Busy Hartley progress in the CCL Premier Challenge Cup
Following just 3 days on from our cruel defeat at Eastbourne in the FA Cup, and with several regular starters rested or unavailable, it was an ideal opportunity to give valuable game time to the other important members of the squad, at the same time showing the importance of having a squad with real depth. Jake Maddock had a solid game between the posts, and Louie Paget had an excellent game at left back. Striker Eddie Smith has joined on a month's loan from Slough Town and made an immediate impact, scoring the second and last of our four goals in the 4-2 win; the latter an excellent finish after some good footwork.
As the second half began, there was no sign we would race into a 4-1 lead.
The game started with Eddie partnered by Ian Jones up front. Jonah gets my personal MOTM award on the night - very consistent as always, and putting in the usual great shift up front, scoring the opening goal with a clinical finish, and later in the second half, reverting to centre midfield where he gave his Horley opposite numbers no time to settle. Callum Eagle ran Jonah a close second for me, at right-back, again very consistent.
The first 45 was not the greatest of halves, neither side really putting their stamp on it, and we lacked the cohesion and flow in our game we've become used to seeing, but that was entirely understandable given the number of changes. Toby Jannaway was perhaps the pick of the players in the first half, while at the back we needed to be alert and Liam was clearing up much of the danger, but a burst of pace took the Horley striker away from Louie and he finished superbly across Jake and into the far corner.
1-1 at the break was probably the right scoreline of an even game, and the second half proceeded in much the same way - there was certainly no sign we would race into a 4-1 lead. Sam Argent came on for Max Elward, who'd put in his usual strong shift in the middle, and Jonah slotted in for Max. The effect of having Sam up front alongside Eddie was almost immediate - within a few minutes, Sam and Toby combined with neat interplay that saw the ball squared to Eddie and he fired home. Shortly after, Sam collected the ball inside the box, out to the left of the goal, waited for players to commit and tried to play the ball through - the challenge that came in was too tentative and Sam found the ball still at his feet, the defender trying to recover his footing, and instinctively shot from close range, straight and true, across the keeper and into the far side of the net for 3-1.
The game at this stage looked safe for the first time, as Hartley were now well in control and mounting attack after attack, with Horley tiring. Eddie Smith picked up the ball in almost the same position from which Sam had started his movement for the third goal, but this time Ed opened up the angle by bringing the ball away on a diagonal run, taking it passed a couple of players before turning sharply and lashing the ball in at the near post - terrific finish.
There was still time for Horley to grab a well taken consolation in what was probably injury time, but it made very little difference to what had been a much, much better second half of football from both sides but especially Hartley. Well done boys - through to the next round. [KOB]