Friday, 12 September 2008

Game 2: Chertsey Town 3, Oakwood 2

First Round Qualifying Replay ~ Tuesday 9th September 2008
Venue: Alwyns Lane, Chertsey, Surrey
Attendance: 69

Distance travelled: a stone's throw

I would have been the guy at the 1966 World Cup Final who left in disgust when Wolfgang Weber poked Germany level in the closing minutes of normal time. When Kennedy was shot I would have been the chap who was in a shop in downtown Dallas trying to buy more camera film. As the RMS Titanic went down I would be the one at the bar still waiting for the waiter to bring me some ice. Whilst Neil Alden Armstrong took "one giant leap for mankind", I'd be the one person on this planet watching 'On The Buses' on the other channel. I miss things. In Tuesday night's game at Chertsey, I missed the home team's vital equaliser against Oakwood. When I say I missed it, I was completely oblivious to it, so much so that at the final whistle I had settled down for extra-time whilst the rest of the crowd filed out of Alwyns Lane and headed home for a cocoa and an early night.

My excuse was I was in the bar talking to Andy Pearson. Andy epitomises the type of person that clubs at this level rely on to survive; on Tuesday night he was manning the bar. On matchdays he also takes the photographs. He maintains and updates the recently revamped Chertsey Town website. Plus undoubtedly many more duties. Along with the other committee members, he is part of the lifeblood of the club. I once again bumped into Chris Gay, the club secretary. Whilst juggling an array of jobs at the club, Chris also produces the match programme. This he does from an upstairs room at home, from start to finish including all the printing. It is testament to his dedication that he managed to get a programme out at all for Tuesday's replay; there was so little time between games and he did so at the expense of a great deal of candle wax. And he still found time to speak to the FA who ran a couple of mini-reports on Chertsey Town in the
FA Vase section of their website.

So the goal I actually missed came at the very start of the second half. Chertsey Town had gone in at the break trailing 2-1 and they equalised in the 46th minute with a goal from Paul Brooker. With such a small crowd there was no huge cheer; merely a muted applause which simply alerted me to the fact that the game had restarted. Chertsey had won a corner, perhaps? You may recall I 'missed' three goals in the first game down in Sussex, but at least I was pitch side on that occasion, and I was keeping up with the score. But on Tuesday, when Lee O'Leary scored a fine goal on the hour mark, it proved to be Chertsey's winner. In my own little world however, I thought it had levelled the game at 2-2. At the final whistle, I was rather bemused by the celebrations of the home support. Having never witnessed so much joy at the realisation of an extra 30 minutes play, particularly on a cold and damp evening, I embarrassingly had to ask what the final score was. 3-2 to Chertsey. Oops. Yes, I know...what a prat.

This was another entertaining game. Oakwood, maybe a little aggrieved after the events at Tinsley Lane on Saturday, started well and seemed particularly fired-up. Chertsey by comparison were very quiet, both on and off the pitch; Spencer Day, the Chertsey manager, was out of the country and the coaching staff on the bench were all rather subdued. Ten minutes into the game, the visitors took the lead. Chertsey were caught over-elaborating on the edge of the Oakwood box; a long ball forward carried the Chertsey back line and Jack McNab for Oakwood was left in a sprint for the ball with two defenders. To the amazement of the home fans, he won the race and, from just outside the Chertsey box, fired a crisp low shot across the front of Dave Tidy and into the goalkeeper's bottom right-hand corner. A very well taken effort.

Chertsey's early play was sloppy and they squandered too much possession. Oakwood took the game to the home side, and Chertsey resorted to hitting on the break. This opened things up somewhat, and the game became stretched very early on. Chertsey had a chance to equalise on 30 minutes but Glen Fitzroy pulled off a great save to deny the Chertsey forward Robert Ursell. However, one minute later Paul Brooker got his first of the night when he drilled in a fine effort from just outside the area. Brooker, who had been sent off at Oakwood, went on to have a very good game. His experience at this level - he has played for Reading, Fulham and Brentford - made the difference on the night as he controlled midfield.

Despite Brooker's performance, Chertsey were still making a number of unforced errors and ten minutes before the interval Oakwood were back in front. McNab bagged his second with a guided header following a deep cross from Gary Bidwell.

Thus to half-time and the missed goal. I had stepped into the clubhouse to catch up with Andy. In the process of doing so, I noticed there was a small queue just inside the entrance. Never one to resist joining a queue, I soon found out that a charming elderly lady, confined to a small and cramped 'kitchen', was making fresh teas and coffees. Sold in proper mugs as well. Probably the finest mug of coffee I have ever had at a football ground. No plastic taste, real milk, no cheap powdered brown dust. The perfect caffeine fix.

Brooker's equaliser, by all accounts, was a well worked move that resulted in him chipping the visiting keeper. At 2-2, I made my way to the main stand in the misguided belief that Chertsey were still losing. In the early exchanges (with the obvious exception of the goal) there was little to separate the two teams. The game was still fairly open, but neither side kept hold of the ball long enough to mount any serious threat. Maybe Saturday's energy sapping contest was starting to take its toll. On a number of occasions, the match ball left the confines of the small ground as clearances evaded the surrounding fences. A few local lads did a good job retrieving them, but the loss of balls is always a concern at this level. In this match, I was told that there were only four match balls; at one stage in the game there were only two on the touchline plus one "stuck up a tree". These things are important.

Chertsey's winner on about 60 minutes followed a spell in which they had started to control midfield. Passes made were far simpler and the team worked well as a unit; a number of neat passes culminated in Brooker slipping the ball through to O'Leary whose shot was blocked only for him to pick up the rebound and turn smartly to smash the ball into the roof of the net. Chertsey were still not home and dry; the goal seem to inject more urgency into Oakwood. Once again, it was the long ball that caused Chertsey the biggest headache and Oakwood went close a couple of times in the dying moments.

In the end, Chertsey hung on to claim victory. A relief for the home side who now advance into the Second Round Qualifying and pocket £800 in prize money. Over two games, this had been a thoroughly enjoyable tie with plenty of action and eleven goals. It's a shame I missed four of them.

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