On a wet and windy evening at Whyteleafe Football Club, the alternative venue for this evening’s Bostik Premier League encounter, Ian Chapman re-introduced ‘stopper Josh James to the starting line up, following his year away from the Hillians. Aaron Smith-Joseph and Emmauel Agyeman were also handed starts, following impressive performances off the bench against Merstham.
The following report/image is courtesy of Ian Townsend (Bostik League):
The Hillians, in green, got proceedings underway and tested home keeper Slavomir Huk with a near post cross within the first few seconds. The keeper, resplendent in salmon pink, easily held the ball, but should have been put under far more pressure two minutes later when Connor Tighe only connected with fresh air when found unmarked in the box. But there was an urgency about their early play. Before the match Hill General Manager John Rattle, asked whether Tooting were giving his side hope, he responded that they needed to make their own ! They certainly began like a side determined to do just that.
In the tenth minute Lee Harding had their first real effort, and he created it all on his own, drifting in from the right, bamboozling the left back before having his shot deflected for a corner. Harding has been a striker, winger and midfielder in recent years, and it was rather a surprise to see him playing at right back, but he quickly seemed comfortable there, charging up and down the wing in support of the attack. A group of away fans behind the goal, inspired by his efforts, began to jump up and down in the rain, banging a drum which was likely to be rusty by full time.
It took almost twenty minutes for the home side to really get into the game, and they had their first shot on goal after twenty four, a run from Jerome Beckles bringing a save from Josh James. Prior to that Dan Walker, down the left wing, had made a number of good runs without finding an end product, whilst Briggs on the opposite flank had seemed rather frustrated, a late challenge earning him a talking to from the referee. But neither side had really looked like making a breakthrough- the pitch seemed to be generating a great deal of noise but nowhere near the same amount of quality. Walker then shot wide of James’ right hand post, but the keeper seemed to have it well covered.
As the rain got harder, Lewis Putman earned a free kick for Wanderers five yards outside the Hill box. Lewis Taylor took a run up, curled the ball over the wall and it seemed to be heading towards the goal, yet it ended up curling away and bouncing five yards wide, threatening to land in an area marked ‘Balls that go beyond the hoarding are retrieved at your own risk’- perhaps the home of the infamous Whyteleafe monster? That effort summed up the period so far; pretty, yet ineffective. And yet in the last minute of the half Hill could have been ahead. A run from Tighe, a great cross to Aaron Smith-Joseph and the ball nestled in the side of the net. Sadly for those in green, however, it was the outside rather than the inside. The players left the field with nothing to separate them, and undoubtedly glad of a respite from both the weather and each other.
Three minutes after the restart Wanderers could have been ahead. Lewis Taylor got away down the right and drove the ball across, forcing James into a one handed save which he couldn’t hold. Had a Dorking forward been following in the net could- should- have bulged, but nobody but a defender was anywhere near the loose ball and it was cleared. Hill responded, going straight up the other end where their number seven, Pat Harding, took too long over a shot which was then deflected wide. It was a promising start, but the game remained goalless. Not for too long, however.
As we entered the fifty third minute Wanderers full back Rob Sheridan got the ball around ten yards inside the Hillians half. He wandered slowly towards the box, the defence inexplicably backing off, and eventually decided that he might as well try a shot, given that nobody else wanted the ball. His effort took a wicked deflection, wrong-footed James entirely, and ended up behind the keeper in the back of the net. The celebrations were muted, but Hill were behind in a game they really needed to win.
They were level just after the hour mark. A Hill forward went down in the box and the Wanderers defence seemed to stop dead to complain, leaving Lee Harding to approach the loose ball unhindered on the edge of the box. His finish was clinical, and the game once more evenly balanced. It was a rare moment of quality, and rather apt that it came from Harding, who had provided much of that which was positive so far. Encouraged by this Hill could have gone ahead five minutes later, a header from Tighe at the back post- courtesy of a pinpoint Lucas Rodriguez cross- just clearing the upright.
The game then became stretched, with both keepers called into action and a number of niggly fouls. There was no shortage of energy, but as usual there was a shortage of end product, moves tending to break down on the edge of both boxes. Hill manager Ian Chapman responded to that by bringing on Hafeez Sanusi, a striker with the build of a basketball player, but it was- slightly against the run of play- at the other end that the breakthrough came. A quick break down the right, a pull back to an unmarked Lewis Taylor, and a deft finish over James’ head into the net put Wanderers ahead once more. Eight minutes to go, and Hill had a mountain to climb.
It could have been even worse for the away side, James being forced into an excellent save from James McShane with three minutes to go, and as Hill pressed another breakaway saw Walker fire wide of the far post when he should perhaps have done better. We moved into added time, and Wanderers made an error, defending deeper and deeper. This almost saw them robbed of their points, a cross from Tom Cadman forced home at the far post only to see the Assistant raise his flag for handball, but then it was over. Wanderers moved back up to fourteenth, whilst Hill remained rooted to the basement.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank our travelling contingent of Hillians fans, who sang throughout the entire 90 minutes, we will keep battling for you!
Next up, the Hillians welcome Wingate & Finchley to the Green Elephants Stadium, for our Bostik Premier League encounter – 7:30pm kick off. We currently remain three points behind Tooting & Mitcham, with three games in hand over the South London outfit.
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