Wednesday 2nd October 19:45
Forest Hill Park 1-1 Meridian VP (Plant 30’; Skelly 80’)
Southern Counties East Football League Division One
Forest Hill Park remain unbeaten in four games, however will feel unfortunate that they didn’t make it a fourth win in a row. Their opponents, Meridian Valley Park, have had mixed form to start the season with 7 points from their first 6 games. However, they hadn’t scored in two prior to coming to the Ladywell Arena. Therefore, it was perhaps FHP that were slight favourites going into the encounter.
The game began with FHP looking the most confident on the ball. 2-goal hero from the previous game away at Bridon Ropes, Shaveize Williams continued his form playing with intensity from the first whistle, always wanting the ball. The first chance fell to Meridian however, with a well worked corner half-volleyed over from the edge of the box by Adrian Spence. FHP quickly put that right though creating a number of chances. A wonderful backheel from Williams allowed Ollie Milton space on the right. He cut in curled an effort just too high of the top left corner. Meridian bit straight back in this open contest with a deep cross from Les Juch just missed by FHP keeper and captain, Matt Bailey, allowing Toyeeb Babatunde a header into a relatively empty net. He couldn’t keep his effort and down and wasted the best chance so far. That was until Shaveize Williams was sent through after Milton’s attempt at a header actually came off a Meridian defender and into Williams path. His low shot was stopped by the legs of the onrushing Ben Ashton. This was a signal of what was to come and just minutes late FHP were in front. After scoring from the centre circle in their last home game, it was from the corner this time. Joe Plant curled corner towards Williams was well dummied and bounced into the roof of the Meridian net for a 1-0 lead. Meridian could have easily been instantly level, when a slip from Charlie Goodran allowed Trey Small in on goal. Fortunately for FHP he snatched at the effort and blazed over. This wasn’t the end of Meridian’s response when a terrific double-save from Bailey for FHP kept them in front as the half drew to a close. Jakob Skelly drove into FHP’s box before shooting, Bailey parried brilliantly but made an even better reaction save when his first save deflected off his right-back Kris Queeley and back toward goal. FHP weren’t out of danger just yet as the ball a found its way to Les Juch on the edge of the box whose rasping effort rattle the bar before going out for a goal kick. The last chance of the half came to Meridian’s Trey Small who found himself on the ball after centre-back, Tosin Sokoya cleared a long ball into his path. His shot was a whisker away, but it gave his side encouragement going in at half time.
The second period started as the previous one had ended with Meridian looking dangerous. Another missed cross from Bailey allowed Babatunde to cut it back when Bailey pressured him. He found Adrian Spence with just defenders between him and the FHP net, instead of finding it however, he found the front door of the café after firing high over the bar. The first chance for FHP of the half to double their lead came from Joe Plant. He battled a defender shielding the ball out, winning the ball and driving inside. The only thing missing was the finish which he skewed wide. They threatened further when Williams forceful run allowed him to cut back, the ball fortunately found the run of James Low. His effort was bound to nestle in the bottom right corner, but Ashton sprung into to action to make a fantastic save, getting a strong hand to the ball to push it round the post. The second half was largely Forest Hill Park getting their feet on the ball and playing good, calm football, creating a number of opportunities but not clear-cut chances. Their best chance of this period was Phillipe Sturgeon’s wide freekick which despite the tough angle was saved onto the bar and over by Ashton. FHP were made to rue missed opportunities when Meridian struck 10 minutes from time. Bailey who failed to reach a cross one too many times was finally punished. 2 Meridian attackers went up for the header, getting in each other’s way, before finally Jakob Skelly volleyed in. The equaliser despite being against the run of play always looked potentially on the cards and FHP were punished for not killing the game off. A Meridian winner almost came just minutes later, when a speculative volley from Small was diverted goalwards by Skelly but it trickled just wide. The final chance to win it also fell Meridian’s way as just before the whistle went, a miscued clearance from Goodran fell to Skelly again, but Bailey atoned for his earlier error by saving with his legs. Alas, 1-1 is how it ended. A point apiece.