On Saturday we entertained Division Two pacesetters Maple Leaf Rovers in a game not only of importance for the League Cup but also a possible psychological edge in the Division Two title race.
With a couple of injuries and suspensions to contend with we managed to scrape together 11 players thankfully all of high quality including a return for goal machine Kevin Humpage after he missed our last game against Hawbush.
We started the game really well, passing the ball around quickly on the skiddy surface, almost camped in the Maple Leaf half. The only thing that was missing was the finishing touch although we were extremely unlucky when captain Andy Rowley hit the post with a 25 yard free kick, the rebound fell to James Scragg and he proceeded to thunder a volley at the crossbar before the ball was finally scrambled away.
We finally managed to take the lead around the midway point of the half. Kevin Humpage drilled in a corner from the right hand side and James Scragg met the ball perfectly with his forehead from around 8 yards out.
We had more chances to extend the advantage but Maple Leaf were to get the next goal. A through ball from Maple Leaf’s captain caused some hesitation in the home defence and Kiran Kellman nipped in for his seemingly obligatory goal.
Half time 1-1.
The second half started very much like the first, a barrage of pressure from ourselves but a little more wary of Maple Leaf’s pace on the counter. We managed to get our noses in front again and at the risk of sounding biased, it was a relatively simple yet beautiful goal. A long ball forward from the back was controlled instantly by Humpage who used his body well to hold off his defender and with the goalkeeper no more than 8 yards off his line, he produced a sumptuous chip over him from fully 35 yards which left the keeper with no chance.
Maple Leaf, to their credit, responded again and only a miraculous save from home goalkeeper Ben Scragg prevented it from being 2-2 when he put his body on the line as Kellman looked to convert an impressive cross from the advanced Maple Leaf right back (although he did admit quietly it was an intended shot!)
The game was really on a knife edge but we made it safe with 10 minutes to go. Some impressive possession play as the ball crossed the field twice before Humpage gave the ball to the hard working Hathaway and he escaped the clutches of his defender before smashing the ball home on his left foot from 15 yards.
3-1 it ended and into the quarter finals we go. A shout out to Maple Leaf who are a good, good side and we definitely knew we’d been in a game as we sat shattered in the dressing room afterwards. They try to play football the right way and in addition to that they’re also a friendly, sporting set of lads.
Also thank you to the referee and his assistants.