Keens Park Rangers 2 Windlesham 2 at Pyrford (22/09/18 2pm kick off)

Goals: James Nixon and Ryan Midgley

Bookings: Tommy Newell and William Ponsonby

Man-of-the-match: Tommy Newell

As much as the weather heralded the onset of more wintery conditions, green shoots, which suggest better times ahead for KPR reserves, emerged during Saturday’s combative clash against Windlesham.

Such a positive conclusion may not have been predicted at first as the ressies, once again, got off to a perilously slow start. Indeed, it was the very aggressive approach of Windlesham, and one verbal outburst from their keeper in particular, that awoke the KPR eleven up to the fact they were in a match.

They were led in their endeavour by the “lanky” subject of that outburst Tommy Newell in a man-of-the-match performance that highlighted how much he had been missed in previous games. The return of William Ponsonby in defence, Chris Curtis in midfield and goalkeeper Tom Coles were similarly welcome and instrumental in strengthening the spine of the team in every sense.

As much as this proved to be “sad news” for George Searle, who started the game on the bench, that he and Ben King were deemed surplus to requirements only indicates how good the reserves can be this year if everyone remains fit and available.

This strength resulted in the ressies ‘winning’ their first half of the season after goals from captain James Nixon and the perpetually cashless Ryan Midgley. Their graft, despite some sublime flashes from Nixon, outshone their craft however and Nixon should have given the ressies a three-goal cushion going in at half time. That gap would have been just reward for some positive play and a sublime save from Coles who palmed a strong shot, he could only have seen at the last moment, onto the post.

Manager O’Shea’s team talk was straightforward: “don’t rise to their bait, keep things tight for the first ten minutes and play it wide”. Unfortunately, it is doubtful anyone was listening and, in what proved to be an appropriate metaphor, a ‘call of nature’ meant that O’Shea missed a calamitous opening five minutes that resulted in an own goal.

Windlesham had, in fact, got their act together and played much better football when not suffering from a collective form of Tourette’s syndrome. Inevitably their pressure resulted in an equalizer but this was, once again, a rather soft goal with their centre forward given time and space, following some quick play down the right, to place the ball past a helpless Coles.

The game at this point could have gone either way and the second half was genuinely tense. KPR may have created the majority of the chances but they did not really test their keeper. Coles, on the other hand, was called into action on numerous occasions and he surpassed his reaction save of the first half with a seemingly impossible stretch that prevented a well placed effort from nestling into the top corner of the goal.

With some players beginning to look tired the substitutes were called forward with Searle adapting to the pace of the game very well in the centre of midfield and new addition Henry Hope looking comfortable on the right flank. Ollie ‘don’t call me Bullard’ King, selected over his elder brother, was due to play this role but was prevented from taking the field due to a new ear piercing!

We can only guess what impact he’d have had on the game but Midgley, who now got to see out the game, continued to hassle the Windlesham defenders in tandem with Nixon and their energy helped to create three opportunities in the dying minutes of the match. The last, and best, of these fell to Hope but, in replicating the hesitancy shown previously by others, he was closed down before taking a shot at goal.

In the end a draw was probably the right result but, had they followed their instructions more closely, the ressies may well have won the match. Despite this everyone involved had shown enough to suggest the ressies first victory, in what will be a long and competitive season, isn’t far away.