Reigate Priory ‘A’ travelled to Court Lodge this week for another league fixture. Their opponents were RH123 ‘A’, the team they had beaten in pre-season but who had controversially stolen 2 point from them with a last minute penalty in the reverse league fixture.
Priory were looking to continue their decent run and to build on the excellent performance against Wallington last week. Despite the events that played out in the game, the Priory were unable to capitalise and the contest ended in a stalemate at 1-1, but unlike the previous league encounter, Priory were lucky to get a point on the day rather than hard done by.
Gus Milne maintained his place in goal, Lee Wilmot and Luke Smith started again at right and centre back respectively. Dave Hall slotted in alongside Luke with Aaron Lawrence having been called up to the Reserves. Tim Austin was rewarded with a start at left back after two decent substitute appearances. The midfield was largely unchanged with Martin Baxter and Ben Vezza wide in a five man midfield. Gilo sat deep behind Peter Jowitt and Matt Bone. Bone dropped into midfield desperate to prove that he could perform in a new role for the team. This paved the way for Sean Doyle to return up front as the lone striker. John Braund made the step up to provide support from the bench. Will Harries and Wes Green were the only other absentees from the week before having gone up to warm the bench for the first team.
The game started well for both sides, but each keeper had little to do in the opening exchanges. RH123 did create the odd chance, the best after a ball down the right hand side was cut back from the by-line only to be scuffed wide. Priory created their own half chances most of which fell to Jowitt on the edge of the box.
The first 45 minutes looked to be heading for a goalless, uneventful half until a few hefty challenges resulted in an exchange of words and a coming together of players. The RH123 left back took things a step too far deciding to spit at Lee Wilmot. The referee promptly sent of the disgusting RH123 player (that will be a £50 fine and a 6 month ban, worth it?).
Priory sensed an opportunity to win the game and make up for the result earlier in the season. The hefty challenges came thick and fast in the remaining 15 minutes of the first half as Priory enjoyed a lot of the ball. RH123 perhaps should have been reduced to nine men after another heavy challenge from their centre midfielder. However only a yellow was shown to the man who looks to have interrupted the in form Matt Bone’s season for at least a few weeks, his challenge caused Bone to roll his ankle, the swelling almost instant. Despite the possession, Priory were unable to make the one man advantage count and the first half finished 0-0.
John Braund came on for the injured Bone, filling in at right midfield with Baxter slotting in admirably for Bone in the centre, a position unfamiliar to the wide player. Baxter did well in his new role linking with the ever available Gilo and Jowitt as well as getting forward to support Doyle. The second half resumed where the first had ended. Priory had the majority of the possession but were unable to penetrate the RH123 defence who had effectively set up two banks of four in front of their goal, deep in their half.
RH123 had a limited number of attacks, but were able to convert a rare corner to take the lead after some very poor Priory marking. Priory found themselves behind yet again to a goal from a set piece, against the run of play. The RH123 ball winner leaped unopposed, heading the ball firmly into the ground which resulted in the ball looping over all and dropping into the goal.
Priory knew that an embarrassing defeat awaited them unless they could snap out of the lethargic style of play and make that final ball or shot count.
The game resumed again with Priory threatening, but unable to force a goal. Jowitt continued to pepper the goal from the edge of the box forcing the keeper to make a save which required a very strong hand. Braund also found himself with time at the back post, but was unable to hit the target. Legs were beginning to tire and Vezza superb run down the right wing and the equally as good cross rolled across the goal with out the simple touch into the goal that was required. Doyle also missed an easier header in the box from a delightful Austin cross.
However, with only 1 minute remaining, Priory forced a corner after another decent save from the keeper down to his left hand side from a strong Baxter shot, the effort tipped agonisingly around the post. The ball was whipped into the box and the resulting passage of play represented that of a pin ball game. The ball was thumped towards goal a number of times only to be blocked and saved by the panicked RH123 defence. Eventually the keeper made what seemed to be a decent save, palming the ball towards Braund. Braund’s shot-come-cross was controlled by the super Tim Austin before being poked under the keeper for the equalising goal. Priory had rescued a point, with 30 seconds left on the clock, in a game that they would have expected to win.
The game finished 1-1 with the Priory players disappointed with their performance and only earning a point from the game. Despite the display and the result, the feeling of disappointment in the camp shows how far the Priory side have come this season as they have the belief that they can win every game of football that they play, regardless of the opposition.
This winning mentality will be required going forward if the team are to pick up the points required to climb the table. Priory remain in 5th place with at least 2 games in hand on most teams above them. A top three finish is still on the cards and should be the minimum target for the team.
Next week’s encounter will see Priory travel to Limpsfield Blues for their seventh league game of the season.