20th November, 2021. Raynes Park Vale 6-2 Blackfield & Langley.
Coming back to Grand Drive after the debacle that ended the league game against AFC Croydon (still being adjudicated on by the FA) felt nervy. The scenes that flared up after last week’s game meant that a suitably chastened but defiant Josh Gallagher who became involved when defending RPV players from a barrage of punches had a diminished squad to select from. James Smith was called back into 1st team action from RPV Reserves to fill Billy Bishops considerable boots between the sticks while others were called upon to start.
Some mixed results
Blackfield & Langley arrived off the back of a 6-1 drubbing of Cowes Sports in the Wessex Football League and a season that has seen some mixed results for The Watersiders but who were still clearly contenders in the Vase and were sat comfortably at 9th in their league.
A good contingent of B&L fans added to a great atmosphere at RPV and with Vale playing down the slope play got underway. Within five minutes it became clear that this was going to be no stroll in the park for the visitors. A free kick to RPV on the edge of the B&L box ricocheted off the near post. The resulting ball was collected as it spun into midfield, was lofted in to the opposition area where it was expertly brought under control by Seanan McKillop. The inevitable shot was well-stopped by Hodder in the B&L goal who failed to hang on and a ruthless Jordan Gallagher instantly pounced on the loose ball to put Raynes Park one up with his 20th goal of the season. The home crowd had hardly got their gloves back on on the chilliest afternoon of the season so far before Gallagher junior slotted into the bottom right at the Grand Drive end and added notch No. 21 to his tally.
A neat finish
The second goal shocked Blackfield and Langley into action and they started to show the quality and spirit that has contributed to their season so far. Whether Vale were deliberately sitting back or were just getting too comfortable was unclear but as the Wessex men started to shift through the gears Vale found themselves absorbing pressure until, mere seconds from the half-time whistle, some lovely, crisp interplay from the Vale right saw Seanan McKillop showing the new boys how the RPV originals can put them away with a neat finish that saw the teams go in to the break with a very respectable 3-0 scoreline.
Keep the game alive
After the break the game settled down into more familiar territory for the first thirty minutes with B&L still looking for the breakthrough that they needed to keep the game alive. Unfortunately for the men in Green and White the next goal came from Vale’s No. 17, Brad Sweeney who put it away for his 6th of the season. RPV 4 – B&L 0.
Jordan Gallagher tucked away
There was a feeling of inevitability in the air now and that feeling was reinforced less than five minutes later when – who else? – Jordan Gallagher tucked away to put RPV 5-0 up.
Bad day at the office
The visit to Raynes Park was turning into a bad day at the office for The Watersiders and it was about to get worse. With all three subs committed by B&L manager Fawzi Saadi in an attempt to close the gates and put some momentum into their attack Stephen Hodder in the B&L goal had been receiving treatment for a persistent injury throughout the 2nd half and with about twenty minutes to go signalled to the bench that his afternoon was over – a cruel twist for a team that had really put great effort into their football. As Hodder was applauded off the pitch it fell to B&Ls No.5 to swap jersey and don the gloves for the remainder of the game.
Slotted away RPV’s 6th
With fifteen minutes to go Rafa Ramos finally got the breakthrough B&L had been fighting for with an exquisite shot from the left of the Vale box that left James Smith – who had been having a great game – little chance. 5-1, Vale. Less than 10 minutes later and a clear penalty gave the visitors another chance to score – and one that Sami Makhloufi wasn’t going to waste. A neat shot from the spot and B&L were still determined to show South London what they were made of. Sadly for the Wessexers it was a matter of too-little-too-late and with the whistle practically at referee Andreas Anastasiou’s lips, Nes Bellikli heroically held off the B&L defence and calmly laid off a ball to Cal Davies who slotted away RPV’s 6th and final goal for the day. Final score: Raynes Park Vale 6 – Blackfield & Langley 2
Match report: E.I. Addio