By Tempest Ward
4th August
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Sarnies unlucky in opening day defeat

COLLIERS WOOD UNITED 2 (0) Ali Fofanah 2 (77, 81)
EGHAM TOWN 1 (1) Zaine Gungadeen (38)

Two red cards and the first sin-binning in an Egham Town game were among the features of the Sarnies’ opening match as they returned to the Combined Counties League after a seven years at Step 4.
Following their relegation from Isthmian One South Central Egham have retained the services of Carl Palmer as manager. He has put together a squad with a handful of last season’s players and some exciting new talent who had a decent pre-season that included a 4-2 win against Westfield.
Egham began well, and should have taken the lead after 11 minutes. New signing Zaine Gungadeen did well to win the ball in midfield and hit a perfect pass for Anthony Thomas, who moved in from inside right to fire a cross shot that was well saved by home keeper Lewis Gallifent. The ball fell for Thomas, only for Gallifent to deny him again, but presenting Thomas with a third chance which was ballooned over the bar towards the traffic on the A3. Wood had not yet troubled new Sarnies keeper Sam Freeman, but did so with Ali Fofanah’s rasping drive that Freeman did well to guide over the crossbar. Freeman pulled off a point blank save from the same forward at the foot of his right post as the home side settled. Thomas was denied by Galllifent again, this time off a free kick but it was not long before Egham took a just-about deserved lead, Gungadeen finding room in the home area before hammering his shot past the Wood keeper.
The big talking point before the season was the introduction of the “sin bin” at this level; doubtless every match began with speculation over who would be the first. Here it was home centre forward Mario Embalo, who has achieved god-like status at Colliers Wood United not only for his remarkable scoring achievements but his loyalty to the club. This is one record he would not have wanted, sent to the dugout in the 42nd minute for dissent. Soon afterwards his team mate Jordan Willis, who had already been cautioned, cleaned out Thomas with a reckless tackle that deserved a red on its own. That left Wood playing with nine men for what remained of the first half.
Thomas tried his luck with a 25 yard free kick early in the second period and was only marginally off-target. He was then denied again by Gallifent after Gungadeen’s right wing surge and cross. Kiemon Robinson, who had been finishing superbly in pre-season games, was not seeing much of the ball so it was no surprise that when given a chance, off Harry Tubb’s pass, he missed his mark. Egham’s next chance to double their lead came from sub Omar Hassan (on for Robinson), who showed great strength and determination to get to the byline down the left before cutting in and firing in a shot that Gallifent smothered. Perhaps a cross into the box, to a red shirt, might have had a better result?
Then it all went wrong. Whereas there was no doubt about the crudeness of the challenge that had seen the home side’s numbers reduced, when Sarnies midfielder Connor Channon committed what was barely even a foul, but saw a straight red doubts about the adequacy of the referee, bubbling under all match, rose to the surface. I would say that, wouldn’t I? I am a dyed-in-the-wool Egham Town FC supporter. The thing is, dyed-in-the-wool Colliers Wood United supporters said exactly the same thing. It is right and proper that fans expect match officials to get the big decisions right. This gentleman got this one wrong, but was he perhaps influenced by the antics of the home manager, who had seen his brother sent off? Even before that dismissal every Egham challenge was a leg-breaker, every decision controversial unless it went Woods’ way. That said, where was the marking when a free kick from out on the Egham left found Fofanah running in for a first time shot that found Freeman’s bottom left corner? Where was the defence when a lofted punt found Fofanah running in for a mishit shot that left Freeman flatfooted? Those two strikes came in the 77th and 81st minutes, not leaving Egham much time to get something from a game that, as boss Carl Palmer said later, “should have been out of sight”. In the 90th minute Gungadeen took Greg Knight’s pass and bent a shot that hit the left post.
Egham face Ascot United at Runnymede Stadium on Tuesday in a Combined Counties League match. It will be the first ever competitive match between two sides not that far apart, after Ascot were moved across from the Hellenic League. They won at Cobham 2-0. Next Saturday Egham are at home again, facing Lancing (Southern Combination) in the Emirates FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round.
EGHAM TOWN: Sam Freeman, Harry Tubb, Kildane Tesfu, Jack Hatcher, Tristan Toney, Kayode Conteh, Zaine Gungadeen, Connor Channon, Ashley Elson, Anthony Thomas, Kiemon Robinson. Substitutes: Omar Hassan (Robinson, 63), Max Cole, Nathaniel Mensah, Tyler John (Thomas 78, Greg Wright (Hatcher, 56).

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