Cooper-Smith strike settles feisty encounter
By Gary Brigden
A Daryl Cooper-Smith strike just after the half hour mark gave the firsts a 1-0 win at a hard to beat Camberley side.
We got off to a flying start and were almost ahead inside thirty seconds, a crossfield ball by Zach Powell reached Danny Fernandez and his dipping effort went just over the top of Adam Desbois's crossbar.
However after that it was Camberley who had the better of the early exchanges. A poor Michael Eacott could only find Jack Dean but we got back around the ball. Minutes later and Matt Tanton gifted possession back to Camberley but again we were able to get bodies round the ball.
Fernandez fired over a wicked cross, after an Aaron Bogle free kick had only been half cleared, and the impressive Desbois did well to clear his lines.
The recalled Craig Hastings then gave possession to Ryan Bell who burst through a couple of challenges before seeing his shot blocked by Powell.
Fernandez was floored by a poor challenge by Mark Jordan, the first of at least six perpetrated by the Camberley player that went without a booking, but the free kick was wasted.
We should have taken the lead on 12 minutes, a Bogle free kick was flicked on by Hastings to Michael Campbell but his strike bought a cracking save out of Desbois down to his left.
We continued to dominate and Asa Rixon-Nicholls forced an excellent low save from Desbois, and from a Cooper-Smith challenge Campbell headed wide of the left hand post. Eacott saved well from Bell on 27 minutes, and at the other end Matt Auletta found Campbell who was again denied by Desbois.
Rixon-Nicholls nicked the ball off Jordan on 29 minutes and found Fernandez, but with a three-on-one situation Fernandez could only fire the ball wide. Two minutes later and Cooper-Smith somehow fired over from eight yards after getting on the end of an Auletta cross.
Fortunately the big man was on hand to put us ahead on 34 minutes. A Fernandez corner was headed goalwards by Rixon-Nicholls and Cooper-Smith was on the spot to crash home the loose ball after Camberley had only half blocked it.
Fernandez found his way into the book for a poor challenge, which saw the Camberley bench explode, and in the ensuing arguments, Darren Salmon was sent to the stand and a Camberley substitute booked.
Half time came with holding a narrow 1-0 lead.
Salmon was forced into a change at the break with Tanton forced off injured and Andrew White entering the fray.
The opening exchanges in the second half saw both sides have decent chances. The first chance fell to us, when Michael Campbell saw his effort well saved by Desbois low to his right.
Back at the other end and Adam Francis fired wide of Eacott's right hand post and on 55 minutes Cooper-Smith had a lobbed effort that Desbois got back to gather fairly comfortably.
Hastings headed a deep Fernandez free kick over the crossbar on 56 minutes, and Adam Wareham got beyond White but saw his shot saved by Eacott.
The game was swinging from end to end, with Camberley pushing on more as they made full use of the slope. A deep from kick from Wareham was well defended by Hastings, under pressure from Francis, and we broke quickly through Cooper-Smith, but having done well to get to the Camberley area, he could only fire over the bar.
Just after the hour and Auletta destroyed Dan Jewell, his cross was cleared by Desbois, only as far as Fernandez who was bought down by Steve Brown. From the free kick, Fernandez drove the ball low across the area but no-one was on hand to apply a finishing touch.
On 68 minutes Salmon was forced into his second change, with Powell unable to continue after an earlier knock and being replaced by Owen Davies.
Cooper-Smith curled an effort straight to Desbois on 70 minutes, and with fifteen minutes remaining White found his way into the book apparently for time-wasting.
Camberley upped the pressure as we entered the final ten minutes, and we were defending the usual Camberley aerial bombardment, but Eacott was dealing well with anything hurled in at him.
With just over five minutes remaining a long clearance by Desbois found Francis, his shot was blocked and the follow up by Sam Bello-Balogun was deflected wide for a corner.
Salmon made his final change with four minutes remaining, with the tiring Fernandez making way for Matt Ferdinando.
Camberley continued to put us under pressure, White headed a long through clear, and Farrell headed behind for a corner, from that Eacott saved well from Bello-Balogun before we eventually managed to clear.
Cooper-Smith almost sealed the game on 88 minutes when he burst clear of the Camberley defence, but under pressure from Brown, he could only find the side-netting with his strike.
Auletta fired wide after being released by Rixon-Nicholls, and in stoppage time Hastings found Auletta again, and this time his shot was well saved by Desbois.
Full time came with us picking up a vital 1-0 win, although if chances were taken it could have been a lot more convincing. It did show good character though to bounce back from the cup semi final defeat, and withstand a late Camberley barrage.
Finally congratulations to Camberley's excellent young keeper Adam Desbois, on loan from Reading FC, who has been selected for the England U18 squad.