Saturday 14th October 2023
Pitching in Southern League
Premier Division South
Walton and Hersham 1 Beaconsfield Town 0
Elmbridge Xcel Sports Hub - 520
Ram of the match - Luke Neville
In preseason Jon Underwood voiced the view that his expectations for the season were initially focused on building relationships with and within his squad. Taking the time to put his managerial stamp and style on them.
He was realistic about his and the club's ambitions for the season believing not unreasonably that it would probably take until early September for the squad to settle down. Allowing Five or Six games together Before these 2023-24 Rams would feel, look and play like a Jon Underwood team.
While the record will show it took a little bit longer than that, yesterday even in suffering a narrow defeat at the hands of Walton and Hersham there was plenty of evidence to suggest that we've probably reached that point now.
Underwood's Rams delivered a tenacious team performance that they simply could not have sustained Six weeks ago. When they were leaking goals and seemingly unable to manage a game even with a substantial lead.
This Beaconsfield Town are made of sterner stuff and the addition of Matt Rowley and Jaques Kpohomouh have proved key in stabilising the defence while James Dobson's experience and ability allow him to slot in on the left adding much needed solidity as well as organisational ability and influence over the younger midfielders in front of him. Meanwhile Luke Neville and Joe Morrison are establishing a strong understanding at the heart of the defence.
A visit to Walton and Hersham was always going to be a test. The Swans, the league's top scorers, averaging three goals a game in their previous 11 games and unbeaten at home. The Rams made them fight all the way and gave them a thoroughly uncomfortable afternoon with a disciplined, organised team performance.
In the end The Rams ran out of steam and Walton dominated the closing stages but it still took an individual error to create the opportunity for the injury-time strike from Anis Nuur that was enough to give Walton and Hersham the win, coming so late that The Rams had no chance to respond.
The defeat ended Beaconsfield's six game unbeaten run and was a little harsh on The Rams defence and skipper Luke Neville in particular. Making his 200th appearance for The Rams the big centre half was outstanding here at the heart of a defensive unit who bent without breaking for 90 minutes. Restricting The Swans to a handful of shots on target all afternoon. Unfortunately, for The Rams, the last one went in.As time ticked away, a hopeful punt forward from Alex Kelly tempted Matt Rowley off his line and out of his box. Rowley has been excellent since his arrival and was his usual solid self here today. It was an innocuous, hopeful ball of the kind the defence in front of him had been in full control of all afternoon. He didn't need to be there and was never getting to the ball which ricocheted from Edward Simon into the path of Nuur, who stroked the ball home from 15 yards.
Such is the goalkeeper's life, moments earlier he was quick off his line and spread himself to save well from half-time Substitute Kelly, after he burst through the Beaconsfield defence. That was the closest Walton came with Rowleys best save of the afternoon coming after 5 minutes when he dived full length to turn away a header from his own player, Dan Bradshaw.
Beaconsfield had a plan and played to it, happy to keep their shape and discipline surrendering possession to Walton who failed to do very much with it.
They picked their moments on the break and created the better opportunities in the first half.
Jacob Gardiner-Smith had a low effort from the edge of the box deflected narrowly wide, from the resulting corner Dobson picked out Luke Neville who escaped his marker but headed wide from six yards. Jonathan Hippolyte appeared to have an even better chance but met Dan Bradshaw’s cross all wrong on the edge of the six-yard box heading straight into the floor and up into Tyla Dickinson'e grateful gloves.
Half time 0-0
The Swans adjusted the formation after the break but again the Rams created the first chance. Hippolyte sending a shot on the turn narrowly wide.
The introduction of Alex Kelly at the break tipped possession and territory further in Walton's favour but Beaconsfield stuck to their task sat in and restricted the increasingly frustrated Swans to speculative efforts from distance and set-piece efforts.
The Rams had the occasional moment but failed to create a presentable opening and lacked a little composure in the final third with tiredness clearly playing a part. They never exactly settled for a point but Walton made their decision for them as they stuck to their task and continued to dominate the closing stages and were eventually rewarded.
Perhaps the best indication of the progress this Beaconsfield team have made is the level of disappointment they felt at the late concession.
Six weeks ago you wouldn't have bet on them to get anything here. Even if you were staking with someone else's money.
They now return home to Holloways Park for another stiff test with the visit of Gosport Borough on Tuesday evening.
Teams and Match facts - [Southern League web site]
Images © Neale Blackburn Photography 2023