trains and at least one knocked up whilst heading home at great speed as one of Windy’s passengers in his motor. But this one beats ’em all.

According to the little screen in front of me, just above the laptop, I’m currently moving at 529mph (thats about 850kph to satisfy the Europeans amongst you) and we’re currently right above (about 36,000ft above to be precise) somewhere called Goose Bay. Which incidentally seems to have a major city called Gander. What a coincidence eh?

Oh and it’s -56f outside. Which is about the same as temperature as Ashford Town in the middle of December. Or Banstead’s Merland Rise in late August.

No, dear reader, I’m not pissed again. Far from it (And even if I wanted to be, I can’t. As there’s no fucking beer left!), I’m currently writing this nonsense whilst heading out to the US for a week in Las Vegas after last nights almighty clash at Grand Drive in the Surrey Senior Cup. And I’ve still got 5 hours to kill before we land in Houston to change planes. So match report it is. Mostly as already mentioned, I can’t get trolleyed due to a lack of alcoholic beverages.

Right let’s rewind about……er…..oh god knows how many hours….

After an uneventful trip up from work, I step out of Raynes Park station and immediately find myself looking up Grand Drive. Somewhere up there is Raynes Park Vale FC of the Combined Counties League. It’s a ground I know only too well as I’ve played many a game on the King Georges playing fields in my time as a rubbish Sunday footballer, yet, strangely, in over 20 years of watching the U’s, I’ve never actually set foot in the ground itself next door.

Still, other things currently occupy my mind. Like the fact that we’ve crashed out of the County cup in the last 2 years to sides from the same division. And the thought of “What the fuck am I doing here?”. Ho hum. Off we go.

A 10 minute stroll later and I’m heading into the driveway leading up to the ground. By coincidence, Windy is just getting out of his motor having parked up and joins me on the wander round to the clubhouse.

It’s a somewhat spartan affair. But for some reason, I quite like it. It’s the sort of clubhouse you expect to be tagged onto an old, ragtag Non-League ground like this inhabited by a county league side. Right down to the pile of cheese rolls on the bar as you come in. Of course, that opinion will change if we get turned over. Then it’ll be a godforsaken shithole I’ll never wish to visit again as long as I live. Hey, I never said I wasn’t a hypocrite.

Ernie, understandably, has taken the opportunity to try out a couple of new things tonight and also give run outs to a couple of players who’ve not had a lot of chance to play recently. Phil Wilson gets a night off and Gareth Williams replaces him. John Scarborough returns in defence in place of Jack Haverson and Ouzo Opara slots into midfield alongside Alimi to give Paul Honey a rest. Rob Hughes gets a start on the right, Warren goes left and Dundas leads the attack partnered by Nick Greene.

As the teams emerge and we await the choice of ends at the toss, Miller chuckles. “They look about 12!”. And he’s right, they do. Some of the RPV lads have that distinct look of kids team wearing a kit a couple of sizes too big for them because they’re hand-me-downs from the U18’s.

Uh oh.

Such worries, considering our form this season, prove well founded in the first couple of minutes. The defending leaves a lot to be desired and a blue shirted attacker suddenly finds himself in the clear on the left. But with Gareth out to narrow the angle, he somehow hits his shot into the side netting.

Thank fuck for that!

The home side are made to pay for it after 4 minutes though when with practically our first attack, we win a penalty. Yep, you read that right, WE get a penalty.

A short corner between Greene and McBean on the left has us all grumbling about “crap” and “stick it in the box”, but Warren takes the ball and goes on one of those runs that makes you dizzy to watch. After gliding past god knows how many blue shirts, his journey ends unceremoniously just inside the box when someone lumps him into the air and the ref points to the spot.

Nicky Greene steps up and despite the ‘keeper guessing correctly, fires the spot kick into the top corner. The first penalty we’ve scored since the 5-4 defeat at Dorchester in the early stages of last season. That’s a long time ago, in case you were wondering.

Everyone breathes a sigh of relief. An early goal is just what we need to settle everyone down and means we’re not chasing a game a’la Egham last season. But despite the breakthrough, it seems the newish line up is still bedding in and chances are at a premium.

It’s not until the 11th minute when McBean cuts in from the left and with a gap opening up, hits a strong curling effort on target that the ‘keeper does well to hold with Dundas lurking. On 14 mins, a throw on the left leads to a quick 1-2 and Greene darting to the byeline. He pulls the ball back across goal, but again the ‘keeper manages to get down and hold onto the ball, this time with Dundas and Opara arriving just behind him.

Any notion of us dominating proceedings, if we had any to start with, are dispelled after a quarter of an hour. The home side play some nice stuff in midfield and cut through the defence with far too much ease. A ball into the right channel sends a man clear, but again, he hurries his shot when he has far more time than he realises and spoons horribly wide when he has a good sight of goal.

A somewhat scrappy affair soon develops, with Sutton on top, but the amateur hosts more that making a go of things. In fact, after half an hour, they really should be level. Williams rolls a poor ball out to the edge of the box without looking and Hughes is robbed by a forward about 25 yards out. He tries to recover the situation, but only succeeds in tipping his man as he runs clear and is lucky to only see yellow thanks to the man heading slightly away from goal. The resulting free-kick comes to nothing.

Our best move of the night soon follows. A flowing series of passes from the left to the centre finds Dundas. With the home defence stretched, he immediately feeds Hughes overlapping on the right. He takes his shot first time on the run, but with the ‘keeper stranded, a defender comes to the rescue, blocking the effort just behind him about 5 yards out.

But try as we might, that second goal won’t come and as we await the half time whistle, the hosts again find themselves presented with a really rather good chance.

Hughes poor touch in recieving a throw in from the right conceeds possession and Vale break quickly. Two quick passes later at the no7 is racing in down the right hand channel. But again, it seems as if they’re really not expecting to get anything tonight and despite a good sight of the target, matey drags his shot weakly wide of the near post. Much to our relief.

Oooh, ice cream! Er, sorry, but the nice stewardess lady just gave me a little tub of vanilla ice cream. I know, I’m easily distracted. Did I mention we were out of beer?

The half time stroll is really no different to many others this season, apart from the fact that we’re actually winning. Without a doubt, had we been playing a side at our own level, we’d definitely be at least 2 down by now.

God I hope it gets better…..

Ernie tweaks the side again at the break and gives Tom Hughes a rest, bringing Haverson into the defence alongside Scooby. Although this chance has absolutely feck all to do with us catching the home side cold within a minute of the restart.

Again McBean is the outlet and he scampers down the left and to the byeline before driving the ball across. Dundas recieves, but his touch is a little wayward and a defender nips in. But Alimi is following up, pinches the ball and manages to clip it back across the face of goal for Greene to sidefoot home unmarked from 3 yards out at the far post.

Cue a big sigh of relief.

Surely even we can’t fuck this up now!

Credit to Vale though, they stick to their task and keep trying to play football. And shortly before the hour, another chance comes their way. A ball down the left draws Scooby out of the centre and the attacker skips past him and knocks in a cross right into the gap the centre back has just vacated. Again the no7 is in space, but once more he snatches at the chance and drills his angled shot into the side netting.

Jesus wept, if this lot could finish, we’d be in a whole heap of trouble!

McBean continues to torment down the left and another run and cut in leads to a pass across the box that is just cut out in front of the recently-arrived-as-sub Harry Ottaway after 64 minutes.

We’re well on top now and it’s looking like only a matter of time before the third arrives. We’re not wrong. Another of those short corners (much like the one we dissed earlier that led to the first goal) again sees Greene find McBean. After standing about for what seems like 10 minutes with a bit of shimmying into the bargain, the U’s man steps outside his marker and from 25 yards sends a perfectly placed looping curling shot over the reach of the ‘keeper and into the top far corner.

I wish Conference South defences would give him that much time……

The hosts are now tiring and it’s basically one way traffic as they try to stave off waves of Sutton attacks. Dundas almost adds to the tally inside the last 10 minutes when a throw from the right is nodded down. A defender tries to clear and instead horribly slices an effort over his own shoulder that the U’s striker his first time on the turn as it drops, but the effort flashes across goal and just wide of the far post.

Still, with 87 minutes gone, Dundas does get his goal. A defender slips out on the left and leaves Ottaway a clear run in down the flank. His low centre is once again horribly sliced by a defender. Dundas siezes on the loose ball by the byeline, turns back out and ignoring the screams of an unmarked and hat-trick hunting Nick Greene on the 18 yard line scuffs a shot on goal that beats the ‘keeper and goes in off the studs of a defender on the line again lashing wildly at the ball in an attempt to clear.

If it didn’t remind me so much of our own defending, I’d probably find it far more amusing than I do!

With 4 now on the board, we look to take advantage of the flagging home side and go in search of that 5th goal. Liam Wright almost gets it with a minute left when Ottaway and McBean combine on the right before Warren finds the young winger on the overlap down the left, but his fierce shot is well beaten out by the ‘keeper at this near post.

We’re not to be denied however and midway through a really rather longer than necessary spell of injury time, the fifth goal finally arrives. A corner from the left isn’t cleared and it’s immediately put back out to the same flank. Wright puts in a good cross right across the face of goal that Scooby rises to head firmly on target from about 3 yards out in the centre. Another good stop from the ‘keeper denies him, but he can do nothing about Ouzo Opara thrashing the loose ball into the roof of the net from 5 yards out at the back post. His somewhat over-exuberant celebration raising a chuckle from those of us behind the goal.

Soon after, the final whistle goes and we’ve safely managed to negotiate our way past a Combined Counties League side for the first time in 3 years.

Get in!

Relieved and just happy to have seen a rare win, we amble back out to the cars and head back to the club for a relaxing pint. Arse, I’ve got to be up at 4.30 for my flight.

Oh fuck it, I’ll do the report on the plane, no-one will be any the wiser…….ooh look, we’re almost over Chicago!


MoM : Nicky Greene, Adapted fairly well to his frontman role. Scored twice.

TEAM : Williams,Scarborough, Hughes, Sammut, Gonsalves, Opara, Hughes, Alimi, Dundas, Greene, McBean   SUBS : Haverson, Wright Ottaway, Wilson

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