Egham Town 2 Hanwell Town 0
We travelled to promotion seeking Egham Town with a strong squad. An early surprise was the decision not to continue with our recent two up front policy, Dean Allen dropping to the bench leaving Tom Hunt to forage on his own up front. Mark Jamison came back in to play just in front of the back four, with Joe Chandiram pairing up with Calum Duffy in the absence of the injured Chris Mills.
On a very hard pitch with a strong wind blowing from end to end, the conditions were ideal for an Egham side with their direct style of play and nullified any attempt that we had to build from the back, resulting in numerous long balls being played forward that were meat and drink to Egham's central defensive pairing of Reece Yorke and skipper Luke Neville who won everything in the air.
In the early stages, the ball spent an inordinate amount of time either in the air or out of play and the only incident of note came when Kyle Watson was injured as he challenged for a bouncing ball and then got himself completely needlessly booked as he voiced his anger to the referee that a foul had not be given to us. In the fifteenth minute we thought we had taken the lead when a corner from the left by skipper Jesse Kewley-Graham was headed out to Tom Hunt who volleyed the ball back into the net, only for the referee to blow for a foul that only he seemed to have seen. At the other end, Jesse fouled Bajram Pashaj as he cut in from the left in a dangerous position. Melvin Minter then made a tremendous save to turn Jordan Berry's resultant free kick over the bar. We then created a good goal scoring chance when a good interchange of passes between Mark Goodman and Zac Joseph set up Karim Assoui, but his shot was blocked by the Egham keeper Jamie Norris's feet. A long cross field ball by Egham's Callum Webb found Pashaj out on the left, he cut inside onto his more favoured right foot and blazed the ball just wide of our far post. The match day referee then got it hopelessly wrong when Lamar Simpson was tripped and after he went down, he was shown a yellow card for simulation. There was unanimous agreement by those Egham supporters around us that Lamar had been blatantly tripped. An inswinging corner from the left by Berry then flew right across our goal area with nobody able to apply the final touch before from a free kick by Jesse, Calum Duffy headed the ball down to Mark Jamison but he shot weakly wide and the half finished with Egham's Wes Daly sending a fierce shot just over our cross bar.
The opening minutes of the second half were as ordinary as the opening stages of the first half. With any luck we might have taken the lead in what would have been in fortunate fashion. Yorke shepherding the ball back to keeper Norris stumbled giving Lamar the opportunity to get goal side of him but Norris's clearance cannoned into Lamar and the ball rebounded well wide of the empty net. Elliott Carey then became the only Egham player to be shown a yellow card and almost immediately he was replaced by Ryan Phillips who came on to play at left back with former Town player Ryan Parsons switching to the other flank enabling Webb to move forward into mid field. In quick succession, both Mark Goodman and Zak Joseph sent dangerous balls across the face of the Egham goal with nobody on hand to apply the finishing touch. Egham were gifted the lead in the sixty second minute, Karim almost playing the ball into the path of Pashaj as he was challenged just outside our penalty area and Pashaj shot across Melvyn into the far corner. We made a double substitution, Dean Allen and Callum Wright replacing Tom and Karim and almost immediately might have equalised, Mark Jamison played the ball forward to Zac Joseph in their penalty but Zac instead of shooting tried to play Dean in who was in an offside position. With ten minutes to go, Zac cutting in on the edge of the Egham penalty area pulled the ball back into Lamar's path but his shot lacked any power and was blocked by a covering defender. Almost immediately, Lamar was replaced by Ricky Pither and Ricky then missed arguably our best chance of the game when he was found some twelve yards out from goal in an unmarked position. He tried to pass the ball into the net and only succeeded in sending the ball straight at Norris. This miss was to prove absolutely critical as within a minute, Egham scored again. Prolific goalscorer Brendan Matthew speculatively hooked the bouncing ball goalwards and it found itself looping high over the stranded Melvyn into the far corner of the net. There was still time for Melvyn to make a terrific save to turn a Ryan Phillips shot aside and then Phillips on his weaker right foot side footed the ball over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
Whilst the 2-0 scoreline flattered the home side, we were left to reflect that Melvin had by far been the busier of the two keepers with Norris only really troubled by Karim's opportunity in the first half.
Side: Melvin Minter, Mark Goodman, Kyle Watson, Joe Chandiram, Calum Duffy, Jesse Kewley-Graham (capt), Zac Joseph,Mark Jamison, Tom Hunt, Karim Assoui and Lamar Simpson. Substitutes used; Dean Allen and Callum Wright for Hunt and Assoui (65) and Ricky Pither for Simpson (80). Unused substitutes : George Ehui and Tom O'Regan.