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Chertsey 1 Hartley 0

Post by KOB - 17-04-2016, 10:05

Difficult to know how to start because I think many who were there are going to disagree with my thoughts on yesterday's game. There were quite a few of the Hartley faithful left very frustrated, bordering on angry at the way we allowed the points to slip away. Oddly enough - since I generally take losses badly - I came away with a shallow smile on my face at what I had witnessed and what I was seeing and hearing of Chertsey's celebrations, as if they'd just done the double. Don't get me wrong, I don't really blame them - we've been there ourselves, remember 5-1 at Egham the season of our great escape - but at the end of the day we remained 10 points clear at the top of the league. That's some position to be in at this stage in the season.

We started the game well, good tempo, driving forward, and it seemed the first goal would come for us as surely as night follows day. But we just didn't make all of our dominant attacking play and possession pay - did we test the keeper once? I don't think we did until near the end of the half. The hosts were very much on the back foot, and when they did eventually mount an attack it was snuffed out. That continued until their tall centre forward gets his head onto the ball and loops one just under the bar, over the top of both Craig's fingers and Liam on the line. Chertsey's first real opportunity and they scored from it. It was very much against the run of play and I wasn't concerned, given how much we'd dominated, sure an equaliser would come and we'd go on to get a result, which was important, particularly as news came in that both Camberley and Ashford were losing. We could have sealed the title right there. Chertsey's keeper clawed the ball from under the bar late on.

I felt we'd played a lot of good football in the first half, certainly in the build up play. Dean had a terrific half, getting the better of the fullback nearly every time, and the only issue for me was that we could have used him more. I wanted us to just give him the damn ball, he was electric down the right, and yet at times, as if playing in auto-pilot, we'd switch the play across to the left, slow it all down, let Chertsey get behind the ball. For all the nice passing football, I felt I was watching the Barcelona that lost against Atletico Madrid. Playing to a plan but not reacting to what was happening on the pitch, to the opposition in front of us. The coaches can do just so much from the sidelines but players have to be more switched on, proactive, see the weaknesses of their opposition there in front of them and capitalise on it. It was as if we were just expecting things to work out fine if we kept knocking the ball around.

In the second half, if we'd continued as we had been doing but with more of a cutting edge, we probably would have got a result. But we didn't. We began to get ragged. Over the course of the 45 minutes, Chertsey had enough clear cut chances to have gone four up. We played the way we did at Farnham. Certain players had a bit of a mare, often by trying to overplay in silly areas. Passing and delivery wasn't of our best. And yet we probably still had more of the attacking possession. At times we set siege on Chertsey's goal, but there wasn't a clear chance created that I can recall. To their credit, Chertsey's became more and more determined to hold on to what they had, with some very good covering defensive work from midfield back.

I'm not too sure why Steve Duff was played alongside Sam up front - we all know what Duffs brings to the team but that position doesn't suit him best. We missed Shane greatly - I reckon he would have made a huge difference.

Joe Paris had a good first half but was replaced as we chased the game. Steve Duff went off with an injury. Ross Cook and Zac Horkan on. Ross made an immediate impact, getting up high to win a header - something only the tireless Argent had been able to do - and we felt he'd make something happen as Cookie so often does. But then, as Ross also so often does, he became frustrated. His focus drifted. He got himself booked, a little harshly I thought, but his reputation precedes him. The Chertsey fans - clearly knowing all about him - looked to wind him up and get him to react and get sent off. He didn't, thankfully, but he became distracted. This did frustrate me; the one thing that did really frustrate me. Ross, the little that I've spoken to him, comes across as a great lad, but boy does he need a proper sorting out to prevent what happens when he runs onto a football pitch. The frustrating thing is, he could be a marvellous player. Being old enough to be his dad, I feel like giving him the kind of talk my three boys remember getting in their late school year - Dan, ask Tom when you next see him :-)

It's a game we could have won comfortably. It's a game we surely should have won. But boys, you can't just flick the switch to auto-pilot and expect to glide in to the title. Every team we play wants our scalp. Supporters felt they'd been scalped I think, hence the bitter frustration. We have to fight for the right to win a championship, and we've done that wonderfully well for most of the season.

I'm conscious a few of the boys might read what Nick and I (it's usually one or other of us - I wish it were others too) have to say. I'm sure many disagree with us on various points; some will no doubt say we've not got a clue, we don't know what goes on in the background, yadayada. Well, we both played once too. But today I will probably upset some of my fellow supporters too, because I felt we transfered our frustration onto the pitch, and that never helps. It may help to drive a team forward, but we stopped thinking out there. It was 'throw everything at them and it's bound to come', instead of, 'let's think about this a moment' and create the one or two clear cut chances that could have won us the game - something we are entirely good enough to do.

Ashford and Camberley ended up coming back to win their games at Windsor and Epsom - it must have been quite a game at Epsom who were 2 up and lost 2-3, which finished their hopes of a promotion slot. We still remain 10 points clear. I had people around me questioning if we might throw away the title at this stage. It was the frustration talking, I understand that, but come on! But we don't want to limp over the line, do we boys. Pride and fight to the end - every team we've played since the early part of the season, and every team we still have to play with the exception perhaps of Camberley, sees us as their cup final. So we need to treat each of the remaining games as cup finals. Take the champagne off ice and put it back in the fridge for now - we have a job to do boys.
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