Keens Park Rangers 1 Manorcroft 0
Goals: Luke Mitchell (pen)
Man-of-the-match: Michael Woods
If the lads pre-match preening in the club’s new change strip was anything to go by, the supporters might have expected a classic first team performance. But, in the end, Manorcroft made KPR work hard for their narrow victory.
That said, the early posing did manifest itself in some confident play early on. This was especially so down the right wing, where the returning Courage was seeing a good deal of the ball. It was, however, the opposition keeper who demonstrated great courage in diving at Courage’s feet and, in doing so, getting quite a hefty whack for his troubles.
Having survived this initial onslaught, the opposition got into the game thanks to some overly casual play, in the form of a square ball from Simmo, at the back. Seized upon by the centre forward, KPR were fortunate he lacked the confidence to shoot. And by the time he decided to pass, the recipient was a country mile offside.
Soon after it was Rob’s turn to sacrifice possession to their number eleven. But he helped to clear his own mess up by getting a foot in. The interjection was enough to disturb the opposition player and as much as he rounded Kieran in goal, he then put the ball wide.
One might be forgiven for thinking the opposition were enjoying total control. But KPR were still retaining the greater possession. They simply were not creating (or being gifted) the same opportunities and a late effort by Luke in the first half was hit straight at the keeper.
Confidence, therefore, remained high at the resumption of play. And the positive start of the previous half was repeated, as a lovely move involving at least four players down the right ended up at the feet of Michael Wicherek. If he really ought to have scored, Courage was presented with an even better chance moments later after a good early ball set him free.
With most of the opposition’s half to himself, time seemed to slow the closer he got to the goal. And as much as he hit a good shot low to the keeper’s left, the angle had been narrowed enough for the ball to be deflected past the post.
The KPR dominance continued without ever creating any chances as good as these with both sides, it seemed, running out of ideas. Manger Gary, stuck with his starting XI however, until Courage picked up a knock. This brought the mercurial Dan into the fray, and it was he who delivered a lovely free kick that Rob won powerfully.
Sadly, this effort summed up the afternoon, up to that point, as the ball headed towards an unguarded far post where Luke and Bulldog lurked. A goal surely? But no. As each appeared to get in the others way before the ball rolled off the playing surface undisturbed.
For a team usually so clinical, the talk on the touchline was getting a little frustrated, with Supporter No. 1 Harriet at the fore. Indeed, the opposition keeper displayed yet more courage in engaging the hungover one in some, ahem, ‘banter’ (the fool)! having done so, he soon regretted it, as Luke and Bulldog combined superbly for the latter to tease the defender into giving away as obvious a penalty as you’ll ever see.
Duly dispatched by Luke, bar manager El Boy gleefully appeared from behind Harriet to offer ‘Barbie’, the all in pink keeper, a Stella. And he may have got even bolder (and generous?) had sub Aiden not been denied by another good save from the keeper who, in the end, kept things interesting until the final whistle, which finally came after an incredulous ten minutes of injury time!
Overall, this was a result that belied the performance. But we’ll take it.