Reigate Priory ‘A’ made the long journey to Esher this week for the first round of the Surrey Lower Junior Cup. The opponents, Lower Green, had been having a torrid time in their own league and were hoping for some respite in the cup.

There were many changes to the side that beat Kingswood Falcons last week. The notable absentees were Gus Milne, Peter Jowitt, Tom Glivero and Ben Jones who all returned to the reserves, Ben Vezza was also unavailable. However strong names came into the side, Gilo made the step from the B team after performing well last week, Lee Wilmot returned to the starting line up and Sean Doyle, Aaron Lawrence and Dale Fisher made up the bench. The rest of the squad remained unchanged.

The game started fairly well for the Priory who applied some early pressure, but they were unable to make the ball stick in the final third. Priory managed to create some shooting opportunities, but none that proved to be as clear cut as required and Priory had to settle for two or three weak shots from the edge of the box which proved no trouble for the Lower Green keeper.

However the best chances of the first half fell to Lower Green who went in at half time two goals to the good. An overzealous Priory defender was turned easily by the Lower Green forward who found himself just inside the box facing goal. He clinically dispatched his shot, smashing the ball high into the goal beating James Naylor who was making his first appearance for five weeks. The second came from a free kick just inside the Priory half that was floated into the box. The Lower Green player who managed to get his head to the ball, and loop his effort over the keeper, celebrated his unchallenged finish while the Priory players were still trying to work out why no one had risen with him.

The first half finished 2-0.

Priory came back out for the second half with the instruction to not allow the Lower Green players time on the ball, but also not to dive in rashly and over committing to tackles that weren’t there to be won. Some more intelligence in defence was required and some more composure on the ball was desperately needed in midfield and up front. Movement off the ball was also weak and this also needed to be addressed.

However, the second half seemed to start as the first had ended and Lower Green’s constant long ball was proving a tough test for the Priory who found themselves under threat again for large parts of the second half. Lower Green continued the humbling of the Priory by scoring another two goals and having a third controversially chalked off for offside. Priory looked to be playing like teams of old and were being beaten to most balls, particularly those in the air.

Steve Gardner did manage to pull one back with fifteen minutes to go with a decent header from a perfect walker cross, but this still didn’t provide the spark required nor did it install the belief that this game could be rescued. The introduction of Fisher, Doyle and Lawrence didn’t help either although Priory did now have something tangible in the middle from which to build. Fisher did have an effort chalked off for offside somewhat unfairly which proved to be the only clear cut chance of the game after Gardner’s goal.

The game finished 4-1.

Perhaps the small rolling ‘hills’ across the pitch could be blamed for the poor performance, disrupting the usual sweeping and quick Priory passing or maybe the sheer number of changes to the side had an impact but those who did play didn’t turn up on the day. There was a clear lack of desire this week after going behind and the players will need to work on this as they are sure to go behind at some point in the future.

This year’s Surrey cup challenge is over before it really began, but Godstone await Priory next week in the Redhill Intermediate Cup. The manager will be hoping for a significant improvement from all involved this week, including himself!