Hartley rue missed chances as The Row drop two points
We travelled down to Bedfont Sports, who have fantastic facilities and a pitch that exceeds the level - although preparations weren't ideal as, in a bid to keep the pitch in shape, both teams were sent out the back in a tight, poorly lit space. A little frustrating but there was no time for excuses as we knew the threats that Bedfont would bring.
Aaron Parfitt rescued a point for Hartley late on in the second half in what turned out to be a frustrating evening for The Row.
The opening exchanges were relatively even, with Bedfont adopting a direct approach and loading the box at any given opportunity. Just inside ten minutes, Hartley began to dominate possession and built wave upon wave of attack. It was great to introduce Steve Duff back into the fold and he was a constant threat down the left hand side. Zac Horkan, who has impressed coming off the bench in recent weeks, was awarded a start on the right hand side. He too demanded the ball in good positions and delivered a number of dangerous crosses.
Hartley continued to dominate for the next 15 minutes, including a delightful chip to the back post that nearly caught the keeper off guard, delicately carved out by Duff.
Against the run of play, Bedfont gained the ball towards the left hand side and a seemingly harmless shot was fired from distance. Uncharacteristically, Atko didn't get his body behind the ball and it trickled over the line. As discussed at half time, Atko can lay claim, more than most, to the amount of points he has earned over the course of the season. He deserved a role reversal in the sense that the boys can bail him out for a change. This, sadly, proved trickier than we had hoped.
Arguably, Bedfont defended well but perhaps more applicable was that we were just not clinical in front of goal. We created plenty of chances, albeit not completely clear cut. We were very disappointed with the way we finished the half. A lack of quality on the ball and poor decision making stopped us from doing what was working well in the opening minutes of the game. Half time 1-0.
It was important that we blended two main aspects, patience and urgency. Two elements that you wouldn't normally seek together. Urgency to do the right things and play with a tempo, and patience to know that chances would come our way if we were to continue to play our brand of football. Credit to the boys, they did it.
The dug-out was situated opposite our own penalty box and I was getting neck ache with continually looking up the pitch as Hartley attacked with a defiant spirit that a chance WOULD come our way. Everiss and Jannaway were introduced into the game, with a slight shuffle of the pack that led to Hollamby going up front. It turned out to be a good move as Everiss received the ball high and wide up the pitch and delivered driven crosses into dangerous areas.
We finally got our reward for our efforts when Parfitt received the ball outside the box on the left hand side and smashed the ball into the top right corner. Surprisingly, his first goal of the season, but if history is anything to go by, he will now go and score consistently over the course of the season.
Hartley, with a rejuvenated spirt and belief that we could take the three points, surged forward. Hollamby and Argent linked up well, with Duff continuing to cause havoc, but this time down the right hand side. The Row were awarded a penalty late on in the game, but Argent hit narrowly wide. In a similar vain to Atko, Argent has got us out of many situations and led us to many victories. I know he'll be disappointed, but there's no reason to be. He'll be firing on all cylinders on Saturday, as will the rest of the boys.
Bedfont continued to defend well and in numbers, but we were camped in their half for the best part of 40 minutes. They had a five minute spell in the second half where they worked the ball nicely down the left hand side, but never got beyond our back four. I think if we'd had an extra 5 minutes we would have won the game. We went agonisingly close on so many occasions. Bedfont created one chance in the final minute of the game when the striker pulled his shot wide of the post - he could have won it for Sports.
Steve Shimwell summed it up after the game, 'to be disappointed with a point away at Bedfont shows how far we have come' - he's absolutely right. It's been a magnificent start. Whether it's a wake up call, an opportunity to galvanise or a reason to strive for even more, we take our frustrations from Tuesday night and use it as a positive driving force to make sure we do the business on Saturday.
Great support again yesterday, thank you for travelling such a distance to back the boys. [DB]