Priory made the very short trip to local rivals Bletchingley for the second round of the Surrey Intermediate Cup. Having struggled for results in years gone by against Bletchingley, today was a good opportunity to put that right with the hosts struggling in the league this season.

Priory were able to name an (almost!) unchanged side from last weeks eleven that had turned over Abbey Rangers. Only Dan Benson was unavailable this week so there was a re-call for Arron Blackwood in the unfamiliar position of right-back. There was also a place for Shaun Blackwell on the bench following a few weeks absent.

There was no doubting the importance of the game and it showed in Priory’s quick start. From the off, all over the pitch, there was pressure on the ball and a good work ethic rolling throughout the team. The back 5 slipped into their positions nice and quickly and were able to snuff out any danger from the Bletchingley front line. Walker and Ndazi slowly came into the game and were starting to pull the strings. Jamie Williams, as early as the 5th minute, was giving their right back an absolutely torrid time and only wastefulness in front of goal was behind Priory not getting the start they deserved. Stratton was starting to find alot of space in the middle of the park and a couple of through balls to Byrne and Payne forced the Bletchingley goalkeeper in action. The sustained pressure from Priory finally came through on the half hour mark as they broke the deadlock and it was talisman Byrne on the scoresheet. A good team move that started at left-back with Doicky and involved some quick passing and movement with Stratton, Williams and Walker all involved. Stratton moved the ball onto Payne in the centre of the pitch. Having dragged the left back inside, that left Byrne with acres of space on the right hand side of the box. Payne duly fed him the ball and, from a tight angle and with 4 players screaming for it in the box, he smashed the ball in with pace at the front post. 1-0 Priory. Despite the tight scoreline, the Priory backline were enjoying their easiest game of the season to date as the Bletchingley attacking “force” were failing to make a dent in Travis’ goal. He was called into a few smart saves but mostly shots from distance that were easily dealt with or lashed off-target. Priory went into half-time only 1-0 up but fully on top of the game.

Even though Priory were the better team, 1-0 was still a dodgy scoreline and the game was still on a knife-edge. The Gaffers were keen to make sure we got the next goal and kill the game off. There was also an element of the problems that had been apparent the week prior and Priory were too keen to get the ball forward and were resorting to long balls.

This problem was more than rectified in the second half as Priory put in another performance for the books. The all-important second goal only took 10 minutes to get and you could visibly see the fight leave the Bletchingley players at that moment. Some more excellent interplay saw the ball land to Rob Stratton outside the box and through on goal. Rather than bear down on goal, he elected to shoot early and across the goalkeeper with his left foot. The ball sailed into the bottom corner leaving the keeper no chance and taking Priory into a two goal lead. Rather than fight for a result, Bletchingley decided they were going to try and fight the Priory players – case in point being their striker who had tried (but failed) to argue with everyone on the pitch and a push in Doicky’s face could have led to more than the booking it got. It was a culmination of the pressure that Priory had been putting Bletchingley under and, in this honest writers opinion, they just could not handle it. The goal of the game came with 20 minutes remaining and it was a moment of individual skill from Stratton. Following a good move on the left involving Williams and Byrne, Chris spotted Stratton at the back post with miles of room. He pinged a delightful ball to him and, with the left back onrushing, Stratton glided past him with some dummy skill and stroked the ball past the keeper with ease. 3-0 and well and truly game over. Further wasted chances went begging as Priory failed to make it the higher scoreline the game deserved. There was still time for Bletchingley to grab a consolation goal and rob Priory of a clean sheet. Skipper Beckett rushed out to block a goalbound effort and his block landed to the grateful striker who slotted past Travis from 6 yards out, with the final kick of the game. Massive kick in the teeth!

Whether it was consistency in the team selection or good preparation, the result never seemed in doubt for Priory. From start to finish the better team and, in all honesty, Bletchingley did not even deserve their goal at the end. For all their arguing and bickering, they never turned up and were completely outplayed by a confident Priory side. Time to start putting a run together and who knows where we will be come Christmas…

Squad: Purnell, Blackwood, Beckett (c), Leask, Doick, Walker, Ndazi, Stratton, Williams, Payne, Byrne, Philcox, Blackwell