A slight elbow injury to regular goalkeeper Harrison Male, meant a debut for seventeen year old Brighton loanee Tommy Reid. Cam Tutt, James Beresford and Jasper Pattenden all earned recalls to the starting eleven, while Danny Barker returned from suspension and Davide Rodari made a full home debut. Will Seager and Dajon Golding dropped to the bench where they were joined once again by Dean Cox. The Director’s Box became home for the evening for the unlucky trio of Pat Webber, Luca Cocoracchio and Luke Robinson, who missed out altogether.
Reds got the action underway early, signalling their intent through Ollie Pearce’s cross finding Joel Colbran in the box to head over the top, then Kealy getting the better of Ollie Cook to do likewise from the opposite flank, with Pearce himself heading off target.
Ollie also lined up a free-kick that saw Serine Sanneh parry at the foot of his near post; all this taking place in a frantic first five minutes.
Sanneh’s magic hands were later required, midway through the opening period, to keep out a Jesse Starkey deadball delivery that was whipped into the danger zone but beaten away by the busy K’s ‘keeper.
A fine move, emanating from the right boot of Captain Aarran Racine, led to a neat touch and turn by Pearce releasing Pattenden on the right. He eventually crossed into the penalty area for Ollie, who timed his run to get on the end of it, only to divert it the wrong side of the upright as he slid and stretched to make contact.
The visitors had barely been out of their own half up to this point, such was the host’s dominance.
That soon changed though when Simon Cooper, on the edge of the eighteen yard box, played a forward pass to Kenny Beaney, who spun Starkey round with a delightful first touch before sending Daniel Ajakaiye sprinting clear of Tutt. However, new boy Reid was out smartly to stop him.
Immediately afterwards, Barker drove towards the Woodside Road end and supplied Pattenden to his right. Jasper cut inside but saw his shot blocked by Cooper, only for Colbran to lift the loose ball over to Pearce, whose header on the six-yard line was parried by Sanneh to a waiting Kealy, who gratefully snaffled up the opportunity to give his side the lead.
Starkey then forced a fine save out of Sanneh, via a rocket-like set-piece as did Beresford after dispossessing the unusually quiet Walter Figueira, with the interval looming large on the horizon.
Seconds later, Kealy doubled his and his team’s advantage by smashing home, following Fabio Saraiva’s headed attempt at clearing Pattenden’s left-sided flag-kick dropping nicely for the Aussie ace, giving Sanneh no chance with a powerful finish.
There was still time for Kealy to nearly have a hand in goal number three, when he robbed former Red Alfie Young, near the halfway line; allowing Pattenden to scamper away, skip Young’s challenge and trick his way into the penalty box, where he chipped a cracking effort onto the inside of the far upright. The ball somehow staying out.
Early into the second period, a Starkey corner resulted in Racine rising above the rest and nodding past the post.
Three quarters of the way through an entertaining evening, Pearce timed his run to stay onside and latch onto Beresford’s ball down the left, before fizzing it into the centre. Kealy came within a whisker of completing his hat-trick, only for Pattenden to pounce and knock in a third.
A combination of Tutt and Barker converged on Saraiva to prevent the left-back making more of Figueira’s recycled cross before the visitors were reduced to ten men, thanks to Jerry Puemo’s tackle on Starkey resulting in the right-back picking up a second yellow card.
Not long after that, Racine’s raking ball from tight to the right touchline saw sub Golding race clear and bamboozle fellow replacement Rhys Murrell-Williamson, then locate an unmarked Pattenden on the far side of the eighteen yard area. JP had time to steady himself and aim a curler towards the left-hand post, only for Sanneh to go full-length to push it straight into the path of Golding, who couldn’t capitalise; putting the ball behind for a goal-kick.
Seven to go and it really was all over, as Colbran’s inch-perfect pass, bent into Kealy, saw the striker denied a deserved treble by the onrushing Sanneh, though rapidly regained his composure to lay back to the recently introduced Reece Myles-Meekums. Meeky did what he did at Merstham on Saturday by coming on to put the seal on another three points; calmly slotting home from marginally inside the area.
A timely tackle at the opportune moment denied Kealy his next attempt at claming the matchball, followed by a counter attack that almost produced a team fifth.
Reece raced through the middle, over the half-way line and spread play out to Golding on the right. He ghosted past Saraiva and drew another fine save out of Sanneh.
Finally, a piece of Benny Hill-esque finishing, thanks to Meeky slipping in Armstrong who proceeded to drift across Saraiva, then get tripped from behind by his own teammate as he and Starkey ended up in a heap, much to the chagrin of Kealy.