Far from a classic but a win to maintain the 100% start to the season
When the fixtures are announced, there are always a couple of ties I look out for, Knaphill is certainly one of them. I've always enjoyed my visits to Knaphill, a good progressive club who work as hard off the pitch as they do on it. I always think Hartley set standards in the manner in which we host and create a sense of welcome at our club, Knaphill is one of the few clubs in the league where I come away with new ideas and the desire to adopt some of those that they have in place.
Credit to Knaphill, who were arguably the best CCL side we have come up against this year.
After a gritty performance midweek that saw us narrowly defeat local rivals, Sandhurst, we wanted a reaction from the boys. We selected a very attacking team and reformed the partnership of Cook and Argent up front. In the opening 30 minutes, Hartley mounted continuos pressure in their final third with Everiss and Duff gaining good ground. The movement of Argent and Cook was causing all sorts of problems for their defence, and it was an intelligent move by Cook which led to one of our opening chances. Cook opened his body out to receive the ball on the offside of the defender and used the bump inside the box to turn into the space behind but the shot was hit just past the post.
Hartley got the eventual winner 11 minutes into the half after a well worked move led to the ball being fed into the box and Liam Eagle latched on at the back post and nudged it past the bodies on the line.
For the next 20 minutes the Row dominated the game creating some chances that we'd normally expect to be finished. Cook had two good chances, one of which was a header at the back post from a Duff cross but couldn't keep the effort down. The other was some top class defending from the Knaphill centre half who risked making a last ditch tackle as Cook pulled back the trigger inside the box.
Argent created a number of chances including a strike that was saved at the keepers near post. Knaphill were finding relatively good ground with their strong and tall number 9, but an injury to their winger following a well timed but strong tackle from Ian Jones, meant he had to be replaced. He was looking lively, but sadly so was his replacement!
Knaphill had one notable chance in the first half as 'Atko' was called into action, who palmed the ball wide from relatively close range. Half time: 0-1.
We expected much of the same in the second half, but it wasn't to be. A rejuvenated Knaphill found their feet and began moving the ball very well and mounted a lot of pressure right from the start. All teams have a spell of around 10 minutes no matter how dominant the other team have been, we're prepared for this and we normally ride out the storm. The unusual thing for us, was that it wasn't 10 minutes, it was for effectively 45! The centre half pairing of Liam and Shane did very well sending the ball back, but through part luck and poor decision making, the ball kept finding its way back into our half. Knaphill must have created twelve or more chances by the end of the second half, on which in fairness only on 3 or 4 of those was Atko needed, but their efforts were only going narrowly wide. We did manage to keep Knaphill resorting to shots from distance, but it was shot after shot for the final 15 minutes. A couple of changes were made to help settle the ship, which did improve our footing in the game but by that point Knaphill had gained so much confidence, the barrage continued.
Argent and Duff both created some nice chances late on in the second half and we began to at least keep the ball in their half for a period of time to ease the pressure off our defence.
We were disappointed with the overall performance of the second half, but the boys won the game in the opening 20 minutes thanks to the quality of our opening gambits. It was far from a classic but on paper a very good win for the boys. Credit to Knaphill, who were arguably the best CCL side we have come up against this year, they've made some very good signings this week and they can take a lot of confidence from their performance yesterday. They have an ever improving side and with games against Ashford Town and Epsom coming up in the next few weeks, the three points we took yesterday may appear more important once those fixtures have been played. It's another win and we can continue to grow in confidence and build momentum as we approach the end of the first quarter of the season. [DB]