Bookham Colts 2 Moor Mead Athletic 2
Moor Mead fought back to salvage a heroic draw against well-organised opposition in a compelling opening fixture of what promises to be an exciting and testing season.
Bookham provided the first test for the Parakeets, as they started their division two campaign.
The bucolic setting, decorated by the first tints of autumn, provoked talk among the parents of making chutneys and relishes before kick off, and at times Moor Mead, facing a side with more experience at a higher level, looked to be in a real pickle.
But the commitment, fight and teamwork among our players was exceptional, and they thoroughly deserved their point.
The competitive opening exchanges set the tone for a match which never let up in its intensity, with Daniel, in particular, providing real bite in a defensive midfield role.
The first chances fell to Bookham, who fired wide, and then saw a long-range effort tipped wide by Alec in goal.
But Moor Mead responded with Ryan, whose pace worried the opposition throughout the match, bursting through to force a save at the near post.
Ryan then turned provider to release William, who put the Parakeets one up with a powerful angled drive across the keeper.
Bookham then hit a purple patch. A clever chip set up their striker, who fired into the side netting, and they blasted over the bar from a weak Moor Mead goal kick.
An equaliser seemed to be on the cards, and duly arrived as Bookham's strikers bullied their way through a series of challenges, feet flying on both sides, to make no mistake.
Moor Mead were under the cosh as the opposition began to dominate. Alec parried away a snap shot, and a loose ball was fired wide. Next, a great move saw a shot clip the Moor Mead bar.
But as the half drew to a close Moor Mead came back into the match. Kieran, full of neat touches, narrowly failed to connect to a through ball from Charlie. He then saw a bullet header flash wide from a corner.
Meanwhile William was regularly breaking tackles in midfield, provoking a shout of “Mark the Tall One” but end product was frustratingly elusive.
Bookham made a strong start to the second half: two corners flashed across the Moor Mead goalmouth.
They then took the lead, bundling in from a goalmouth scramble. With the rain intensifying, the writing appeared to be on the wall for the Parakeets, but determined defending from Orla and Ben helped to keep the opposition out.
A looping, long-range deflection clipped the Parakeets' bar, and Alec produced a top-drawer diving save.
But once again Moor Mead bounced back. Dilly produced an excellent through ball to set up Ryan, who was unluckly to see his clipped shot fizz past the far post, and twice Moor Mead threatened from close range from corners.
At the other end an athletic intervention from Charlie snuffed out a Bookham attack. They went close again with a long-range shot, and Alec had to be alert to snuff out more danger, before Bookham wasted a great chance to extend their lead with a scuffed shot when clear through.
It seemed Moor Mead would have to settle for honorable defeat, but the Parakeets, to their huge credit and roared on (quite literally in the case of Tim Gibson), were having none of it.
The Bookham keeper made a good save to deny Ryan, and blocked Dilly on the rebound, but seconds later William capped an influential performance in midfield by latching onto a loose ball to smack a thunderous shot into the top corner.
Bookham might still have snatched victory at the death, but Alec kneed away a difficult skiding shot, and from the resulting corner the far post came to the rescue.
It was nothing more than Moor Mead deserved: dominated for long periods, their collective will to get something out of the match was hugely impressive.
Things could easily have turned as sour as Nick Leon's pickled turnips, but ended up as sweet as Liz Sharma's raspberry jam.