Hartley triumph as efforts of a hard working Mole Valley not reflected in the score
Hartley were on the road again at the weekend as they travelled to play against Mole Valley, hosted at Cobham FC due to their current ground sharing. The Hartley management made a couple of changes to the starting line-up from Thursday that saw Hartley draw 4-4 against title chasing Epsom. Mason Saunders came in for the rested Adam Everiss, and Ryan Stephens replaced hat-trick hero Ian Jones up front.
Hartley show intelligent play to counteract bright start by a new-look Mole Valley side that did plenty to suggest they'll cause other teams problems.
It was a warm afternoon at the Costa del Cobham, and it was the home side that certainly started the brighter. There was an urgency about the Mole Valley side which saw a lot of new players making their debuts. Although they started quickly, they were reduced to shots from 25 yards as our defence retained its shape, and the impressive Nick Kingston and Elliot Hobden once again made life very difficult for the home side to settle on the ball. Credit goes to Mole Valley, who had certainly done their homework and stopped us playing in our usual profitable areas.
There was an intelligence about Hartley's play and they began to find holes in other areas, none more so than from the creative movement of Hartley's forward, Sam Argent. It was a free kick, on 35 minutes, that broke the deadlock. With a series of players capable of scoring goals from dead ball situations, it was left to Shane Hollamby, who curled the ball into the net passed the helpless keeper.
It was certainly against the run of play, and it allowed Hartley to settle on the ball; they started to pass the ball and began finding a rhythm to their play. It was only 4 minutes later that Hartley struck for the second time, as Ryan Stephens received the ball outside the box on his back foot, turned back on himself and struck the ball into the top right corner, beyond the outstretching keeper.
Hartley's high pressure led to a third goal as our attacking unit forced a Mole Valley defender to pass the ball back to the keeper who, instead of clearing it, decided to pick it up! An indirect free kick was given; Sam Argent, who doesn't need much encouragement to tuck the ball home anyway, was given a clear path to pass the ball into the back of the net. A badly placed wall and a flat-footed keeper did not impress the Mole Valley management, rightly so. H/T.
The Hartley management's message was clear, retain possession and work hard off it, and limit the opposition's opportunities to shots from distance. Mole Valley returned to the second half with a renewed sense of enthusiasm, and it wasn't long before they managed to get a goal back. A couple of half clearances from a corner gifted an opportunity for a strike at goal, and the Mole Valley player duly obliged by putting it past Craig Atkinson. A disappointing goal to concede - as a unit we switched off and allowed them back in the game; mistakes like that can cost you points and it gave them a sniff of an opportunity to claw the game back.
Hartley needed to settle on the ball and slow the game down. The MV players were certainly working hard, but their need to push forward led to erratic movement, which created spaces in other areas of the pitch that Hartley began to explore. Paris Hutt was sent on to help us find a rhythm in the middle of the park and find the spaces that were becoming more and more visible. It was another impressive display from the youth team player whose attitude in both training and at matches has been exceptional. The ever impressive Jack Coventry picked up an injury that meant Mason Saunders moving up to left midfield, and putting Marc Vockins in the left back position.
Hartley's fourth goal came from a deep free kick that was taken by Ashley Lloyd. Argent had checked his run and dived into the space, and he met the ball which was floated over between the right back and left back, and connected beautifully on the volley whereby Sam lifted the ball over the keeper to make it 4-1.
A final change saw Brownlie come on to replace Mason Saunders at left midfield.
An excellent performance from the Hartley boys, well taken goals and much tighter defensively. Hartley now travel to Raynes Park Vale on Tuesday night, which will see another tough game. [DB]