Raynes Park Vale 0 Chertsey Town 0
It was a frustrating afternoon for Chertsey Town followers.
Their side failed to find the net for the first time in 17 outings and although they did not lose to hosts Raynes Park Vale, the end result was the next best thing to a defeat.
Guildford City, who are hard on Chertsey’s heels with a couple of games in hand, lost their encounter at the same time but the net point ‘gained’ will have little effect in the final analysis as far as winning the Combined League championship is concerned.
Defender Simon Cox was not available and wide midfield attacker Dan Bennett was ill, depleting manager Spencer Day’s choices and thinning out his substitutes bench .
But his main attention fell to goalkeeper’s position after Craig Bradshaw’s injury sustained the previous week which has put him out of action for the remainder of the season.
With no back up, Chertsey was forced to obtain dispensation from the league to make an emergency signing at the last minute.
The quest produced Joe Talbot from the Hampton and Richmond stable. He may only be 20 years of age and third choice at his home club but the stand in gave an assured performance which, at least, will settle any uncertainties in that department for Chertsey’s final two encounters.
Talbot was called upon to make next to no direct saves but he showed good judgment with crosses and when coming forward to clear his lines behind the back markers.
He could not have done anything about Dave Mosley’s rasping shot though, that clipped the top of his cross bar early on. The strike was certainly a warning that Raynes Park were capable of playing above the 15th place they held in the table, might have suggested.
Chertsey had, up to that point, expended a lot of verve and energy in forward movement but could not create good openings.
Low grade crosses from the wings did not help with Vale’s goalkeeper Paul Brady being given plenty of handling time but mainly after mopping up ineffectual probes into his territory which made his afternoon all too easy.
It took Chertsey a good half hour before a decisive move was created. The attack merited better success when Andy Crossley made good movement, as was his pass inside to Phil Page, but Brady saved the equally potent shot.
The Chertsey shy at goal proved to be a rear breed in the first half for although they attacked in numbers, it was the home side that looked the more eager to pull the trigger.
In his central defending role, Lloyd Boatang blocked another Vale goal attempt. Soon after, and as the interval loomed, the number six saw his header off a corner comfortably gathered by Talbot.
The Chertsey players showed more anxious signs after the turnaround as they still could not create the much sought for opening and resorted to hopeful long range strikes at the home side’s goal frame, but without much threat for their efforts.
The ball was inextricably channelled towards the Raynes Park lines as the clock ticked on.
However, it was repeatedly hooked away, usually to be collected again by Town’s defenders and returned from whence it came with the same result.
The work rate was high, but it was as if a steam engine’s wheels were racing round with all the pistons and cranks working at full pelt, but the all the effort discipated by slipping on a greasy track and getting nowhere.
The pressure eventually began to take effect as the end neared and Chertsey were able to press their opponents into deeper positions.
The SW20 defensive door began to creak open but with only minutes remaining, it still looked like time was going to run out for the visitors.
A Dean Papali lob towards the far post appeared that it might drop in but the ball fell short.
That might have been the last chance, but then, in the final three minutes, Town broke through twice. First, Lee Weemes was put away but from a central position from just inside the penalty box with only the goalkeeper before him, he shot agonisingly wide.
Moments later, Tom O’Regan got a stretched toe to a cross but again the ball was directed less than a yard wide.
The grandstand finish produced excitement but deflation quickly set in with the final whistle, despite the news of rivals Guildford faring even less successfully, a fact that brought no consolation.
The same situation that existed at kick off that the two horse title race remained after the fray in that Guildford need to fail in two more games than Chertsey in the final run in; an unlikely, but still possible scenario.