Match Report –
Saturday 17th August 2019 (3pm) – BetVictor Isthmian League, Division One South Central
WARE (1) 3 STAINES TOWN (1) 3
Staines Town’s third spell in the Isthmian League began with a first ever visit to Wodson Park, to which Ware moved some years after Staines last played them in 1987. The facility is one of the better 3G surfaces, and the hosts most welcoming. Hopes were high for Anthony Gale’s first competitive match in charge of a Staines team, and a very exciting match ensued. All but two of the Staines players were making their competitive débuts (the exceptions being Che Krabbendam and the returning Ashley Lodge), but they had to do without the unavailable Isaac Thompson, as well as long-term injuries Jack Battie and George Fry, the latter having been effectively ‘retired’. It was also the last match – at least for the time being – of Strength & Conditioning Coach Rachael Fitzwater, who joined in the summer but now heads off to Brighton University to resume her studies with the best wishes of all at the Club. Ware’s team included a former Swan, Olu Akinsanya, who rose through the Academy and made 25 appearances in 2013/14 during Marcus Gayle’s management in the Conference South era. On a mild and bright afternoon, Staines attacked the far (eastern) end of the ground in the first half.
The match proved to be a highly competitive one, with both sides in determined mood from the outset. An early indicator of this was the 10th minute caution issued to Ware’s playmaker, Thomas Bruno, for one offence too many having already had a warning. But although Bruno had a couple of dangerous free-kicks for the home side, it was Staines who looked fast, slick, and skilful, and threatened to score on several occasions before they deservedly took the lead on 25 minutes. A great ball from Lodge picked out skipper and coach Mahrez Bettache, who powered forward, held off a challenge and rifled his shot into the bottom corner. Krabbendam came close to doubling the lead just 4 minutes later with another powerful shot, but this time Charlie Crowley in the Ware goal got down well and pushed it for a corner. Next it was Mahrez’s turn to feed Lodge with a superb diagonal ball, but the midfielder bore down on goal only to send his shot wide of the far post. There were a couple of warning signs late in the half that Ware were not out of the game, firstly Junior Brown shooting just over the bar following another Bruno free kick, and then Akinsanya looping a header onto the roof of the net. But in the 44th minute, Staines had another super chance with the stylish Jame Philpot forcing a great double save from Crowley. But the ball was cleared upfield by a defender and reached the experienced Liam Hope, who burst through on goal before cleverly lofting the ball over Denzel Gerrar and just under the bar to equalise. Even then Staines could still have gone in ahead, but Lodge saw his shot saved in the dying seconds of the half.
Ware were a transformed side for the second period, with Hope forcing Gerrar into a one-on-one save within two minutes, Bruno fizzed a shot just wide, and Akinsanya found the net but was offside. However, Staines seemed to have weathered the storm when Philpot forced Crowley into a good save, but it was still a little against the run of play when Rhys Paul restored the visitors’ lead on the hour, forcing the ball in from close range following a Joey Taylor corner which had first been struck goalwards by Aaron Ibe before rebounding out to Paul. An increasingly animated home bench felt they had good shouts for penalties twice in quick succession – once from the new handball interpretation and once from a possible push. But it took only until the 65th minute before they did score, and they needed no help from a Video Assistant Referee to do so, as a huge clearance from the Ware defence found more than one Swans defender in hesitant mood. The powerful Olu Akinsanya showed no such inhibitions, as he burst through and crisply found the net with his shot. Once again Staines threatened, this time Crowley saving from Krabbendam, but in the 69th minute both sides brought on subs who would have major impacts in the closing stages of the match. Andrew Demby came off the bench for the visitors, and before play had resumed, Ware introduced youth teamer Andrew Bennett. Just 6 minutes later, Bennett was impeded by Butler as he darted into the box, Mr Jones pointed to the spot without hesitation, and Liam Hope did the rest, to leave Staines staring at a defeat on a day that had begin with such optimism. If Hope had been as deadly from 22 yards as he was from 12, he could have completed a hat-trick a few minutes later, but his free kick for handball on the ‘D’ soared over the crossbar. A further substitution followed for both Gale and his opposite number Paul Halsey, and the game seemed to be slipping away from Staines as Ware seemed capable of killing it off. Adamson picked up their second yellow card of the game for a foul on 82 minutes, and 5 minutes later a Taylor foul saw the Staines full back follow him into the book. In between these two incidents, an incisive Staines move had ended with Demby firing into the net, but his celebrations were cut short by an offside flag. Before last season, Staines had not lost a season’s opener for 14 years, but it looked as though it would be two on the trot … until the second minute of injury time, when Andrew Demby found space in the box and let fly with a shot that claimed a share of the points for his side. While the home side might have felt disappointed that their second half showing had not brought all three points, it was a fair outcome, as Staines had been just as dominant in the first – and even claimed a rare point on an artificial surface! Marlow at home on Tuesday will present just a stern opponents, but with Staines’ side still in its infancy (and having had their last and all-important friendly suddenly cancelled in unusual circumstances), the “Massive” can expect the side to continue to make big strides.