PITCHING IN ISTHMIAN LEAGUE
SOUTH CENTRAL DIVISION
SATURDAY 1st APRIL 2023
SOUTH PARK (REIGATE) 2 UXBRIDGE 1 (HT 0-0)
Travelling Uxbridge fans are still waiting to celebrate a 2023 victory. It’s now ten away league games, dating back to the 23rd November 2022, since they enjoyed a journey home with three points in the bag. Four changes were made from the side that tasted defeat against Walton & Hersham the previous Saturday. Henry Grad, Luke Paris, Eitel Goueth and Mark Bitmead coming into the starting line-up in place of Tyler Tobin, Andy O’Brien, Anthony Mendy and Joe Jackson.
The opening forty-five minutes, on South Park (Reigate’s) newly installed 3G pitch, was a slow burner and certainly had an end of season feel about it. Grad was called into action in the 9th minute – getting down well to push a shot round the post for a corner. Bitmead had a chance to give Uxbridge the lead when Goueth played a perfectly weighted pass into his path. His left-footed side foot missing the far post by inches. Jordan Ireland had twenty-yarder gathered at the second attempt by Zack Basey in the Sparks goal - the Reds creating most of the few first half chances. Paris’s diving header, from Bitmead’s free kick, was deflected for a corner and when Bitmead sent the ball over from the quadrant, Basey pulled off a great stop to keep out Alan Hedley’s header. Half-time 0-0.
I’m not sure what was in the tea at the break but it certainly had the desired effect. Chances, that had been at a premium in the first half, were suddenly being created at both ends. In the 48th minute Aaron Minhas saw his shot deflected just over and a minute later the lively Finlay Johnson was denied by a superb point-blank save by Grad. Shortly after Grad’s heroics the Sparks opened the scoring. The reliable Hedley misjudged a header and Deondre Date seized the opportunity to send a low shot, from a tight angle, past Grad and in off the far post. South Park (Reigate) had a great chance to increase their lead when Date was put through, rounded Grad and took aim at the unguarded net. Paris had managed to get back and his out-stretched leg cleared the ball off the line. Uxbridge moved the ball up the field and moments later Bitmead latched onto Ireland’s pass but was thwarted by Basey who was quick off his line to block. Johnson tested Grad with a near-post shot as the game came too life. Once again the Reds went straight up the other end and created their best chance of the afternoon. Minhas picked the ball up on the edge of the area and fed it to Goueth. His shot was destined for the top corner until Basey stretched out his left arm and deflected it over the bar. The corner was well worked between Alex Witham and Bitmead and the latter fired the ball across the face of goal where Paris was inches away from getting a vital touch. Grad had made several impressive saves but was left grasping at thin air as the Sparks doubled their lead. Johnson went down on the edge of the box and Ben Jordan stepped up and curled the free kick over the wall into the top corner. Former Red, Melford Simpson had a chance put the game beyond Uxbridge’s reach but instead of shooting when well placed he tried to find Johnson and his over-hit pass dribbled over the line for a goal-kick. This let off was seized upon and with five minutes remaining Minhas reduced the arrears. Witham headed the ball down to the midfielder who unleashed a superb left footed shot into the bottom corner, giving Basey no chance. With minutes remaining Uxbridge were denied a stonewall penalty when Presley Evans was bundled over in the box. Referee Bradley gave the foul but insisted the offense was outside, despite Evans still laying prostrate in the penalty area. Paris moved upfront in the dying minutes and The Reds pounded the Sparks defence with long high balls towards the Anguilla international. However, the home defence held firm and that long wait for an away win goes on. Full-time 2-1.
There are still twelve points up for grabs this season and a top ten finish is still a possibility. COYR.
Uxbridge Line-up: Grad, Andrew, Sota, Paris, Hedley, Ireland, Maloney, Minhas, Bitmead, Witham , Goueth. Subs Used: Evans for Ireland, Fleary for Bitmead and Patrick for Goueth. Not Used: Beadle.