Date: Saturday 24th September, 3pm KO
Starting Line-up: Gareth Stewart, Rob Sadler, James McGeown, Ed Jackson, Oli Watkins, Hung Nguyen, Ben McGeown, Ryan Shedwick, Michael Neal, Andrew Noble, Paul Every
Subs: Mark Sutton, Jonathan Patterson
Following last week’s clinical dismantling of Farnborough North End Cubo came into their fixture with Reigate Priory full of confidence, particularly given their opponents patchy start to the season. The absence of Northy, Clarky and long term absentee Billy meant that Ryan Shedwick was given his first start in the centre of the par, whilst James McG retained his place on the left wing.
The excitement generated by playing on the new pitch and posing for player profile pics belied a definite lack of energy in the Cubo camp in the warm up. In spite of this they found themselves a goal up within minutes of kick off. A strong header from Jim McG was helped on by Ben McG, releasing Every who cooly composed himself before slotting past the R-Priory keeper. 1-0 Cubo. A fantastic start for the home side which they were unable to kick on from. A series of casual errors by Cubo allowed R-Priory back into the game, with the long grass on the right hand side of the pitch resulting in players losing control of the ball on numerous occasions.
R-Priory’s use of a lone striker caused a re-jig of Cubo’s shape, something they struggled initially to implement with various free-runners feeding off the scraps of their useful frontman. At the other end another long ball almost undid R-Priory but MTM was unable to capitalise, flashing his strike just wide of the far post. Cubo continued to create good chances, particularly down the left side where Jim McG’s marauding runs were causing the away side problems. A few goalmouth scrambles aside Cubo were unable to work the keeper and paid the price for their wastefulness in front of goal when R-Priory equilised with their first foray into the Cubo box. A long throw from the left was met by the Priory right winger who rose unchallenged to head past Gaz and into the bottom corner. 1-1.
Spurred on by the goal and the amount of space on the ball that Cubo were granting them Priory were looking the more threatening side and had a great opportunity to extend their lead just before half time when the referee awarded them a penalty. A dumbstruck Cubo could only blame themselves for their failure to clear the ball on at least three occasions in the run up to the decision. The Priory right back stepped up and struck his penalty down the centre of the goal, and despite having launched himself to his right Gaz somehow extended an arm and a boot back to clear the ball to safety. A massive let off for Cubo and a big confidence booster for Gaz who has been going through a tough patch so far this season. Coming in at half time it was clear that Cubo needed an injection of urgency to wrestle back control of the game.
Having picked up a knock goalscorer Paul Every was replaced by Sutton who slotted straight in up front. The 2nd half followed a similar pattern to the first with Cubo getting the ball in good areas before being let down by sloppy play and an over-eagerness to hit the ball long. The introduction of J-Patt at left wing back almost paid immediate dividends when he beat his man before releasing Sadler with a wonderful cross field pass. Sadler drilled a cross across the face of goal where MTM was unable to adjust his body to direct the ball goalwards and could only watch in despair as his effort looped high and wide. Cubo’s cause was further hampered when burly front man Noble was on the receiving end of some tough challenges that culminated in him being helped from the pitch. With no further substitutes available he was forced back into action but was clearly struggling badly.
A snatched effort from Mark Sutton that was pushed away by the keeper was the only time that the Priory defence looked unnerved and as the half wore on Cubo gradually ran out of ideas. Despite being given space to play time and again Cubo resorted to pumping aimless long balls up to the front three, which the Priory backline were more than capable of dealing with, subtlety and composure in the final third were notable for their absence. Cubo’s frustration at their inability to prize up the Priory backline was beginning to be reflected in their defending which was at times ragged and careless. A cheap free-kick almost saw Priory take the lead when the ball appeared destined for the top corner, only for Gaz to acrobatically (show-boat) tip it over the bar. As good a save as he has made in Cubo colours. The warning signs were there for Cubo but they weren’t heeded and another cheap free kick released the Priory centre forward into the box and his centre was turned in by the unmarked left winger to make it 2-1 with 15 minutes to go.
Cubo continued to press but were unable to create any clear cut opportunities and in fairness Priory defended their lead fairly comfortably, only another Gaz save from a one on one prevented them from extending their lead.
As the referee blew his whistle the sense of frustration was palpable. Despite Gaz preventing 3 goals with some super keeping this was a game Cubo felt they could have won. A lack of subtlety and thought in their attacking play coupled with a lack of concentration when defending cost the Baby Blue Army dearly. Priory will no doubt take great satisfaction from the nature of this win with their defensive organisation proving too much for Cubo to break down. Special mention should also go to Priory for the great spirit in which they played the game (going out of their way to congratulate Gaz on his saves from the penalty and free kick, not something the man himself would have been seen doing!).
Final Score: AFC Cubo 1-2 Reigate Priory
Scorer: Paul Every
Man of the Match: Gaz ‘Tommy’ Stewart
Match Report: Benny Mac