April 18th, 2022. This was another big game for Raynes Park. The penultimate game of the 21/22 season saw Vale take on the CCL winners-elect. Beckenham had the look of a team who knew they were within touching distance of the title. Vale, as ever, had the look of a team determined to cause an upset. However, for the first half-an hour it was Beckenham, playing up the Vale slope, who seemed to have the better of it. RPV made life difficult for Town with some solid defending but there was no denying who was edging it as Vale took time to settle in. That is until a beautiful free-kick from the Vale right was tapped, sweetly onto Jordan Stepney’s left who took one deft touch to control it and then one more to blast it into the roof of the Beckenham net and suddenly the momentum swung the way of the home team. Beckenham tried to ramp up the pressure, but their strike-force had reckoned without Billy Bishop in the Vale goal who spent much of the next hour pulling off world-class saves to the cheers of the home crowd and the dismay of those in red and white. Efforts from Mudiaga Wanogho and Louie Theophanous were both expertly snuffed out by the Vale stopper. Raynes Park went off at half-time 1-0 up and the stage was set for a fiery second half.
Reece Williams-Bowers provided the spark to the fuel
Both teams came out after the break looking to hit back but it was Vale, in the form of the ever-popular Reece Williams-Bowers who provided the spark to the fuel. On 52 minutes the Vale striker muscled through a determined Beckenham defence from a brilliant Louie Downey through-ball, took one look at Nick Blue in the Town goal coming off his line and put a sweetly weighted lob over his head and into the Town goal. Williams-Bowers, wearing a smile as bright as the afternoon sunshine, sped off to celebrate with the Vale management and team. Sadly, the visiting coach took this opportunity to exchange some childish words and made to threaten a punch toward the celebrating goal-scorer – actions that were wholly unnecessary and did no credit to the visiting team or fans. Vale, however, shrugged off the antics on the touchline to have the game restarted and to try and get a deserved third goal. However, the next moment of interest came with a hotly disputed handball claim in the Vale area. The officials, it’s fair to say, were not having their best day and the shout could have probably gone either way but, with full-time approaching, the shrill calls from the visitors seemed more in hope and desperation and, as the man in black waved the penalty shouts away, it fell to the Beckenham’s, Joe Healey, to turn on the ref, in the heat of the moment to lambast him for his ‘error’. Thankfully, the details of Healey’s appeal were lost but, as they resulted in a straight red card for the Beckenham man, it is probably fair to assume that he wasn’t wishing the ref a Happy Easter. Either way, it was academic. After a couple of Vale substitutions – Aiden Brown on for Williams-Bowers and Josh Gallagher on for Louie Downey - the referee, probably thankfully, blew for full time. There was just time for another bit of infantile handbags from the Beckenham coach and it was, after all, Raynes Park Vale who had come to party.
MOTM: Billy ‘The Bish’ Bishop
Match report: E.I. Addio