The final friendly of this year’s pre-season fixtures matched The Priory A team with Merstham B. Merstham B are due to play in this season’s division 5 so Priory needed to record another pre-season win over the lower league side for a much needed confidence boost and for the players to prove their worth. The starting line up wasn’t that different from the team that played so well the week before against Charlwood Reserves which will help the team to gel.

Lawrence Clarke made his first appearance for the club in some four years in goal with a very strong back four in front of him consisting of Luke Smith, Gilo, Steve Gardner and David Hall.

Martin Baxter returned to the starting line up on the right of midfield, Walker and Aaron Lawrence held onto their positions with Wilson started the game on the left hand side of midfield.

The injury prone Matt Bone sat out of this week’s game to ensure his fitness for the start of the long league campaign next week so Peter Jowitt partnered Sean Doyle up front.

The game started well for Priory, the majority of the first 20 minutes were played in the Merstham half apart from one weak foray against the run of play. However, Priory couldn’t convert their chances, the best of which fell to Jowitt who would have hoped to have done better with a decent square ball played in by Doyle.

Priory continued to press the Merstham back line in the closing stages of the first half and a Baxter ball into the far post was tapped in by Gilo only for the linesman to chalk off the opener as Gilo was pulled up for offside.

The deadlock was finally broken and a much deserved lead was taken when the left boot of Hall smashed the ball into the roof of the net shortly after Gilo’s attempt was disallowed. The ball sailed over the top of all the defender to Hall who made the most of the space. The celebratory cheers that came from the left back were something for the home fans to take away from the game and no doubt to turn into a new chant for the goal scorer! He doesn’t score many but when he does…!

The rest of the first half followed much of the same, but Priory where unable to find the net. Gardner went ever closer with another free header at the back post and Jones, on for Wilson, linked up well with Jowitt neatly in the box, but was unable to finish. The first half finished 1-0.

The second half was a different story however. The opening 10 minutes of the second half seemed to be going well for the home side but the sheer number of opportunities missed by the Priory forward line gave Merstham the confidence boost required to hit back and create their own chances. Although Merstham never really looked like scoring, the Priory defenders had to work hard to maintain their clean sheet. However Doyle and Jowitt had some chance to finish the game, the best went begging after Doyle dragged a well worked opportunity wide of the mark which gave rise to a jittery last 5 minutes of the game.

Priory did well in the end to keep that clean sheet and the game finished 1-0.

Ultimately this week’s performance fell victim to the vast number of changes that the manager made with five substitutes, Stu Jones, John Braund, Iqbal Hussain, Paul Hayter and Tony Evans, all looking for minutes, which distrupted the flow of the game some what.

In summary the performance from the team was good enough to please the fans and the manager and looking at the bench and the way those players slotted into the side when they did come on, there is a lot for the Priory A team to be optimistic about this season. The starting 11 as well as the rest of the squad looked strong today.

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