After last pre-season’s corresponding fixture had produced six goals, this game was a very different affair, as the Mackerel Men picked up an unfortunate injury.
It was the visitors who were first on the attack when Tom Chalaye broke down the right but couldn’t quite pick out an incoming Ollie Pearce.
However, a short back pass nearly gifted Three Bridges the lead just five minutes into the contest. Steve Smith latched onto it and rounded Roco Rees, only to be denied by the recovering Ty Mthunzi, who managed to clear Smith’s effort off the line.
Less than sixty seconds later, Marvin Armstrong won the ball in midfield and surged forward before spraying a pass out to Reece Meekums on the left. Sadly, his effort came closer to running out the batsmen on the neighbouring cricket pitch than the host’s goal.
The winger came closer with his next attempt, 16-year-old keeper Leo Anderson needing alert reactions to close the Meekums down quickly and push his shot behind.
Smith soon went close for Bridges again, volleying inches wide of Rees’ near post.
Meekums led the Reds’ next attack and found Ricky Aguiar in a central position around twenty yards out. Former Rebel Dean Lovegrove threw himself in the way to deflect the effort out for a corner.
The visitors continued to search for a breakthrough and had another attempt when a driving run from Jasper Pattenden drew a foul out of Lovegrove. Pearce’s set-piece flicked off an amber shirt at the expense of a corner, although nothing more positive materialised.
The closing ten minutes of the opening period brought about further opportunities for each side.
Firstly, Pattenden got away again, this time down the right to send in a low, dangerous-looking cross that somehow missed everyone as it zipped across the face of goal.
Then, a fine one-handed save by Rees prevented a towering header from Alex Barbary sneaking inside the left-hand upright, and the game remained goalless heading into half-time.
Mason Doughty managed to get clear on the right wing in the opening exchanges of the second period, but only threatened to disturb the passing traffic rather than trouble the away team’s target.
Twenty minutes later and the newly-introduced Kieron Pamment tested Anderson as he fired at goal with his weaker left foot from distance, but the keeper collected his effort comfortably.
Fellow substitute Ahmed Kamil-Hassan saw his effort turned over the top by the outstretched leg of Lovegrove, after Aguiar had created the opening.
Anderson then pulled off two stops in quick succession by keeping out Mo Jammeh’s shot and getting back up again to frustrate Kamil-Hassan, denying the young replacement a near-certain goal (again) in the six-yard box.
Aguiar was then forced to limp off with a nasty-looking knock, having picked up a booking as well.
Only in the final few throes of the contest did anything more resembling a possible deadlock-breaker occur.
A scissor kick from Lovegrove cleared away another attempt by Jammeh after a loose ball in the penalty area had dropped kindly for him, before two last efforts from our number two, Joel Colbran.
An angled diving header forced Anderson to tip over the first, while his follow-up on the end of Pattenden’s corner went over the goal frame unassisted.
Match Report: Gareth Nicholas