February 18th 2023. Who doesn’t love a derby?! Even before the first whistle there was a sense of excitement in the air down at the Wibbandune on a chilly but largely dry Saturday. Raynes Park came to this game with the recent knowledge of a double win over their fellow Merton rivals and the mood amongst the visiting Vale faithful suggested that a triple was in the bag.
It wasn’t. On 7 minutes a Jordan Gallagher corner was met by a belter from Callum McAllister after a couple of bobbles in the box and the number 30 shirt became the first in the new Banquet Records-sponsored kit to hit the back of the net. Despite the expectations this was the last we saw of a Vale threat for the rest of the half. On 21 minutes Shakir Kamara took advantage of a misjudged attack by Vale following a throw-in, to run in behind the last of the Vale players. Kamara had the speed to lose any Vale attempts at stopping him and hit a crisp low shot that ricocheted off Billy Bishop’s foot and nestled in the back of the RPV net.
On 30 minutes things were looking bad for the team from Grand Drive. Again Kamara was allowed to pick the ball up on the edge of the Vale area and take his shot. A slightly unlucky bobble on the rough Wibbanmdune pitch allowed Vale to plead misfortune but, in reality, Colliers Wood were controlling the game and RPV were struggling. Far from equalizing it looked as though this was to be the home team’s day as Wood went 2-1 up.
A couple of substitutions followed - Jake Gallagher and Brad Sweeney coming on for the injured Louie Downey and Cal Hope. Jake Gallagher had an immediate effect, suddenly bringing an authority to the Vale midfield that had been lacking. In the 2nd half, following Josh Gallagher’s half-time chat, Raynes Park at last looked like a team that wanted to play their game rather than the one on offer from the home side.
Half-way through the 2nd half Raynes Park started to show why they are the current league leaders with Jake Gallagher imposing a presence on the shoddy midfield and providing a pivot from which Vale could start to mount a threat again. Despite some close calls nothing came Vale’s way and with 20 minutes left on the clock Colliers Wood seemed to decide that the game was in the bag just so long as they could disrupt the flow of the game.
A phase of highly theatrical falling over by the home side followed, in an attempt to break up the increasingly threatening attacks from Raynes Park. These tactics seemed to ignore the fact that the visitors were looking increasingly like a team that had rediscovered their mojo and rather than hastening the final whistle, as they would have liked, Colliers Wood gave Vale more and more chances to regroup for the next attack.
The delays were clearly going to add a substantial amount of time onto the 90 and on 85 minutes Timmy Obisanya delivered the inevitable response with a neat goal to put Vale back into contention.
The remainder of the game was by no means a stroll for Vale. The shock of the equalizer seemed to confuse Colliers Wood and their response was to continue to try and disrupt the match with some gamesmanship that was wholly unnecessary, given the quality of the team and their performance, but they were still retaining some kind of control of the game.
However, with the clock ticking toward a draw, recent Vale signing Tom Barnes took to the pitch and made good on his deal to make a difference and with mere minutes to go Barnes had put the ball in the back of the Colliers Wood net.
The visiting fans went crazy and the whistle finally blew on a game that, but for some unwise time-wasting, could have been a loss or a draw and some needless handbags from a minority of understandably frustrated home fans at the final whistle failed to dent the elation of a team and its fans on a triple win over local rivals.
Colliers Wood Utd 2-3 Raynes Park Vale
Raynes Park Vale celebrate the winning goal