This weekend’s fixture saw a return to knock-out action for Chesterton as they played host to Soudley AFC in Round 3 of the Gloucestershire FA County Cup. Waiting for the victor was a spot in the quarter-finals, with both sides heading into the game boasting impressive undefeated records for the season.
Managers Tim Bond and Jordan Stallard knew that the first ten minutes of the game would be hugely important and a good start was needed to control the tempo of the game. However, in the 5th-minute, midfielder Will Power received an early yellow card for a strong challenge on the Soudley number 10 that would set the tone throughout the opening exchanges of the game.
With this early booking for Power, the visitors were handed an extra incentive to get the ball and run at the hosts, putting them under pressure with the intent to potentially force more mistakes. However, this approach proved ineffective and they were unable to capitalise. As time ticked on, the home side grew in confidence and gained control of the game.
Having found their rhythm and now piling the pressure on the away side, Chesterton were looking the stronger of the two sides and the most likely to score the first goal. This was almost the case on a number of occasions, with the hosts only denied by some top quality goalkeeping from Soudley’s man between the sticks.
After failing to convert their chances, Chezzie looked to shake things up in the 35th minute, bringing on new signing Ashley Rockley for his debut in the hope of grabbing the lead before half-time. However, despite Rockley settling into the game immediately and showing his quality from the get-go, the game would remain goalless going into the break.
Having escaped going a goal down on a number of occasions in the first period, the away side looked to flip the game on its head in the second half.
They found themselves on a promising counter-attack in the 55th minute after a long ball bypassed the Chezzie defence and found the opponent’s ‘number 9’ in space. After a good first touch, the striker looked odds-on to put the visitors in front but captain Dan Jones raced back to make a vital block. Timing his slide tackle to perfection, the shot deflected over the bar to keep the scores level.
Spurred on by this half chance, the visitors looked to apply more pressure and came close again in the 60th minute.
This time a long free-kick was played deep into the box and, as it dropped at the back post, it flicked off of a Chesterton head. Seemingly heading into the corner of the net, Soudley would have been one up, had it not been for a smart reaction save from Ryan Heaven low down to his right.
After a couple of close calls, the hosts knew they had to push into a higher gear and secure the game. With a change in personnel and a re-think in positioning they did just that, mounting attack after attack.
In the 73rd minute, the hosts came close to grabbing that vital goal when a goalmouth scramble saw the Soudley ‘keeper make a couple of good reaction saves before an effort from George Peare agonisingly came off the post.
Still trying to grab the winner and avoid a penalty shootout, a chance fell to Power, who saw his clean first-time strike, from 25 yards, whistle just past the post.
After a scrappy 84 minutes that left the home side feeling like the day was going against them, and with penalties looming, one more chance presented itself.
After dealing with some late Soudley pressure the ball was cleared to Josh Russell who controlled the ball well and avoided a couple of tackles before playing a sweeping pass across to the right wing.
Rockley would pick up the ball, drive down the wing and then cut inside onto his left foot. After beating two defenders, he struck the ball hard across the keeper, into the far corner, making it 1-0 to Chesterton with only minutes left to play.
Moments later and it could have been 2-0 as Russell broke clear with the Soudley defence calling for offside. With nothing being given, Russell was left one-on-one with the keeper but he missed the opportunity to seal the game when he put his shot high and wide of the goal.
Luckily, this missed chance didn’t have an effect on the eventual outcome of the match as Chesterton worked tirelessly until the final whistle to close their opponents down and shutdown any opportunity to draw level.
Special mention goes to the Ryan Heaven and backline, who once again put in a good, solid shift that earned Chesterton yet another clean sheet.
Man of the match: Mitch Stone