Blues And Tanners Finish All Square
Battling Blues came so close at Fetcham Grove writes The Mariner.
When Jamie Stuart was appointed Blues manager he stated that he wanted a set of players who would be committed to the cause and fight to the end of every game.Well that's just what he got in the season's opening encounter against Leatherhead.
Blues gave debuts to keeper Mikheil Kharshildze and striker Lheureux Menga in a line up that included just one player,Jake Hutchings from last season.
Leatherhead made the early running bringing a sharp save from Khashildze after just three minutes.
Blues went close moments later when Adeyinke Cole jinked inside laying the ball into the path of Siao Blackwood he just failed to get good contact on the ball seeing it slide harmlessly wide.
The visitors then enjoyed a long period of possession pinning Blues back in their own half,they did get the ball in the net on 16 minutes but it was disallowed for offside.
Blues were restricted to the occasional break as they soaked up constant Tanners pressure,although Aaron Wickham came close with a speculative drive.
Former Blue Barry Cogan was orchestrating proceedings for the home side but despite the pressure the Blues goal remained intact thanks in part to keeper Kharshiladze who commanded his area taking the pressure off of his defenders.
Leatherhead went ahead just three minutes into the second period. A Blues attack broke down on the edge of the Tanners box, the ball was cleared out to Cogan his astute pass found Adeloye in space and he made no mistake crashing the ball past the exposed Kharshiladze.
The Blues fans must have feared the worst as the home side exerted more pressure, but a double substitution by manager Stuart, himself coming on for what looked like an injury to Hafeez Sunasi and a tactical change with Daniel Ajakiye replacing Blackwood changed the course of the match.
Stuart despite the advancing years showed all his old fighting spirit encouraging his young charges and winning the vital tackles.Ajakiye's pace out wide allowed Blues to begin to put the home side under some pressure.
Harry Watkins replaced Wickham on 66 minutes and together with Cole they began to push the Blues forward.
It was Cole who started the move that brought the equaliser in the 69th minute . A searching cross field pass found Ajakiye,running onto the ball, he outpaced former Blue Jey Siva and whipped a low cross into the near post where Menga appeared to get a touch on the ball which went in off a Tanners defender.
Cole was again the provider when he played in David Fallah his goal bound effort was touched round the post by home keeper Taylor.
Clearly the home side's efforts had taken it's toll but they still looked dangerous going forward.They came close to snatching the winner in the dying minutes only to be denied by a stunning save from Kharshiladze.
Blues finished the game the fresher of the two sides and the final whistle brought to an end a tenacious fighting display much appreciated by the vociferous travelling Blues fans.
The Blues own "barmy army" certainly gave the team the support they deserved and was something which Jamie Stuart was anxious to harness.
Next up is AFC Sudbury at home on Wednesday evening.