Knaphill 2 Sutton Common Rovers 5
Sutton Common Rovers first team picked up one of the best results of the season to date, when three late goals saw them win 5-2 away at in-form Knaphill, writes Gary Brigden
Darren Salmon made several changes to the side that had knocked Bedfont Sports out of the league cup on the Monday, some enforced and some tactical. In for his debut came the imposing figure of Craig Bradshaw, with Ollie Ellaway dropping to the bench. Ross Bedding replaced the working George Murphy in the heart of the defence, and their were recalls to the starting line up for Michael Campbell, Danny Fernandez and Elton Gjoni – missing out were Sam Blowers (who got lost!), Andrew White (at a family event) and Charlie Emery, who was still troubled with a shoulder problem picked up in the Bedfont game.
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We started brightly, and in the opening minute Fernandez set up Campbell, but his shot was wide of Richard Shelley’s left hand post. Two minutes later and we should have taken the lead, a long clearance by Bradshaw found Gjoni and his deep cross was met on the volley by Fernandez, but he could only turn his effort against the bar from close range.
Back at the other end, and after a spell of Knaphill pressure, they won a corner, we only half cleared and the prolific Jimmy Norman crashed his effort against our crossbar. Minutes later, and Liam Holden was dispossessed in the middle of the park by Norman who fed Charlie Postance but he fired over.
Knaphill should have taken the lead on 15 minutes when Arafat Kabuye, found Postance unmarked in the middle of our area, but Bradshaw was out quickly to save with his feet, then both Postance & Danny Taylor had chances as the home side put us under more and more pressure.
We took the lead midway through the half, when Bradshaw set Campbell on a foot race with the Knaphill defender, and although the defender initially won the ball his clearance looped up to Gjoni who fired home his first goal for the club low to Shelley’s left. The Knappers almost forced an equaliser straight away but were denied by a great challenge by Owen Davies.
On 32 minutes Brad Thomas latched onto a half clearance by Bedding, but under pressure from Gjoni he screwed his effort wide of the left hand post. We went close to making it 2-0 on 33 minutes when Fernandez hit a sweet volley over the top of Shelley, only to see it cannon off the crossbar and away to safety.
As the half drew to a close the Knappers had two good chances to level, firstly Taylor got beyond SCR skipper Aaron Bogle, but could only fire his effort wide of the right hand post, then in first half stoppage time a fierce close range drive by Postance was somehow kept out by Bradshaw, with Bogle completing the clearance.
The scores were level four minutes into the second half when a long ball by Shelley was missed by everyone, leaving Postance with a simple chance to bring the home side level, and he duly obliged, rolling beyong Bradshaw for 1-1. We responded fairly positively and a snapshot by Holden from the edge of the area was comfortably gathered by Shelley.
The home side though sensed their chance to put us on the back foot, and we were defeding resolutely with Davies, ably supported by Bedding superb in the heart of the backline. Fernandez picked up a booking on 55 minutes for a foul on Kabuye, with the Knaphill player following him in, for his reaction.
Norman fired an effort high and wide on 58 minutes, and on 61 minutes, Postance looked to have been hauled down by Bedding in the area but play was waved on, and as is typical in such circumstances, we scored from the ensuing break. Anson Cousins found Joe Mead, who in turn released Campbell. The finish wasn’t the crispest but still had enough to beat Shelley to put us 2-1 up.
The lead lasted little more than a couple of minutes, when a Norman free kick was blocked, but the loose ball was pinged back into our area, we hesitated and Kabuye fired beyond Bradshaw for 2-2.
You sensed now that our hopes would be more in picking up a point than the win, as the home side put us under more and more pressure. Darren Salmon handed a debut to 17 year old Matt Auletta in place of Fernandez, as he looked to freshen things up. Norman fired a free kick through the wall on 70 minutes which Bradshaw gathered comfortably, and we were again forced into some solid defending to keep our hosts at bay.
With fifteen minutes remaining we made our final couple of changes, with Mead and Gjoni being replaced by Blowers and Emery, the two Matts also switched, with Robinson moving up top, and Auletta onto the wing, and it was to prove a masterstroke, as Robinson did what he does in the forward role, and young Auletta grew in confidence in a more familiar position.
With eight minutes to go, we retook the lead. A ball in from the left reached Auletta, who steadied himself before drilling an effort low beyond Shelley for 3-2. Three minutes later and we were in dreamland. Auletta got the better of Ross Cheek for pace, and forced the Knaphill defender into conceding a corner. From that Auletta found Robinson who bulleted a header beyond Shelley for 4-2.
Scoring was completed in stoppage time, when Holden released Campbell and he curled beyond Shelley for 5-2.
A confidence building result and performance, and one we must hope to take into future games if we are to be successful this season.
As always Knaphill were excellent hosts, and we wish them well for their forthcoming FA Vase game with Southall, and for the rest of the season (their visit to the Borough Sports Ground excepted).