First's get a lesson at Westfield
Despite taking the lead early on, it was ultimately a chastening experience for the first team at Westfield on Saturday.
Westfield opened the game brightly and had us on the back foot in the opening exchanges, and it was somewhat against the run of play that we opened the scoring. A throw in by Anson Cousins was hooked forward by Michael Campbell, Matty Auletta proved too strong for Shaun Elliott, and fired the ball low beyond the advancing Gary Ross in the Westfield goal.
The hosts were not fazed by falling behind and continued to dominate possession, and looked to exploit their pacy widemen at every opportunity. We almost gifted them an equaliser on 11 minutes, when Cousins was easily beaten by Ryan Marklew, who pinged a cross to James Cottee, but his effort was well blocked on its way to goal.
We could have increased our lead on 13 minutes, when Auletta and Campbell linked up, with both having chances to shoot blocked by Westfield defenders.
Owen Davies was on the wrong end of a strong challenge by Max Blackmore, leaving the SCR skipper in need of some treatment, and both sides were probably grateful for a stop in play, given the roasting temperatures.
Jordan Johnson-Palmer fired over the bar for us, and at the other end good work by Hicham Abdellah ended with a deep cross to Cottee being volleyed back across the face of goal, and after the ball pinballed around our area, we finally managed to clear.
Campbell was caught offside on 27 minutes, and keeper Ross rather petulantly struck the ball into Campbells face.
The scores were level on 34 minutes, Ross mishit a clearance, but Westfield recoved the loose ball, which was quickly transferred out to Abdellah. His cross was volleyed goalwards by Westfield's prolific Blackmore, bringing a tremendous save out of Craig Bradshaw low to his right, but the Westfield man reacted quickest to head home and level the scores.
Three minutes later and Westfield had completed the turnaround, and it was that man Blackmore again. We failed to clear a corner from the Westfield left, and as the ball dropped down Blackmore fired the ball beyond Bradshaw for 2-1.
Bradshaw saved superbly from a low Blackmore shot on 40 minutes and we were grateful for Dale Burnham putting a free header wide from the resultant corner.
Adam Bellmaine saw a shot blocked after he had dispossessed Aaron Bogle, and from the loose ball, Kyle Bailey fired straight at Bradshaw from distance. Campbell almost got in late in the half, when nearly latching onto a Cousins through ball, but Matt Steer mopped up well for Westfield
It was 3-1 on the stroke of half time. A low shot by Abdellah was again superbly saved by Bradshaw low to his left, but as the ball struck the post it rolled nicely into the path of Cottee who tapped into an empty net.
Three goals in ten minutes left us with a mountain to climb, but in truth it was no more than Westfield deserved.
We knew we needed a bright start to the second half if we were to get anything out of the game, but it was Westfield who started well. A long ball by Burnham found Abdellah who got the wrong side of Cousins, and went down following an untidy challenge. Fortunately the referee waved play on, but if it had happened at the other end, we would have felt aggrieved if no spot kick had been awarded.
Westfield didn't have to wait long though for number four. Five minutes into the half, and a poor corner by Bellmaine somehow found its way through to Blackmore who hammered the ball beyond Bradshaw for 4-1 and his hat-trick.
We were completely on the back foot at the moment, and almost conceded from another corner but managed to get bodies around the ball to clear. At the other end, and Steer defended well as we tried to find the long striker Campbell, and we did have a couple of shots one each from Campbell and Adam Allen, both bringing comfortable saves out of the keeper.
Westfield had also gone close on numerous other occasions with Blackmore, Abdellah and Cottee all failing to hit the target.
Darren Salmon made a double chance on 63 minutes, with George Murphy and Liam Holden being replaced by Keano Robinson and Jean-Luc Kinsaba.
Bradshaw saved brilliantly from a low flicked effort by Cottee after a telling cross by Bailey. Abdellah then beat Cousins and found Cottee who bought another save out of Bradshaw this time with his left foot.
Campbell went close to reducing arrears on 74 minutes when he beat a couple of defenders and bought a good save low down to his left by Ross.
We made our final change on 85 minutes with Danny Fernandez replacing Anson Cousins. A minute later, and having chased a knock down, Fernandez was involved in an incident with keeper Ross, leading to the keeper being shown a straight red for an elbow on the SCR substitute, and Fernandez being shown a yellow card.
Allen, Johnson-Palmer and Campbell linked up in injury time, with Allen firing his shot wide of the left hand post, from the goal kick Campbell regained possession but fired high over the bar.
There was still time for another rmearkable Bradshaw save, somehow turning a close range volley by Bellmaine behind for a corner.
Full time came with Westfield well deserving of their 4-1 win.
We have made some great strides forward this season, but at times you will come across matches where you get a bit of a lesson. Westfield showed the level we need to reach if we want to be challenging next season, and lets be fair, the only reason they won't win the league this year is because of an outstanding Hartley Wintney side.