National League South Sat 27 August Princes Park
  • Essam (9')
  • Kealy (51')
  • Colbran (90+5')

The fast-paced and physical nature of National League South dictates the need to have a strong squad, to allow flexibility in numbers from game to game and Saturday was no different.

In came four of last week’s substitutes, meaning maiden starts this season for both Danny Barker and Sammie McLeod, alongside Cam Tutt and Dan Bowry, resulting in a Bowry-Racine partnership at the back in another campaign first. Joe Rye – who limped off against Chippenham – and James Beresford commenced proceedings on the bench with pre-season regular Conrad Honore adding his name to it. Injury led to Nodirbek Bobomurodov and Lewis White keeping Jake Robinson company in the stand, with the recently departed Marvin Armstrong sitting next to his now former teammates.

Reds were under the cosh in the early stages as a perfectly-timed Aarran Racine tackle prevented Luke Coulson getting a shot away just two minutes in.

Then, the same player saw his corner returned to him but a second cross headed over by Pierre Fonkeu.

No such worry moments later though when Samir Carruthers’ flag-kick from the same right-hand side was nodded down and inside the far post by centre-half Connor Essam.

It needed a sharp piece of goalkeeping by Harrison Male to deny Luke Allen in the box before a delightful piece of skill by Reece Myles-Meekums helped break the Darts stranglehold on the game.

Meeky flicking the ball up and over the dome of Coulson prior to bursting into the penalty area and teeing up McLeod, who was met with a sliding challenge from Carruthers.

Goalscorer Essam returned to a more familiar role when he blocked Ollie Pearce’s swivel and strike, after Cal Kealy had picked him out.

Further success on the right flank for Myles-Meekums preempted a glide inside to present McLeod with another opening that he could only send flying over the top from the ‘d.’

Macca’s next attempt was, in fairness, a more difficult one following Colbran’s deep back stick delivery that ended behind the target for a goal-kick.

Ten minutes before the break, the hosts almost doubled their advantage via a quick counter-attack. Carruthers seizing on a loose ball in midfield, driving forward and supplying Sutton United loanee Adam Lovatt with an opportunity that he curled narrowly the wrong side of Male’s left-hand upright, thirty yards out.

Soon after the change of ends, a misplaced header by Bowry provided an ideal platform for Carruthers to surge clear and play in Coulson. A sliding tackle from Captain Racine ending initial hope of anything more, at the ultimately fruitless expense of a corner.

After his heroics at one end, Racine’s long diagonal pass to a loitering McLeod continued with a looping header into the danger zone being controlled in an instant by Kealy, then fired on the turn low and beyond Wolves temp Joe Young in the home net to level the score.

A similar attempt by Colbran was held by the debutant number one, once Myles-Meekums had been greeted with a sea of black-and-white striped shirts and the subsequent unattended ball diverted in the right direction by our eminent right wing-back.

Only the width of the crossbar separated Kristian Campbell and a lead-restoring effort when his free-kick struck the top of the goal frame and bounced down but away to safety, just past the hour mark.

Chances were much harder to come by in the remaining half-an-hour, impeccably illustrated by ex-Eastbourne Borough man Campbell completely flummoxing Tutt with a wonderfully crafted piece of skill. Although he failed to trouble Male with his final shot, six minutes from time.

Four additional minutes were then indicated but an eventual total of around seven would be played.

The clock struck ninety-five, in a manner of speaking, as Kane Wills’ flag-kick made it’s way into the heart of the eighteen yard box where sub Adam Adam and Pearce saw an impregnable wall of white (and black) in front of them.

Fortunately however, Ollie had his wits about him and laid the ball back for Colbran to gently and deliberately lift over everyone, before watching it drop into the far side of the home team’s goal to spark wild scenes of celebration amongst players, supporters, management and directors alike.

The final whistle went a couple of minutes later, ensuring a second win in six days at (The) Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park as the men matched the achievement of the women in coming from behind to take home the points courtesy of a 1-2 verdict.