16th October 2021.
Following a great win against Guildford and a very respectable draw against league-leaders Badshot Lea Raynes Park came to this match full of hope and expectation. They weren't disappointed. In the kind of goal-fest first half that really gets the fans cheering, new signing Brad Sweeney, with Vale playing down the slope, picked up on a Vale move down the left striking the resulting ball across the edge of the box for the ex-Oxhey Jets man to slot, low and hard, off the surface and past the Fleet keeper in the 17th minute.
Moments later on 19 mins Sweeney was
again in the thick of it, determinedly wrestling possession away from the Fleet left-back and sending in a low cross meeting the RPV goal-machine Jordan Gallagher to at the front post. In a style
we've come to expect from Gallagher the ball was dispatched low and sweetly and found the net past the 'keeper's near-post.
The flood gates had opened
Barely had the RPV Twitter machine spread the news then Vale found the net for the third time inside the first thirty minutes of the contest. The flood gates had opened, and it was that man again. Nes Bellikli found Sweeney in the box and the debutant reached the ball just before the on-rushing Fleet keeper, flicking into an empty net. But all good things, eh…?
Deemed worthy of a straight red
A few minutes later on 33 minutes a strong 50/50 between another new Vale signing, Reece Williams-Bowers, and the Fleet central defender saw the home player go down with an agonised scream and stay down. Williams-Bowers’ challenge was deemed to be worthy of a straight red and Vale were reduced to 10 men. As the Vale striker left the pitch all eyes were on the Fleet player still down injured. Thankfully and mercifully the injured player recovered from his injuries moments after the RPV man left the pitch and trotted away to continue the rest of the game.
The excitement wasn't over
The excitement wasn't over for the first half and the steep slope at Fleet appeared to be affecting the officials as well as the players. On 38mins the referee pulled up with a calf injury, bringing the linesman onto the pitch as a replacement. In the absence of a fourth official Vale’s own Marcus Dowdeswell stepped into the breach and backfilled the vacant linesman spot and the excitement was over for the first half.
HT 3-0 RPV
If Fleet thought that having a man sent off was going to force Raynes Park to sit back and roll-out the team-bus in the second half they were going to be disappointed. Despite being a man down and attacking up the slope, Vale went further ahead when a late run from Eoin Fraser earned him a left foot finish at the back post from six yards out after the cross evaded all players at the front. Fraser took the finish well, upping the Vale score-line to 4-0 and deserved a goal for another strong central midfield performance
The home side pulled one back
Playing a whole half with 10 men still wasn’t going to be easy even with Vale in cruise mode. The home side pulled one back when the substitute striker shot from the edge of the box, neatly tucking inside Billy Bishop’s left-hand post, wrong-footing the Vale keeper.
Expectation gave way to disbelief
With mere minutes to go another contentious decision from the substitute ref saw Vale reduced further to nine men when the home side’s number 9 was slipped through on goal. The on-rushing Billy Bishop and home team striker reached the ball at the same time, but the striker just got his toe and was tripped by Bishop. With a number of players behind the ball the clear expectation was that Bishop would see a fair yellow for the challenge. Expectation gave way to disbelief, however as the stand-in ref decided the incident was sufficient to send off Bishop and reduce Vale to nine. Flying Vale right back Archie Harland-Goddard donned the keeper’s jersey for the remaining minutes to face the resulting free-kick from just outside the Vale box, in line with the left-hand post. A dummy freekick seemed to dislodge the wall and the same substitute striker slotted the ball under the wall across the onlooking Harland-Goddard for his second of the afternoon.
All in all a great performance
All in all a great performance from The Vale, with only controversial decisions standing between a win and a whitewash, and one that saw the South Londoners nudge up to 5th in the CCL. Prem.