Defensive effort earns point
The first team took their unbeaten run up to eight games, but saw their seven game winning run ended at Abbey Rangers on Tuesday.
Abbey started brightly, looking to catch out our backline which had made a sluggish start to the fixture. Our first real chance came on five minutes when a combination of defenders stopped a weaving run by Matt Ferdinando, and at the other end, Matt Tanton had to be at his best to stop Bradley Sweeney, the lively Abbey winger.
We took the lead on seven minutes, when Danny Fernandez won a free kick for a foul by Elliott Firth, and curled home a delightful strike beyond the outstretched arms of Liam Stone in the Abbey goal. Three minutes later and it was almost 2-0, as Tom Bentley played the ball back to Stone, and his clearance was charged down by Daryl Cooper-Smith, bouncing back into the arms of the grateful keeper.
Abbey went close on 12 minutes when a low cross by Alex Hendrie almost found Sweeney, but a great interception by Craig Hastings saw the ball go out for a corner. From the delivery the ball pinged around in our area, with Matt Farrell getting in a good block on the line, and Michael Eacott able to gather the ball and calm things down.
Firth did well on 18 minutes before squaring to Chad Goulter but his effort was poor and well wide of the right hand post, but the warning signs were there and the hosts were starting to gain momentum in the game.
Hendrie fired wide from distance and on 21 minutes neat interplay from one side of the pitch to the other by several Abbey players ended with Ben Kersley's curled effort striking the crossbar.
The hosts continued to dominate and Sweeney and Firth linked up to set up Kersley who turned and shot but bought a good save out of Eacott with his left foot. Eacott was out sharply on 26 minutes leaving Sweeney in a crumpled heap on the floor.
Matt Ferdinando tried his luck from distance on 36 minutes, but it was comfortable for Stone, and a minute later Cooper-Smith tried his luck from a similar range, but again failed to trouble Stone.
Abbey should have levelled two minutes later. A great ball into the area was met powerfully by Bentley, but Eacott made a stunning save to turn the ball aside and Matt Tanton hammered clear.
We almost increased our lead on 42 minutes when Cooper-Smith and Matt Auletta linked up well, and Cooper-Smith's header bought a good save low to his right by Stone, and half time came with us 1-0 up.
Early in the second half a mazy run by Ferdinando almost set up Cooper-Smith, but the forward was caught offside. A couple of minutes later and we forced a corner, and the wicked inswinging delivery Fernandez caused a few problems in the Abbey area, but the hosts cleared.
We were forced into a change ten minutes into the half, when having won a tremendous challenge in the middle of the park, Asa Rixon was left in a heap and replaced by Liam Holden.
Just shy of the hour and Eacott made a tremendous save from a close range shot by Hendrie, neither player having seen the flag go up.
Kersley fired over for Abbey on the hour, as the hosts had us pinned back. Matt Tanton went into the book for a foul on Sweeney on 62 minutes. Hendrie then fired in a vicious dipping effort that Eacott did well to turn onto the bar, and then calmly gathered the rebound.
We made another change on 67 minutes with the tiring Fernandez replaced by Marlon Rodney. We probably had our best spell of pressure with around 20 minutes remaining, but Auletta and Cooper-Smith were unable to fashion any chance, and the game of defence against attack continued.
With ten minutes remaining we replaced Andrew White, who had done well on his return, with Rory Lewis. We almost forced a priceless second goal with five minutes remaining, when great work by Cooper-Smith and Rodney set up Ferdinando but his curled effort clipped the crossbar and bounced to safety.
We survived a scare on 86 minutes when a ball into the box was heading for Hendrie, but Tanton appeared from nowhere to clear the danger. A minute later and Tanton was extremely fortunate to get away with a challenge in the area, to me as clear a penalty as you will see, but the referee waved play on.
Auletta beat a couple on 88 minutes but his shot was confortable for Stone, and Abbey got the least they deserved a minute later. Eacott had already made a tremendous save, blocking a shot that came through a crowd, but was powerless to do anything about the Kersley strike and the hosts were level.
Full time came with the points shared, we were happy to maintain our unbeaten run, and Abbey left scratching their heads as to how they had not won.