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Hartley 3 v 2 Camberley Town

Post by KOB - 03-05-2016, 10:37

That, boys, was the perfect way for true Champions to finish a pretty much perfect season.

I'm sure there were plenty who thought (and hoped, or feared) we'd not really be up for it - end of season, Championship won, Bank Holiday. We may have only had our pride as Champions to motivate us, but from the performance and the way the team celebrated at the final whistle, it showed what a proud team we have. We played with the confident, relaxed determination of champions. Camberley had so much to gain and so much to lose, and it was a feisty encounter, but we purred like a well tuned Bentley. That was some way to end the season.

Camberley, as we all know, play a brand of direct football that isn't easy to play against, with huge lofted balls from the keeper and centre-backs dropping from the sky like the boulders launched from medieval trebuchet slings. Their game is to lay siege to the castle - or in this case, penalty box. It ain't too pretty but I'm a firm advocate of playing to a team's strength and it's taken them far this season. And it meant that our defence, in particular our two centre-backs, Liam Eagle and Steve Noakes, had to be right on their game. Better than that, they were superb. I reckon if had been a 2 ton boulder, Liam would still have headed it passed the halfway line.

Up front, for me Ross Cook had one of, if not the best game of his season. It wasn't just his pace and skill on the ball, which we're used to seeing by now, it was his focus - for the whole 90 minutes his focus didn't waver, despite the hits he took. He was magical and I was pleased I had the opportunity on the way out to tell him that and shake his hand. There were a lot of big performances yesterday from our players but no one would begrudge Ross his hugely deserved Man of the Match award.

It was Ross that got us underway after 32 minutes, his pace getting the better of the Camberley right-back who clipped him and paid the price, Cookie calmly slotting the penalty home.

There was no 'end of season feel' to this one - some tasty challenges. Not sure I've seen Aaron Parfitt quite as combatant as that in midfield all season, and Parffs was another that deserved a lot of praise for the effort he put in. Adam Everiss was chasing down everything again, tracking back at speed from positions 20-30 yards up the field to put Camberley midfielders under pressure. Exceptional stuff.

1-0 at half-time in a close game and the one blemish of the afternoon - we're still effectively in the dressing room when, less than 2 minutes into the second period, Perry Groves is allowed space deep in the penalty box and from the right slides a shot across Atko and just inside the far post. All a bit too easy, but that was almost as easy as it got for Camberley. I say 'almost' because their second equaliser was comical, one of those sling shots from deep in their own half, by Camberley keeper Craig Bradshaw, being misjudged and somehow dropping under Atko's bar and into the net. That came 6 minutes after Ross had put us 2-1 up on 63 minutes.

The ball ran slightly loose just inside the Camberley half and I had my eyes fixed on Ross, willing him to get back onside, thinking JP or Parffs would get a foot to it. There's me, eyes fixed on Cookie, getting mad with him for not getting back onside, when I see the ball played through. I look at the linesman, fully expecting the flag to go up. Nope. Ross takes it around the keeper. I look at the lino. Nothing. Passive. Ross slots it into the net. Still no flag. It's then pointed out to me that it was played back towards his keeper by the outstretched foot of a Camberley player. So all those times Ross strolls back, that's what he was waiting for, that one slip up - genious :-)

Time was running out for Camberley, as a draw wasn't enough, while we were still looking determined and full of energy. A reckless challenge on Steve Duff was punished with a red card, and with Camberley down to 10 men it was Hartley that piled on the pressure. Ross was unlucky not to notch another hat-trick when his fierce drive was just too high. Then, on 90 minutes, the class move that in some ways summed up our season.

We get the ball out wide right, Camberley stretched, and Duffs plays it in towards Sam Argent in the penalty area. With a defender close on him and the keeper manning the near post, Sam doesn't try to score but plays a lovely weighted ball back the same way to Ross, then peals away towards the middle of the goal, perfectly placed to receive Cookie's measured pass across the 6-yard box. Sam buries it into an open net with the keeper still stood at his near post. A goal of such wonderful touch and simplicity, perfectly executed. 3-2, game over, 106 points, we finish 10 points clear at the top. Difficult to imagine a better way to finish off the campaign.

Finally, what a way also for Assistant Manager/Coach Joe Lawler to sign-off. Joe is stepping down from his role with the first team, where he has been so important since our miraculous 'great escape' season. The whole club will miss seeing you in the dugout Joe. Thank you for your dedication to the team. What a few seasons you've had with us and you've been a huge part of it!
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