Moor Mead 6 Chipstead Whites 2
Moor Mead bounced back from their first ever league defeat with a convincing win over Chipstead at a chilly Marble Hill. Talk before the match was of conspiracy theories aired in the pub on Friday night, and Moor Mead might just have stumbled upon their own quirky recipe for success: banish Charlie's parents from the touch-line, and he turns the match around.
The parakeets made a slow start and Alec twice had to be quick off his line in the opening minutes to deny bright opponents. But Moor Mead soon fell behind when Sam was caught flat-footed in front of goal. Thankfully, the response was immediate. Sam surged forward to feed Daniel, whose shot was blocked. Moments later Sam put Mani through, and his dancing feet wrong-footed the keeper to make it one-one. Moor Mead began to exert a degree of control, with Sam and Daniel tenacious in midfield, and William carrying out the Eric Dier defensive midfield role effectively. But Chipstead carried a constant threat. Alec did well to get down low to tip a shot around the post, and they then clipped the crossbar. William's speed took him past a defender and his chipped cross was turned away by the Chipstead keeper. And Moor Mead took the lead from the resulting corner as Charlie bundled in from close range. Seconds later Charlie extended the lead, tapping in after the keeper failed to deal with a fierce Sam shot. Two goals, poached from a combined total of inches, and both missed by his father, who had gone for a run round the park, echoing his mother's absence last season, when he notched a rapid hat-trick while she had gone for a sneaky coffee. William then went close, showing excellent strength in midfield, before firing narrowly wide. But back came Chipstead with an extended period of pressure. They fired an angled shot over the bar, and Alec, who had a great game, was called into action repeatedly, most impressively racing off his line to snuff out a marauding run which had sent a Chipstead striker clear.
The half ended with Chipstead again firing over the bar. But any thoughts that Moor Mead would face a backs-to-the-wall battle in the second half were quickly dispelled by a piece of solo excellence by Sam. He broke clear down the left, and reacted swiftly when his first shot was parried away to slot home from a very acute angle. Twice more Sam went close, then a beautiful sequence of passes between Daniel, Charlie and Mani saw Moor Mead threaten again. As the game opened up, the challenges started to fly in - most notably from the Chipstead number four, who produced an impressive, uncompromisingly physical display at the back - and chances came thick and fast at both ends. Alec palmed away a cross shot, and Sam forced a great diving save from the Chipstead keeper. Next William somehow smuggled the ball off his own line. Chipstead were extremely unlucky to see a thunderous shot hit the underside of the bar, and bounce away. And their misery was compounded when Sam raced to the other end of the pitch to make it 5-1. Kiran added a sixth with a smart finish after James had been put through. To their credit, Chipstead never lost heart, despite strong performances at the back by Teig and Ben. Alec had to dive to tip a shot away, and a smart header from a corner flew narrowly wide. Alec made yet another first rank save, stretching to tip the ball on to the bar after confusion in the box. But Chipstead had the final say, burying a consolation header from a corner to make it 6-2. Seconds later the final whistle went, saving Michael Berthon from being ordered to Orleans Gallery by watching parents, as Moor Mead let their intensity levels slide slightly.
The scoreline might have been a little flattering, but the boys are being tested regularly at this higher level, and more often than not they are passing with flying colours.
Photos by Nick Leon