Keens Park Rangers 6 Hambledon 2 (in the cup)
Goals: Josh Bullen (3), Ben Wicherek 1, Luke Mitchell 1, Rob Partridge 1
Man-of-the-match: Josh Bullen
While a thumping win, according to the scoreline, the KPR first team left the field disappointed having taken their foot off the gas with almost half-an-hour left to play.
Add that period of time with the opening twenty minutes, in which KPR struggled to impose themselves, and the result is even more remarkable. It wasn’t like they were boxing with one arm tied behind their back, however. For it was the opposition who were handicapped, as their (only?) forward not only began the game injured, he was ‘in the wars’ further after a solid – but fair – tackle from Woodsy.
Having left the field temporarily, one might have hoped KPR’s prospects might have improved. But some lacklustre play invoked a bollocking from the supporters – James O’Shea especially. Woodsy, then picked up the mantle and distributed is own ‘motivational’ maxims.
Whether these were to maximum effect alone is hard to tell, but the first meaningful effort on goal was the home side’s after some nifty footwork from Courage ultimately led to a glancing header from Luke that went wide of the far post. There was also some peculiar refereeing on show. And an already agitated crowd – following a series of very soft free-kicks – got vocal after a blatant foul on Bulldog was ignored.
There was no ignoring Reese’s foul on the returning ‘Bionic Man’ though, and all agreed his booking was deserved. With the referee doing his best to halt any free-flowing play, hopes for any entertainment were diminishing until KPR strung together their first bit of quality play, with eight or nine first time passes finding Aidan on the left. His cross may have lacked his usual quality, but the lack of pace resulted in a weak clearance that Bulldog scissor-kicked expertly into the net.
A deserved lead? Just, perhaps. But, once ahead, the lads rediscovered their collective mojo and the goals flowed – even if there was a large dollop of good fortune for their second. Scored by Ben Wicherek, his loopy shot left the opposition’s keeper a mere spectator. And this theme would continue as first Luke, and then Bulldog, scored unstoppable goals in the minutes leading up to half-time.
Teas and home-made cookies consumed, the second-half continued as the first had ended with another goal for KPR. It isn’t sure if the opposition keeper – or the defence for that matter – had had enough already, but Bulldog was given so much time and space that it appeared as if he’d decided against utilising his less favoured left foot at least twice before he came to the conclusion that he might as well have a swing.
While the ball was, naturally, on target, it didn’t have any real power behind it. And yet, the keeper appeared to have resigned himself to that fact and watched it trundle in without any effort to stop it. He did, however, make a very decent save from a corner that Luke had whipped in at pace.
Mind you, there was very little he could do about the sixth after substitute Seamus whipped in a cross that Rob Partridge met perfectly at the far post. If the ball flew into the opposite top corner at speed, what followed next was, according to bar manager El Boy, “appalling”. No. Not the fact Rob is away for the KPR Italian next week. But a dreadful celebration that looked far too rehearsed for the retired generation of footballer’s liking.
Six-nil up and cruising, manager Gary gave his substitutes a run out. But complacency had set in, and it was a loose pass out from Rob that led to what should have been no more than a consolation goal for the Bionic Man, whose persistence was rewarded after keeper Kieran’s block fell kindly for him.
Then there was a second after more strong play from the Bionic one. And matters could have got even more interesting were it not for a series of excellent saves from Kieran who’d have almost nothing to do for the first hour of the match. If the tip around the post from a free-kick was good, then saves from two deflected shots were even better.
By the end, the sheen had come off what had been a very dominant performance. As much as the result was never in doubt, the final whistle was most welcome. Hopefully, a lesson learned to keep the pressure on for the whole match in future.