Priory returned to league action in the Priory Park in a mid table clash with Limpsfield Blues Reserves. Limpsfield sat just four points behind Priory in the table having played a game more, but Priory knew anything but a result would close the gap between the top and bottom halves of the table.
Marc Connolly returned in goal with Gus Milne stepping up to the reserves. The back four remained largely unchanged but Steve Gardner returned for the absent Luke smith. Tim Austin, Dave hall and Lee Wilmot retained their positions. Gilo continued to sit in front of the back four with Jowitt further forward. Paul Hayter joined Jowitt in the middle of midfield this week. Ben Vezza and Martin Baxter were wide once again and Sean Doyle slotted in as the target man. John Braund and James ‘Conner’ Richardson warmed the bench.
The game started very well for the Priory. They enjoyed large amounts of possession and created the odd chance to test the keeper. Vezza and Baxter were creating havoc with their runs down the wings, the ball was being flicked on and played into channels by Doyle and Jowitt showed his continued improvement in fitness by getting up to support the forward line well, often running past Doyle to continue building the attacks. Only Priory’s final ball was proving the sticking point.
Gilo, Gardner and Hall worked well as a defensive unit to break up play which gave Wilmot and Austin the licence to push on and provide support to the wide men. Hayter was also working hard in the middle and regularly made himself available.
Priory made the constant pressure of the opening 30 minutes count with a firm stab from two yards by Gardner. Priory forced a corner from a hopeful ball which Vezza duly stepped up to take. The ball was whipped in with some venom towards the penalty spot. Gardner rose well and won the initial ball. His goal bound header was blocked on the line and fell to the feet of those in the six yard box. Gardner reacted quickly and lunged to poke the ball into the net. Priory took a well deserved lead and turned their set piece fortunes around. Vezza provided a delightful cross, which he continued to do throughout the game, showing a significant improvement in this department.
Priory continued to press towards the closing stages of the first half and forced a number of corners and throw-ins deep inside the Limpsfield half, but were unable to extend their lead. The first half finished 1-0.
Priory were pleased with their first half performance and their dominance in the game through the 4-5-1 system was clear as the away side had to adjust their own formation to match Priory in the centre of the park. Limpsfield also opted for a 4-5-1 formation. This created problems for the Priory forward line who were unable to create as many chances as in the first half, the Limpsfield holding midfielder provided the required cover for the back four and the ball wouldn’t stick up top for any meaningful period. Priory did have the odd chance to put the game to bed early in the second half however and when Vezza was played through on goal, he looked certain to score. But his effort was blazed high and wide from inside the penalty box without troubling the keeper.
The change in formation provided a solid base for Limpsfield to build and the offensive passages of play switch ends. Priory were under pressure from a relentless Limpsfield side who pumped the ball forward from the back on a number of occasions. They were eventually award with the equaliser after a shot from the edge of the box was deflected into the path of the Limpsfield striker who was able to turn and shoot in the box, his effort beating Connolly. Despite the linesmen’s flag being raised for offside from the initial shot, the referee in his wisdom was somehow able to over rule his assistant from his ideal vantage point somewhere outside the centre circle. Connolly was called into action in the closing stages and produced a fine save to his right hand side, firmly palmed the ball to safety.
Priory attempted to change their formation to 4-4-2 in a bid to turn the game in their favour however no real goal scoring opportunity arose for either side in the closing 10 minutes of the game.
The tie finished 1-1. The Priory players were disappointed with the result showing again how far they had come this season. Next week they will be hoping to win against Overton in the reverse of the 6-2 Priory home win earlier in the season.
Priory will not only be looking to extend their three game unbeaten run, but also to pick up three points for the first time since the home win over Wallington, three games back. The upcoming game at Overton will mark the seventh game since their last league defeat, going back to the opening day of the season.