Keens Park Rangers 2 Spelthorne 3
Goals: Luke Mitchell, Michael Wicherek
Man-of-the-match: Void (but all credit to the referee)
The FA’s reappropriation of the league trophy proved a tad symbolic as the first team slid to a rare defeat at home to a robust, and highly vocal, Spelthorne.
Perhaps it was the absence of bar manager Chainy’s ‘lucky kite’? But, superstitions aside, the early signs looked good in a frantic opening minute that saw a cross from Luke traverse the six yard box unimpeded and a header hit the crossbar. This dominance was as brief as it was intense, however, and the visitors soon had the best of the play.
In some respects, this was down to KPR as their desire to play out from the back merely invited pressure on a lush but bobbly surface. Arguably (this being the operative word), the main difference between the two sides was vocal, with the opposition vociferous in bending the referee’s ear.
Given they needed no invitation, a late tackle from Simmo didn’t help matters. But the referee was calm and assured in repelling their protestations. Regrettably, the same could not be said from the resulting free kick and the ball was thwacked home from close range.
Noses in front, the opposition got even more bullish, but (to mix metaphors) their badgering of the referee, and a late tackle, had clearly tested his patience. If this led to the first of many bookings, KPR finally regained a toehold in the match. After Mike Wicherek had a good chance saved at the far post, a flurry of corners suggested the lads were finally rediscovering a bit of form. It was, regrettably, an all too brief hope and a quick break led to a thunderous shot that looked destined for the top corner until Simmo’s head intervened leaving keeper Kieran with no chance.
If the opposition were not giving the referee a moments peace, it was some petulance from Dan Way that led to the next booking, and matters got worse on the stroke of half time after a needless free kick led to a soft third goal.
If talk in the pavilion wasn’t too downbeat, all realised the real KPR needed to produce their best 45 minutes of the season to turn things around. If the man himself was away skiing this week, his team mates needed to demonstrate a bit more Courage. A few personnel and positional changes also helped, and matters were finally looking promising as the game got increasingly stretched.
Bulldog headed wide having appeared to defy gravity, and an incisive pass from Rob found Luke who hit the ball over the bar having done the hard work. Given the relentless pressure he soon made up for it with a calm finish among some frantic play.
It should have got even better but the clinical finishing the supporters are used to evaded him moments later after some good play from Woodsy. Bulldog being a perpetual threat he was upended by the less than divine ponytail, and he also suffered what looked like a very dubious offside flag when bearing down on goal.
Despite this, another goal seemed inevitable and it came from a free kick that broke loose in the box. Simmo, now pushed up into midfield, got to the ball first and while the keeper was making claims of a foul he hit the crossbar. Fortunately the rebound fell to Mike Wicherek and he placed the ball into the top corner with a scissor kick that would have crippled 90% of those watching.
It was a proper game now, and as much as a draw wasn’t much use as far as the title chase was concerned a draw would have been a great result given the circumstances at half-time. And the lads could have pulled it off had Bulldog not hit his chance at a grateful keeper and substitutes’ Seamus and Aidan’s combined efforts not been deflected wide.
Given the ongoing verbals, there was a longer period of added time than normal. And yet, the lads had left themselves too much to do. Given the healthy bar takings, you’d be forgiven for thinking everyone was drowning their sorrows, but this was down to the opposition sticking around – an all too rare event these days – so there’ll be less beer to shift than normal next week when the ressies close the season as far as Fortress Pyrford is concerned.
Come on down!