Redhill FC Youth 3 Moor Mead Athletic 7
Moor Mead kept their season-long unbeaten league record going with a hard-fought victory against a determined opposition on a bracing day in Redhill.
The final score was decisive, but the game was anything but, as Moor Mead struggled to pull clear of a tenacious team who battled to the end, and whose goalkeeper produced a stand-out performance.
The match echoed a group of boxers going through a sparring routine on the far side of the park: on several occasions the Parakeets appeared to have their opponents on the ropes, but failed to deliver a knock-out blow until the final minutes.
Moor Mead almost didn't turn up at all, with a dodgy clutch threatening to strand half the team, and a dodgy sense of direction the other. Thankfully, an unusual short cut taken by Jonny “Death Race 2000” Bevan meant that a full complement turned up just in time for kick off.
Moor Mead made a strong start, linking up well on a compact pitch, and Mani gave them an early lead from close range following a surging run from William.
Ryan shot wide, and went close again following a lovely combination with Mani.
Moor Mead were dominating, and only heroics from the Redhill keeper prevented further goals, as he denied first Mani from point blank range, and then turned away a powerful long-range shot from Miles.
But the second goal seemed inevitable, and duly arrived when Mani set up Jake for a calm finish.
It seemed that the Parakeets were set for a cricket score before half-time, but Redhill battled back, and, somewhat against the run of play, they halved the deficit when Daniel, in goal, failed to deal with a shot from the left-hand side of the box. Moments later they hit the side netting after a swift break.
Back came Moor Mead. Mani hit a post, and William saw a long-range effort deflected narrowly wide.
But again Redhill responded and fizzed a shot over the bar on the break.
Mani had another shot saved, and Miles went close from a free kick.
The little Redhill striker then drew his team level, showing determination and strength in the box to ride tackles and slot home.
Miles, who was becoming ever more influential from a deep midfield position, set up Kiran with an excellent raking crossfield ball, but the Redhill keeper was quick off his line to smother the shot.
Twice more Miles set up potential chances with his pinpoint passing, but at half-time the scores were level.
Moor Mead began the second half once again in the ascendancy, applying consistent early pressure.
Twice more the Redhill keeper excelled himself, first denying Mani at the end of a mazy run, and then snaffling another long-range shot from Miles.
He then raced off his line to frustrate Daniel, who had been put in by Jake, and prevented Miles from finishing off a typical surging run from deep.
At the other end William, now in goal, was twice quick off his line to neutralise Redhill breaks.
Miles finally broke the deadlock with a candidate for goal of the season, wrongfooting a defender wide on the left flank, and cutting in to blast a shot high into the roof of the net.
Miles then turned provider, putting over a cross which found the Redhill keeper, for the first time, wanting, allowing Mani to bundle over the line to make the score 4-2.
Moor Mead were now passing the ball around nicely, with some excellent interplay between Miles, Jake and Mani.
But Redhill again refused to crumble and it took a number of telling interceptions from Kiran at the back to keep them out.
They did, however, narrow the deficit when some slack defending left William exposed. He made the initial save, but parried the ball straight to a Redhill forward.
Miles almost responded immediately, and again went close after a one-two with Mani, full of clever touches and intelligent running all match, carved open the defence.
Still Redhill weren't finished and they began once again to exert pressure, but tenacious defending from Kiran, Daniel and Orla kept them at bay.
Only in the last five minutes did Moor Mead finally take the game by the scruff of the neck for good.
Mani had a shot cleared somehow off the line, but he was on hand moments later to latch on to a route one lob upfield from Kiran to flick the ball skillfully past the keeper.
Miles then bulldozed his way from deep inside his own half to finish decisively.
And in the dying seconds Jake headed across goal where Mani turned Paul Gascoigne, flicking the ball up and over the keeper to leave Redhill out for the count.
The final score was harsh on a plucky Redhill team, but was also a reflection of Moor Mead's growing ability to play at full throttle to the end.
As the final whistle went the players were left to reflect on a tough job well done, and Jonny Bevan to look forward to a call up for stunt work on the new series of Top Gear.