Thank heavens for artificial pitches, ey! It’s true what they say, you cannot beat a grass pitch but when you’re in the eye of a storm, you’re grateful for the all weather surface. The Hillians were certainly grateful of the 3G turf, overcoming Sevenoaks for the third time this season and getting back on track in the league.
As expected, Storm Eunice was raging on with strong winds whipping around the South East accompanying some rather unwanted wet stuff dwindling from the sky above. These conditions made it understandable that the start on the pitch was slow and sedate. It took until the 12th minute for anyone to have an attempt on goal, Lewis Finney finding a yard of space before firing a shot over Tyler McCarthy’s crossbar. That shot sprung the game into life a little, the Oaks responded down the other end whipping a teasing and testing cross along our 6 yard box but some very good last ditch defending from Leon Moore prevented a sure fire tap in. On 2 previous occasions this season the Hill had overcome Sevenoaks but the hosts were making life difficult for the yellows, defending deep and using Mother Nature’s conditions to their advantage. 35 minutes in and still no clear cut chance of note, Lewis Finney for all his recent good, did lose the ball in a dangerous area but thankfully the respective shot on our goal was straight at Will Huffer. You sensed it was only a matter of time before Hill forged a meaningful attack on the opposition goal and in the 41st minute they did just that and got rewarded. Some great play down the right from Hayden Skerry saw him breeze past his man and whip an absolute inch perfect ball onto the head of Lewis Finney at the back post who thundered his header past McCarthy and into the roof of the net to send the hearty Hillians who had braved the weather into the break happy.
I’m sure that goal late in the first half changed Jay Lovett’s planned team-talk somewhat, the Hill knew if they could come out and grab a second that might just be enough. This second I speak of almost came about in the most bizarre fashion, though. The Hillians attackers had done a brilliant job of pressing Sevenoaks back line and goalkeeper all afternoon and it almost payed off for them as McCarthy’s hoof up field was charged down by former Oak, Hayden Skerry and it so nearly looped into the back of the net but fortunately for the hosts, it drifted just over the crossbar. The Battenberg sporting Hillians were well in control of the match in the second half, perhaps the late goal knocked the proverbial stuffing out of Sevenoaks. Tom Chalaye, another willing runner all afternoon, produced a lovely bit of skill in the box to turn away from his man, his subsequent left footed attempt was a fraction to high but the efforts were warmly applauded by the freezing hoard of Alliance gathered behind the goal. If they were impressed with that, they were absolutely cockahoop when Hayden Skerry emphatically doubled the advantage. The Hillians once again won the ball back high, Lewis Taylor dinked a cross into the box, Lewis Finney looked as if he was bundled over but the ball came to Skerry at the back post who thwacked his effort into the ground and it nestled in the top corner to put the dagger in the heart of his former club. Skerry almost had another when he cut inside his man and let fly but this time his effort veered the wrong side of the post. Jay Lovett’s men have really missed Conrad Honore in the middle of the park in recent matches, he returned from injury in this one and almost set up our third. His delightful through ball saw Tom Chalaye beat the offside trap but when one on one, Tom was so unfortunate to see his effort smash back off the post. That miss proved even more costly 2 minutes later. Out of absolutely nothing, Steve Smith smashed a free kick which Will Huffer could only parry and Freeman Rogers was the first to react, slamming the ball home to half the deficit for the hosts. From what seemed to be heading towards a routine victory, suddenly the hosts were back in it and on top. Smith tried his luck again from a set piece, this time thundering an effort which landed in a nearby tree. As the time ticked on and Sevenoaks pushed men forward, this led to the inevitable space at the back for Hill to exploit. How they didn’t capitalise from this and add a third in the 88th minute, I’m not really sure even now. Skerry was the latest man to be sent through one on one, his shot was saved, he got to the rebound first and crossed for Michael Uwezu who’s shot was blocked on the line before that rebound fell to Conrad Honore six yards out who smashed high over the bar when it seemed easier to score. Would we rue these late missed opportunities? Well another came and went when Skerry forced McCarthy into a very good fingertip save before eventually we did seal the win. Some tenacious play from Conrad saw him win the ball back in the box and eventually he was brought down just before he could pull the trigger for a stonewall penalty. Mr Reliable and captain fantastic Lewis Taylor stepped up to send McCarthy the wrong way and get his young Hillians side back on track.
We perhaps made it slightly more difficult for ourselves than it needed to be but the end result is all that mattered and we deservedly took home the points.
Next up, it’s back on home soil where we welcome Hythe Town to the More Than Tyres Stadium!