Chertsey fail to break the deadlock

First published in CCL

Combined Counties League Egham Town 1 Chertsey Town 2 Was this Chertsey Town’s last Combined Counties League match, at least for the time being? The question has been raised despite them finishing in second place in the league table and only one side from the competition being allowed promotion. Champion club Guildford City have failed to obtain a ground grade but are in the process of appealing. The prognosis for them is not good.

So from an Alwyns Lane perspective, the chance for Chertsey players to celebrate in front of their own fans was snatched at sunny Egham Town, partly after inflicting the double over their close neighbours, but mainly because their last game cemented a successful season of football.

The lead up to this game has been a disappointment after two back to back goalless draws had killed off the championship challenge. The problem has been a lack of firepower and it looked like the same thing was going to happen again as the game reached the halfway mark, again without the goal net being tested.

The game adopted a similar nature as seen by Chertsey fans of late with their side maintaining the game’s momentum but snatching at the few chances created. Justin Grey was the busier of the two keepers with Dean Papali and Tom O’Regan, his a free kick, forcing attention from the custodian. Lee Weemes also put in a headed effort that had to be saved.

But it was the home side, fielding five former Chertsey players, that created the first significant breakthrough when one of that number the featured striker. Matt Grave, on 35 minutes, forced Joe Talbot to palm the ball away in an increasingly rare Egham attack.

Another ex Curfew, John Pomroy, also looked a good bet to score when honing in on the Chertsey goal with only Talbot in the way, but again he thwarted home side, this time with an outstretched foot to keep the score line in equilibrium by the half time interval.

Chertsey put a more potent display after the interval but still could not break the deadlock, even from the penalty spot! Papali was felled in the box by Matt Blanks just three minutes after the re-start and took the spot kick himself. Grey did well in keeping the ball out, even if the strike was delivered at the classically ideal height for a goalkeeper to save.

The worrying thought for the away support was that Chertsey would fail to find the net in all of their last three games of the season, a feeling intensified on 53 minutes when Grave slipped the ball into the Chertsey net from close range after an Egham breakout. That Town had gone a massive 344 minutes since conceding their previous goal was of no consolation.

Even though in the rare situation of being a goal down, Chertsey were undaunted and pressed their opponents goal with even more ferocity. Dan Bennett, on 57 minutes, heading the ball against the Egham woodwork was the best chance created until the actual equalising goal arrived, breaking the Curfews’ 331 minutes of sterility which meant that it arrived on 70 minutes.

A free kick was awarded in the right hand extremity of the well presented pitch, making it effectively a short corner kick. O’Regan delivered the ball for Simon Cox to head goalwards. It would have probably crossed the line there and then but Phil Page made sure in the crowded goal area, by poaching the accolade from just inches out.

The London bus syndrome immediately kicked in for, having waited over five and a half hours for a goal to arrive, a second came along only two minutes later; and in bizarre circumstances. A benign back pass by Luke Muldowney drifted towards Grey who inexplicably took an air swipe at the ball with the result that it trundled past him and over the line.

The game moved with vereve until a kerfuffle with most player being involved resulted in Chertsey’s Miles Smith and Egham’s Robinson being dismissed. Extra space did not seem to materialise on an already seemingly crowded pitch as both sides were keen to work hard to shut each other down, but it was Chertsey who were the more successful.

No more goals were scored but it was more likely that Chertsey, of the two, would be the side to move the score along. A late flurry of attacks was generated at the Egham end. Page broke through but his shot was parried but then Bennett missed another opportunity with the goal at his mercy.

He obviously wanted to dot the ‘i’ and cross the ‘t’ as he weaved a path across the Egham goalmouth, manoeuvring away from impotent defenders all the time. But when he at last poked the ball goalwards a few yards out, the ball was diverted away by an outstretched defender’s toe.

The contest was keenly fought by both sides but as it turned out, it mattered little in the big picture as Guildford City also won and so took the league title, but it is always good for any team to put one over their next door neighbours. This year it was Chertsey’s turn. It only remains to be seen if Egham Town get the chance to redress the balance next term. The odds are against such an opportunity as attention turns to the administrative processes at the Football Association.

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