As Will Miles became the latest case study for the town’s medical students, Luca Cocoracchio – who later, joined him – was thrown in for his full, first team debut. Rhyle Ovenden started in place of Darren Budd, Jazz Rance swapped places with Joe Clarke and Tyrese Mthunzi returned to the bench.
An accident on the M23 saw kick-off delayed until 8:15pm, although, despite still arriving with at least half an hour to warm-up, Merstham decided not to.
Thus it was a surprise to see the first two chances of the game both fall to the Surrey-based visitors. Former Red, Kershany Samuels whipped in a low free-kick just wide of Kleton’s right-hand post after only two minutes, before James Crane was called into action to divert a Calum Davies shot over the bar for a corner. The resulting set-piece forcing KP to dive down towards the same upright but the effort was already marginally off target, from Tutu Henriques.
The home crowd then sensed a breakthrough, as Sam Rents lined up a free-kick that Amadou Tangara had to push over the top. Once again though, the subsequent corner provided more drama, as this time referee, Adrian Harris spotted an infringement in the area and duly awarded a penalty. Crane stepped up to send the ‘keeper the wrong way and give his side the lead.
Walter Figueira went close to equalising five minutes later but the outstretched leg of our Albanian-born netminder kept him out.
While, at the other end, Reece Myles-Meekums’ run resulted in the ball falling kindly for Jesse Starkey, to fire over the framework.
Ricky Aguiar also missed the target, after Callum Kealy had drifted in from the left to set up the shooting opportunity, with Jazz Rance doing a similar thing moments later; except on this occasion, no-one was able to get on the end of his fizzing, low drive.
A fairly even first forty-five, slowly drifted towards the break but not before The Moatsiders had restored parity.
The ever-impressive Figueira’s venomous right-sided delivery, deflected behind off the knee of Crane and the ensuing flag-kick was prodded over the line, via the underside of the crossbar, by Captain, Tom Kavanagh.
With the bit between their teeth, Tayshan Hayden-Smith picked out the run of Figueira down the left, but he was unable to capitalise, as he dragged his shot wide of the far post.
However, this merely served as an appetiser to the main course, as it became the turn of the aforementioned Hayden-Smith, to conjure up a carbon-copy move that played out to an identical conclusion.
Former Lewes man, Gus Sow had one final attempt at stealing the initiative but his range-finder from twenty yards didn’t have a happy ending.
The onslaught soon resumed after the restart, with Davies getting the final touch to poke home at the end of brief spell of pinball and Samuels trying his luck again from a dead ball situation, only to watch on as it went across the box without anyone getting a decisive touch. Before, finally, Davies couldn’t manage to keep his shot down, to give the struggling hosts some respite.
That man Figueira was back, around the hour mark, with an effort that sailed over the crossbar until Myles-Meekums had a rare opportunity to test the tea-sipping Tangara, who had to put down his hot half-time beverage to save the attempt.
That liquid refreshment remained on the ground, as the Dulwich Hamlet loanee was quickly out of his goal to smother the ball from an onrushing Hayden Skerry, who had been the recipient of a delightful slide-rule pass by fellow substitute, Jasper Pattenden.
Figueira fired wide once more, before a second shot was tipped over by Perntreou for a corner, that, for once, came to nothing.
An insipid, uninspiring home team were eventually put out of their misery, less than ten minutes from time. Figueira, at last, getting the goal his performance so richly deserved, as he powered home off the inside of the far post, from the right-hand side of the box.
Three nearly turned into four, as the man-of-the-moment and part time Willian lookalike, was denied by an outstanding save from Kleton.
In an almost mirror image conclusion to the match, it fell to Sow to send the bright yellow mitre careering across the penalty area and away to safety.
The silence that greeted Hinshelwood and his troops at the final whistle, spoke volumes about a desperately poor second half showing by a beleaguered Reds, who had been second and, indeed third to pretty much everything after the half-time turnaround, as they crashed out of a competition that, ultimately, they could have won.