Three points not far away

Since 1st September and the re-start for Steps 3-6 in non-league football, the games have come thick and fast and continue to do so for the next few months in order to get the season completed in a timely fashion, this of course is not allowing for any postponements along the way.

Tuesday evening saw another local trip to the featured club, East Preston and with it more goals. Alfold were the visitors in the Southern Combination Premier Division, a very progressive club aiming to follow in the footsteps of Dorking Wanderers. Their facilities are improving every year and looked impressive when I visited with Wick two seasons ago, I believe things now have moved on once again and I might have to sneak in a visit over the course of this season.

EP were on the end of a narrow defeat to Eastbourne Utd at the weekend but having strengthened the squad with the signings of Callum Litterick, Scott Vine and Tijan Sparks a bit more experience has been added to what is still a very young but improving side.

The visitors were always going to be a stern test, a strong tall but mobile outfit who battle for every ball and after you know you’ve been in a game. EP are slowly putting together a side that should eventually finish in a higher position than where they are now.

A muggy September evening but welcome sunshine during the day, the game certainly had the feel of an early August summer night though. East Preston as per last Tuesday night’s game against Loxwood started the much brighter of the two sides and once again drew first blood.

The impressive Conor Bull gave the home side the lead inside 10 minutes, a bit of pinball around the area saw the ball break to Bull to slot home. Plenty of endeavour followed from the visitors but the defence marshalled by skipper Charlie Robinson held firm backed up by keeper Keelan Belcher.

Bull extended the home side’s lead on 42 minutes, a fierce shot from outside the box gave James Stallen no chance and a 2-0 lead for EP. That should have been the half time score, but Alfold had other ideas and in first half stoppage time Devon Fender slotted past Belcher to halve the deficit and possibly change the half time team talks for both managers.

Just past the hour mark the visitors levelled things up through substitute Kelvin Lucas whilst East Preston played very much on the counter attack, Bull had the chance late on to win the game and complete his hat-trick, but an outstanding save from Stallen to tip the ball around the post kept the scores level while at the other end Belcher and his defence stood firm for both sides to share the spoils.

Few things to note from an EP perspective, the return of Chad Milner up front gave the defence something to think about while Bull was a constant menace throughout the first half and deserved his two goals.

The introduction of Sparks into the midfield has given it more bite and determination and Robinson enjoyed a good ninety minute battle with Tiago Andrade, a good bustling centre-forward for this level. The biggest difference for me compared to last Tuesday night against Loxwood was better defending in and around their own penalty area, something learnt from last week which when you have a young team is the hope they don’t repeat the same mistakes.

It was a big ask for a full game press, it worked very well in the first half which contributed to the two-nil lead and although you could still see flashes of it in the second half it wasn’t quite as strong, but Rome wasn’t built in a day! Improvement week on week is all you can ask for and this was certainly a step in the right direction, a break from league action this coming Saturday with a trip to Division One Oakwood in the FA Vase and hopefully much needed income and a first win.

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