Keens Park Rangers Firsts had to fightback from a 3-1 second-half deficit to claim a point in Saturday’s season opener.
The Firsts and Reserves were missing a combined 14 players and that could have attributed to the home team’s slow start. Lightwater started the brighter of the teams and, although they didn’t create many chances, had the majority of the first half.
The away side were gifted their chance to take the lead halfway through the first half after the referee pointed to the spot after a blatant push from a Keens Park player from a throw-in. However, James Mullin, on his debut for the club, produced a fine save from the spot to his right and then a Save of the Season contender to his left from the rebound. Unfortunately, another chance for Lightwater was gift-wrapped no more than two minutes later as a man was left completely unmarked from a throw-in before dribbling into the box and squaring it for a midfielder to sweep into the net.
A bad five minutes for Keens Park seemed to inject a bit of urgency. Stutchbury headed over from six yards and Kemp shot wide after evading the back four as the home side pressed for the equaliser.
The breakthrough finally came after Ryan Wallis latched onto a mistake at the back, missing the initial one-on-on but slamming home at the second attempt. Keens Park started to dominate the proceedings but fell behind again after Wallis lost the ball just short of the halfway line and the Lightwater midfielder produced a once-in-a-lifetime lob from all of 40 yards.
Keens Park controlled the opening part of the second half but again came undone by a goal out of nothing. A long, hopeful ball was sent into the area, and a lack of communication between goalkeeper and defenders allowed one of the shortest players on the pitch to head over the goalkeeper. A big final final half an hour was needed for Keens Park to take anything from this game now.
Such was the shortage of players, an injury to Stephen Kemp forced manager Dave Harris into putting left-back Dan Way up top. Five minutes later, it looked an inspired decision after Wallis fed Dan Way before the makeshift striker cleverly lost two men and fired into the far corner.
The game was well and truly there for the taking now and the home side equalised three minutes later. A seemingly harmless throw was turned into danger for Lightwater after a clever dummy from Alex O’Shea released Ryan Wallis in the box and the Number 9 kept his composure to level the score.
The game became open for the final 10 minutes and it felt like any side could get the winner. Keens Park had a flurry of late chances as McPhail headed over and then forced a good save from the ‘keeper in the dying seconds of the game.
Despite it being a disappointing result, the lads can take pride in a spirited comeback and will be looking to take all three points with a full strength squad against Old Salesians next week.