Surrey Premier County League
Keens Park Rangers 1 AFC Cubo 2
Goals: Luke Mitchell
Man-of-the-match: Bruce McPhail (and honourable mention to Leighton Looseley)
After a very encouraging pre-season, and a draw in their first match last week, KPR’s first team suffered a rare home defeat at Fortress Pyrford against AFC Cubo.
Already denied the squad’s usual depth, the (very) late arrival of Courage was far from ideal. And yet, the starting eleven were a match against a team that finished third last year. Truth be told, there was very little football of note for the first quarter of an hour bar one flash of skill from Luke Mitchell and an attempted ‘rabona’ (C) from the opposition’s number nine.
In part, the rather scrappy play had something to do with a very hard surface and bar manager Chainy’s new match balls, which presented an issue to any player foolhardy enough to allow it to bounce. Clearly, the best idea was to ‘keep it on the carpet’, and it was KPR who achieved this first. In doing so they scored what will likely be one of the team goals of the season as swift movement down the left led to an incisive back heel before the ball was squared across the box for the oncoming Luke Mitchell to slot home with great aplomb.
A crowd-pleaser to be sure, few would have realised this was as good as it would get for KPR who began to ride their luck. Seemingly in two-minds defensively, KPR were grateful to keeper Leighton who, having tipped a shot from distance onto the bar, produced a point blank save from the rebound when the striker must have thought he was going to score a tap in.
While neither side were able to dominate, KPR were gradually playing deeper and deeper leaving the front two somewhat isolated figures. Ultimately, the pressure told and a deep cross was slotted home at the far post to bring the visitors level just before half-time.
1-1 at half-time wasn’t a disaster, however, and the talk in the pavilion remained cautiously optimistic despite all realising the visitors were in the ascendancy. Indeed, this optimism rose when Courage finally turned up. And yet, he wasn’t able to influence matters from the touch line, and the ball resembled a hot potato as far as the KPR players were concerned.
It was a different matter for the opposition who really ought to have taken the lead with a free header from close range before they struck the crossbar again from distance. The heat / fitness was an increasingly obvious factor. Lucas had a niggly knee, and even a couple of the opposition went down with cramp earlier than you’d expect.
It was going to be, in every respect, a long half. And Courage’s introduction really required our most industrious player to squeeze ninety minutes of graft into half an hour. Immediately a pest to the opposition’s defence and he combined with Lucas to create the first chance of the half.
Sadly Luke was then forced to leave the field. And matters got worse as the opposition took the lead having outmuscled the defence at the far post from a corner following a good save from Leighton.
No more than they deserved, the manner of both goals was frustrating. But this was always going to be a season of consolidation and learning. And, with time running out, captain Simmo pushed up into the midfield and, in doing so, almost inspired an improbable renaissance. The opposition were certainly on the back foot and some good play set Bulldog through for a rare chance that he took well, but placed just beyond the far top corner of the goal.
That, as it transpired, was that and the referee finally called time on what had been both a stern test and an example of what will be required each week in this new league. Given a fuller squad, and improved fitness, it seems clear KPR will be competitive. Now. About those socks!