Cooper-Smith double paves the way
Sutton Common Rovers picked up a massive three points on Saturday when two goals from Daryl Cooper-Smith and another from Malachi Thomas gave them a 3-1 win away at Walton & Hersham.
Kicking into the wind we got off to a bright start, with Cooper-Smith and Tom Neale battling for possession and forcing the ball through to Matt Ferdinando, but his shot from distance was comfortably gathered by Brendan Norris low to his left.
Walton responded well and forced a corner on four minutes, Taurean Robert's delivery was poor and Rovers half cleared to the edge of the area, where Chris Onoufriou fired high over the crossbar.
A minute later and Andrew White did well to win possession on the right from a Walton throw-in, he quickly found Ferdinando but his snapshot went well wide of the right hand post.
We continued to press, with White and Matt Farrell linking up to create a chance for Neale which was deflected behind for a corner. From Craig Nelson's delivery, Norris came for the ball, didn't take cleanly, and as the ball eventually reached Neale he was correctly flagged for offside.
Rovers almost gifted Walton the opening goal on 12 minutes. Farrell lost possession in the middle of the park, and the dangerous Roberts linked up with Karl Parker but his shot was blocked by Rovers skipper Aaron Bogle.
The scoring was opened on 21 minutes. Cooper-Smith challenged Norris in the air, again the keeper lost the ball and in his efforts to regain possession pulled Cooper-Smith down, for a penalty, which Cooper-Smith duly converted.
If there was some debate on the legitimacy of the penalty, and that would depend on who you were supporting, there was no arguing three minutes later when a great move down the left ended with a low Farrell cross being turned home by Cooper-Smith for 2-0.
Just short of the half hour a long clearance from Adam Thompson aimed towards Roberts, but Bogle did well to clear and from the throw in, the flick by Parker was gathered by Michael Eacott. Roberts then did well and to force a corner, from the clearance the ball found Thompson and his drive was superbly saved by Eacott.
The clearance from Eacott was poor, allowing Walton to regain possession quickly, but we were able to get bodies round the ball, and clear for another corner. The low delivery was half cleared by Bogle who took a painful blow to the face, play continued and Thompson saw his close range shot comfortably gathered by Eacott.
Ten minutes before the break and White and Neale linked up to set up Farrell, his cross caused confusion between Norris and Jake Newton before being put out for a corner, which was wasted. Then a launched clearance by Norris was left by Davies, but Eacott was out sharply at Parker's feet, and as the ball ran free, Bogle was able to hook Parker's goalbound effort off the line.
Rixon-Nicholls was left hobbling on 36 minutes after another mistimed tackle by Jamie Thoroughgood, and Farrell was floored by the follow through from Norris at a cross. Neale then found his way into the book for a poor challenge on Billy Jeffreys, and half time came with us holding a 2-0 lead.
Rovers started brightly in the second half, and Cooper-Smith linked up with Farrell who saw his shot well saved by Norris and turned behind for a corner by Jeffreys, which came to nothing.
Onoufriou picked up a booking for a poor challenge on Matt Tanton on 54 minutes, and two minutes later a clash of heads between Thoroughgood and Neale led to the Walton player needing treatement, and Neale, who had started to walk a bit of a tightrope with the referee, removed to avoid the possibility of Rovers going down to ten men.
Coming on for Neale was the prolific Michael Campbell, a man with just shy of 60 Rovers goals, so not a bad replacement. Jim Fenlon almost released James Simmonds on the hour, but Farrell did well to shepherd the ball out of play.
Sam Shaban almost escaped the attentions of the Rovers backline, but having got away from Davies, he was unable to beat Rixon-Nicholls and the clearance was completed by Farrell. At this stage though Walton had a bit of a head of steam up and were starting to pin Rovers back.
Parker was denied on 68 minutes by a superb block by Bogle, seemingly coming from nowhere to clear the lines, and on 71 minutes Eacott did well to save from Roberts. However the goal was coming and Walton were back into it on 72 minutes, a cross by TJ Nkoma on the right being powerfully headed beyond Eacott by Rixon-Nicholls giving the hosts a lifeline.
Rixon cleared well with fifteen minutes remaining as a buoyant Walton pushed for a leveller, and Rovers were restricted to long clearances, one of which almost released Cooper-Smith, but the alert Norris swept up excellently to clear.
Eacott saved comfortably from a low drive by Nkoma, and Darren Salmon rang the changes with just over ten minutes remaining, replacing Cooper-Smith and Farrell with Matt Auletta and Walton old boy Malachi Thomas.
Thompson planted a free header from a corner wide on 80 minutes as Rovers were forced into hanging on, and a minute later White was booked for deliberate handball on the edge of our area. From the free kick Roberts curled a superb effort over the wall, only to see it met by an unbelievable tip over by Eacott.
With six minutes remaining Shaban almost escaped down the left, only to be denied by a superb White challenge, and you could see Walton wilt as two excellent chances had passed them by.
Ferdinando went into the book for persistent chat, and on 85 minutes Thomas turned Fenlon left and right before being hauled down just outside the area. The free kick though was wasted.
The game was up on 91 minutes, Campbell and Thomas linked up on the right, and Thomas's low cross (let's be generous and call it a cross) found Auletta, his shot was goalbound before before superbly saved by Newton, who saw red.
Thomas took the spot kick and sent Norris the wrong way to wrap up the points.
Whilst the Walton spell in the second half had us rocking for a while, it was good to see how deep the lads were prepared to dig in to get themselves over the line, that, allied to some top notch keeping and tireless forward play meant a vital three points were secured.
Finally, big well done to the young Walton supporters who cheered their team throughout and booed our players off at the end, which was met with a good natured response from our lads. Their enthusiasm and support for the team was superb. Well done boys.