Arundel 1-2 Epsom & Ewell
The Salts got their F.A. Cup campaign off and running with a comfortable 2-1 win at Mill Road, the picturesque home of Arundel F.C.
There were two changes for our visit to West Sussex as we took on an Arundel side boasting two wins out of two in the Sussex League. Sam Hewitt was nursing a tight hamstring so Anthony Panayi came in for his first start of the season, while Billy Ramsey was preferred to Alex McGregor so we had a little more width.
It was Ramsey who was our main performer in the early exchanges and he also nearly got on the score sheet with a far post header that he guided over the advancing keeper, but the ball didn't come down in time. Ben Hayward got into a good position but hooked the shot over the bar a minute later.
Our superiority was underlined on the half hour mark when the ball found Nathan Ayling just outside the penalty area and his measured chip caught the keeper out and went in off the underside of the bar.
We were good value for this lead so it was a surprise when the home side equalised with their first real chance on goal. A free kick given away was sent into the box where David Walker got in front of his marker to glance a header into the bottom corner of the net.
Just before half time a good through ball from Jamie Hatfield found Kyle Hough in space but he was harshly flagged offside. It would prove to be a frustrating day for our striker whose car broke down on the way to the game and he had very little service throughout the match.
Even though we were level at half time I wasn't concerned as we had been the better side, although we started the second half sluggishly and a far post header was looped over Colin Harris but fortunately over the bar too.
We eventually got going again and some good work on the left by Dale Marvell resulted in a cross in to Hough after 59 minutes. He controlled the ball and smashed it goalwards only to see it cannon back off the crossbar and away. There was a faint touch as it went through but not enough to credit it as a save. The keeper deserved more credit after 62 minutes when Hough got away on the left and rounded him, but the keeper recovered to make the save.
A few minutes later Hatfield, Hayward and then Ramsey all had chances as the ball bobbled around in the area. Ramsey in all honesty should have hit the target from where he was, but with defenders in the way it looked as though he was aiming for the top corner and just overcooked it.
Finally after 75 minutes we made the breakthrough. Substitute Mark Jarman had added a bit of life to our attack and he just got a toe to the ball as the home players were trying to clear it. The ball reached Hatfield as a result and his ball across the penalty area found Ayling on the right who sidefooted the ball back into the opposite corner for an excellent finish.
Arundel had one chance after this when a corner was headed goalwards by one of their players only for another to divert it just over the bar and we nearly made it three-one after a good left wing cross was met by the onrushing Jarman but his contact from twelve yards out was minimal.
All in all, it was a good performance and the hot food provided by the welcoming home club for both players and officials sealed a perfect end to a perfect day especially for the new club leading scorer Nathan Ayling!
Team: Colin Harris, Sam Currie, Jamie Hatfield (capt), Anthony Panayi, Charlie West, Carl Downs, Ben Hayward, Nathan Ayling, Dale Marvell, Kyle Hough, Billy Ramsey
Subs: Mark Jarman for Downs (72), Alex McGregor for Ramsey (84)
Scorer: Ayling (30),(75)
Booked: Ramsey (60) foul
Supporters Player of the Match: Nathan Ayling
Photos: Top: Nathan Ayling (8) celebrates his opening goal with Anthony Panayi and an obscured Ben Hayward.
Bottom: A goalmouth scramble in the second half with Ben Hayward unlucky not to get the ball into the net.