Weysiders Reserves gave the Club their first appearance in a final for 24 years as they took on Hersham Sports and Social from a division higher.
As usual, Weysiders were beset by their perennial problem of key players being unavailable and a lack of a recognised goalkeeper. Thom Doggett volunteered to play in goal, taking the position for the first time this season.
Boss Mark Stephen elected to play a 4-1-4-1 formation with Nik Redhead holding a position in front of the back four and Gino Raccuglia playing a loan role up front. Stephen’s plan was to concede no goals in the first half (going in 0-0 if necessary) and then unleash his team as an attacking force in the second half.
The Surrey Sports Park pitch was in very good condition, but the chill breeze did not make for ideal conditions.
The first half played out exactly as the boss had planned it. In fact, Hersham were probably not as good as expected and there was certainly no indication of them being a division higher, or how they had beaten previously unbeaten Swinley Forrest in the semi-final. The back four of Mark Sydorin, Jack Shaw, Stephen and Russ Minns dealt comfortably with the limited threat posed by Hersham.
So it was that Nick Walker and Chris Murch came on for the second half and the formation changed to 4-4-2. For almost ten minutes of the half, Weysiders, now with the wind slightly in their favour, began to take the game to Hersham and everything seemed to be going to plan.
But football isn’t like that. A mistake on the left of midfield gave Hersham possession and the Weysiders defence was, for once, caught on the hop, enabling a Hersham forward to steal in and scramble the ball past Doggett on 54 minutes.
It was a blow to Weysiders and they struggled to recover as Hersham’s confidence grew. Nevertheless, there were plenty of chances to equalise, with substitute Matt Hockin, Dom De Piano, Nick Walker all going close. Hersham could not add to their lead either and it began to look as though the single goal might win it.
But step up Mark Sydorin. Sydorin, who has performed admirably during his first season at the Club, was giving another man-of-the-match performance and suddenly he appeared in midfield, and from twenty yards curled a right-foot shot into the top right-hand corner of the net for a glorious equaliser on 82 minutes.
Now Weysiders Reserves truly believed the game was theirs for the taking. They had the upper hand. The game was inevitably heading for extra time which, with a further reorganisation of the team, would surely see them home. But with the clock ticking into the 90th minute a miss-hit pass by a Hersham midfielder wrong footed the Weysiders defence as it fell kindly for a Hersham forward to plant beyond Doggett into the net.
There was no time for a second recovery and Weysiders were beaten.
However, Mark Stephen and his team deserve a round of applause for their success in reaching the final and excellent effort in striving for Weysiders’ first silverware this century. But it wasn’t to be, and Weysiders were left to rue what might have been.