This was a hugely encouraging performance from the newly-formed Spencer 3rd team that showed skills and determination despite going down to a beefy Reading outfit.
The unique blend of teenagers and bus-pass threatening veterans will take a while to gel and confusion reigned in the 1st quarter to allow the home team to leap into a commanding lead.
Spencer were still making introductions and working out positions while an 18-strong Reading squad moved swiftly into free-scoring gear. The 5-0 opening quarter flattered them and was more a testimony of the rust still being brushed away from some of the vets joints as they tried to jump-start the muscle memory and recall how to take a shot.
Reading’s battery of subs, compared to Spencer’s two, ensured they entered the 2nd quarter bristling with vigour and intent. But they came up against a side that refused to buckle.
The young defence – with an average age of 15 ¾ – started to get the measure of their opponents and the clearing was clean and clinical. Jamie Stagg, Sam Johnson and Jules Glover started to dominate the face off and chances started to come.
Pete Compton produced shades of his vintage 1988 form to coolly slot one past the keeper and then Ivan muscle-dodged his way to the danger zone to help Spencer win the 2nd quarter 2-1 in a brave display exemplified by the tireless work of the excellent Bill Fisher, Ben McLellan and Oscar BT in defence who battled hard against an experienced and potent attack.
The 3rd quarter was again close but Spencer couldn’t capitalise with clean possession from the face and too many passes went astray in midfield and attack giving Reading a succession of let-offs. They cashed in with three goals to effectively snuff out the challenge but the 4th quarter belonged to Spencer with another gutsy display despite tiring legs in the blazing sunshine.
Ben was the standout player, consistently stripping attackers, winning ground ball and powering upfield. He was rewarded with a length-of-the pitch goal and Spencer were unlucky not to have another goal given with a shot that appeared to cross the line in the final seconds before the home goalie swatted his stick down.
A natural balance started to emerge with Danny Buckland, making a comeback 16 years since he last played for Purley, moving into midfield to add stability. Compton, returning after a lengthy playing absence, eventually managed to deliver some passes just under the flight path and Spencer finished on a par with the home team.
A bit more composure and patience on the ball and Spencer could have pushed Reading all the way. It will take time for this team to build understanding and team-work but the performance, at this stage, is more important than the results.
The youngsters played with flair and a determination above their years and the defensive youth were well marshalled by Colin Byrne, who had a good game with a string of important saves.
Man of the Match: Ben McLellan
Quarter Scores: 5-0 / 6-2 / 9-2 / 10-3
Scorers: Ivan Gillett, Pete Compton, Ben McLellan