Keens Park Rangers Reserves 3 Lightwater Reserves 1
Goals: Jonathan O’Shea 2 James Nixon 1
Bookings: Ryan ‘Chinga’ Mitchell, James Nixon
Man of the Match: George Searle (honorable mention to Jake Ladd)
The curtain fell on an eventful season for the ressies with a deserved victory over Lightwater at fortress Pyrford. Playing straight after the first team’s match there were plenty of supporters present but there wasn’t a great deal on offer to warm them up during the first half.
As if to shield himself from the cold Chinga was exercising his gob more than his legs and, having tried the referee’s patience once too often, got himself booked. Nixon was next to have his name taken after a bundle in the opposition’s area and yet, despite what sounds like a scrappy performance, almost all of the best play was the ressies.
Foremost in this was George Searle who had a barnstorming half in not only breaking up the oppositions play but also instigating a few decent moves. Joining him in this was the returning Connor Reeves who was proving most effective in attack and defence with one tackle on the opposition’s centre forward really standing out. The quality of the passes into the box was excellent and it seemed only a matter of time before they paid off.
Indeed the ressies had the ball in the opposition’s net but Jake Ladd’s well-directed header was disallowed for offside. Nil-nil at half-time wasn’t a fair reflection of the match and the usual doubts about missed opportunities coming back to haunt the ressies aside Nixon and Mungo’s team talk was very positive in imploring the players, despite the bookings, for more of the same.
This was music to team enforcer Adam East’s ears and he induced lots of cheering from the supporters with some robust tackling. But there was craft in his play as well and the forward pairing of Jonathan O’Shea and Steven ‘Co Co’ Kemp (playing in oversized boots once again) were not short of service.
As much as there was plenty of possession there was little in the way of clear chances however and it fell to Nixon to break the deadlock with a well placed shot from the edge of the box that sailed in over the keeper’s head. Once off the mark it was clear that more goals were to come and the second came from a perfect free kick from Reeves, who sensibly ignored Chinga telling him to “over hit it!” that O’Shea headed past the keeper.
Things were all too easy it seemed and it was at this point that a touch of complacency set in. Nixon and Kemp clearly fancied their chances at dribbling through the entire Lightwater team (and then doing it again) but it was a rare failure to clear that presented a Lightwater midfielder with a shooting opportunity that he coolly curled into the top corner.
There was little that keeper James ‘car trouble’ Mullins could do but watch yet he was soon forced to produce a very good save after a really well struck effort from the Lightwater centre forward.
Having weathered the storm manager Mungo began shuffling his pack and brought on two of his substitutes one of whom, Scott Whittaker, made an immediate impact. Having chased down a high ball into the box Whittaker got his head to the ball and while it wasn’t the cleanest of headers – indeed, it was away from the goal – Whittaker had done enough to present the oncoming O’Shea with an opportunity that he gleefully put away.
With the game now safe Mungo then brought on his final sub, the aged Tigger, for a cameo run out. He’s not as bouncy as he used to be and someone in the crowd ‘helpfully’ informed one of the opposition “he’s fifty!” but he survived until the final whistle without injuring or embarrassing himself in what was his ‘last’ official match.
Whether or not that proves accurate remains to be seen but it is hoped, after three management changes this year, that next season is a little more settled. Major thanks to Dougie Hamilton, James O’Shea, James ‘Mungo’ Blackburn and James Nixon for their collective efforts but a big thumbs up to all who’ve been involved on and off the pitch this year.