Resillient Tadley Make Champions Work For It
Goals at the start and the end of the second half from visitors, and eventual league champions, Raynes Park Vale saw Ben Dillon & Joe Lawlers Tadley-Calleva fall to a two goals to nil defeat at Barlows Park on Saturday afternoon.
Tadley-Calleva came into the fixture with three wins from three under their belt and were looking to spoil the Raynes Park party. A crowd of over one hundred and forty were at a sun kissed Barlows Park to witness the action.
Tadley welcomed Dean Stow back into the centre of the park and with a multitude of absences from the squad also welcomed Ethan Abrehort to the bench, one to watch for next season.
The first chance of the game came with just a minute on the clock. when the hosts were awarded a free kick on the right-hand side. A whipped ball in from forward Kieran Rodgers found the head of the rising Dean Stow, who's header went narrowly past the right-hand post.
This was really Tadley's only clear chance of the half as their visitors were intent on closing the game early and to get their hands on the league trophy.
Raynes Park pushed forward as we moved into the first fifteen minutes of the half. A corner on the right-hand side was cleared well by Tadley, but only as far as Moody on the edge of the box who hit the ball well, guiding it to the far corner. Fortunately for the hosts Atkinson was equal to the shot and made a fantastic diving save. The visitor's onslaught continued through the half, and as the game became scrappy, Tadley seemed to give away free kick after free kick to the league leaders. Some strong challenges on their opponents were adjudged as fouls with a series of yellow cards in quick succession.
With virtually the final kick of the first half, a chance just inside Tadley's eighteen-yard box saw a fantastic effort cannon back off the post, seeing the game go into the half time break level. With scorelines elsewhere in the division, Raynes Park knew they had to win in the second half to clinch the title.
They came out for the second period with intent, attacking quickly and looking to open the scoring. Raynes Park did just that, a matter of minutes into the half. A ball played through Tadley's defensive line into the box found its way to Brad Sweeney who let off a powerful strike, past the outstretched Atkinson and into the top corner of the home net. Celebrations were sparked and the Raynes Park bench were on the pitch, knowing they had one hand on the title.
Tadley fought back from this however and stepped it up a gear, continuing to be strong in the tackle and creating chances for themselves, albeit none coming to fruition. Rodgers, Thorne and Johnston were linking up well to break the Raynes Park line who were standing strong against any threat.
A soft booking for Jordan Goater in the first half came back to haunt him, and Tadley, as just before the hour mark a fifty-fifty challenge saw the visiting player come off worse and after complaints from the visitors, Goater was shown his second yellow of the afternoon and was sent back to the changing room for an early shower.
Tadley had to find resilience, and quickly as Raynes Park continued to move forward aggressively. The final fifteen minutes of normal time was played mainly in Tadley's half with waves of attacks coming through the middle of the park, with ex England C captain Jake Gallagher the architect.
Credit must go to Tadley however as they battled well, holding off the threat of the visitors causing pressure and mistakes in the middle of the park. As we moved into the final moments of the game, Tadley found a second wind, and a renewed confidence. The home team were pushing for an equaliser to give the home crowd something to shout about. A fantastic chance from substitute Alex Miller at the start of additional time would have seen the title celebrations put on hold for the visitors, but the one hundred and forty-seven in attendance saw his effort fly narrowly wide of the post.
Immediately from the goal kick Raynes Park doubled their lead through a superb finish on the left-hand side of the box from Ethan Archer. Again, this sparked wild celebrations from the Ranes Park and travelling support as the goal sealed the Combined Counties Premier South title for the South London side.
A battling performance from Tadley against a team that will go well at Step 4 next season and the Barlows Park side will take confidence from the performance as they look to end the season with a win against Sheerwater.