Having not had a match since playing Merstham in a very entertaining game on 18th September the reverse fixture was held the the Moatside Stadium, a very attractive venue with a large and well manicured playing surface which was certainly conducive to playing good football.

Unfortunately, due to injuries and absences Cranleigh’s squad for the match was reduced to 13, which restricted the coaches ability to adapt formation, playing style and tactics during the course of the game. Notwithstanding, Cranleigh opted for a 3-5-2 formation and started in a confident mood moving the ball well and playing high up the pitch, and it only seemed a matter of time before a goal came, it did although to Merstham, with a challenge on the edge of the box leading to a well taken free kick and a goal followed. Merstham’s tails were up and the Cranleigh players seemed to lose confidence and shortly thereafter a long cross from the right was contested by the Cranleigh goalkeeper, Ethan Styles, and Merstham’s centre forward, a heavy 50/50 challenge ensued resulting in a penalty being given. Not for the first, or last tim,e during the evening Cranleigh felt harshly treated by an official’s decision, although it made no difference and the penalty was duly dispatched.

Soon after further confusion arose in the Cranleigh ranks and the new look team, who had only played together a couple of times before, seemed to struggle to adapt to the pressure that was being applied and yet another corner saw Ciaran Lynch inadvertently deflect the ball into his own net following a great effort to block a free header, and Cranleigh were 3-0 down in a 15-minute spell .

A couple of positional changes and great attitude from the team saw play stabilised with Cranleigh gradually easing their way back into the game and scored a well earned goal as Jamie Kaffo blocked a clearance from the Merstham goalkeeper which went directly into the goal. 3-1 down at half time , surely no way back for Cranleigh?

Following a positive half-time team talk the formation was tweaked to 4-4-2 with Luca Ellis coming on a left back, and the team doing all they could to protect Ethan Styles who had picked up a nasty rib injury in the first half penalty challenge. Merstham had clearly spotted this and at every opportunity targeted crosses on to the goal keeper who in difficult circumstances did a fantastic job in keeping a clean sheet in the second half. Cranleigh began to control the game, although were unable to break through with the post, bar and a last ditch save by the goalkeeper preventing the scores from changing.

The final whistle came all to soon for Cranleigh who tasted their first defeat of the season, although great character and commitment was evident from all and clearly there is more to come from this group.