Southern Combination League – Division One. Saturday 6th August 2022. Report Source: www.eefconline.co.uk Reporter: Richard Lambert.
On Saturday we suffered our third straight 3-0 defeat when visiting Middle Road, home of Shoreham. Whilst the previous two losses contained many positives against opponents of a far higher standard, this latest performance came in the extremely important first League match of the season and was significantly poorer than any of our pre-season encounters. In fact this was our worst opening day result since losing 6-0 against Windsor & Eton in 1970!
Shoreham are a good team at this level and defeated us here in the League last season, so this was already expected to be one of our toughest challenges of the season at a time when our new Management team are just beginning to put a team together. However, if there has been an issue of concern this season it has been the sheer number of players we have had trying out for squad positions, which has probably meant that many haven’t had enough game time. Certainly it appeared at times as though some of the players had hardly met before and the nine debuts handed out in this match equalled our club record, set previously in 1945 and 1982.
We had the first half chance of the match when Athan Smith-Joseph opted to volley at goal from a very wide angle with the ball flying over the bar, but we then trailed in the 9th minute and it was a sorry story. An unnecessary back pass to Matt Walton hurried him into a clearance straight to an opponent and the ball was sent across to Harry Heath, who knocked the ball past our still retreating keeper from around eighteen yards. He got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out.
The match was fairly even from that point for the remainder of the half. In fact, it could be argued that we were holding the balance of possession and Adam Grant’s shot at goal in the 28th minute would have tested Sam Marsden the home keeper, had it not taken a heavy deflection on the way which ensured that it dribbled into his arms instead. It is important to note that this was our only shot on target in the entire match.
A couple of efforts from new boys Jahobi Maher and Ryan “Butch” Smith cleared the bar as we tried to get a foothold in the match but in the 44th minute a back pass from another new boy Aaron Bogle caught Walton out and he was unable to keep the ball out of the net. It was a disastrous way to end the half.
We made a substitution at the half as Richard Pingling came on for Maher who had received a couple of knocks to his ankle and we thought we had found a way back in the 53rd minute when a deep delivery was headed into the danger area by Andy “Woody” Hall for Tiago Andrade to deftly knock the ball over the keeper, only to see the offside flag raised against him. Now this looked slightly harsh, and whilst I do not stand in the best position for these sort of things, you still get a feel for them after 40 years behind the goal and I reckon it must have been very close.
The next chance fell to the home side and Walton made a smart save. but we were extremely fortunate in the 67th minute when Ross Myers was free at the far post after a good move down the right and ball across which was smashed against the bar and over from fairly close range. Another shot just cleared our bar as Shoreham pushed for a third goal. Then another dangerous ball in was not gathered by Walton and there was panic in the six yard box, but fortunately the danger was cleared.
We had one further piece of club history when Owen Higgins came on for Grant in the 77th minute, as the new rules allow for five substitutes this year and as the first person to become an official fifth substitute, he joined an exclusive club along with the previous four; Reg Scott (1966), Tommy Tuite (1975), Steve Smith (1995), and James Moran (2008).
We had one final opportunity when Pingling struck the bar from around thirty yards, but in reality, the Shoreham defence, marshalled superbly by Dan Momah wearing the number five shirt, dealt with our threat fairly comfortably all day and insult was then added to injury in the 91st minute when the hosts scored a third goal, again created from the right wing and this time Myers couldn’t miss the tap in.
Of course this is only the opening fixture of the season and things will surely improve if the friendly performances are anything to go by, but this was a worrying way to start and with the trip to Seaford Town coming up next Saturday, we will need to get better in a hurry, especially as Seaford will also be keen to bounce back from their own heavy opening day defeat at Forest Row.
Epsom & Ewell: Matt Walton, Zach Powell, Andy “Woody” Hall, Ryan ‘Butch’ Smith, Aaron Bogle, Louis Chin, Gideon Acheampong, ©, Adam Grant, Athan Smith-Joseph, Tiago Andrade, Jahobi Maher
Subs: Richard Pingling for Maher (HT), Ben King for Andrade (57), Steve Springett for Powell (69), Brad Peters for Acheampong (69), Owen Higgins for Grant (77)