Whyteleafe Vets 4  Northwood Vets 1

Wednesday 2nd March 2011

Northwood’s annual nostalgia fest in entering the Isthmian Veterans Cup competition came to an end at the first hurdle this season as travelling long-distance to East Surrey saw them fall to defeat at a strong Whyteleafe side.

The Woods were able to field a fairly strong team themselves with “Vets” debuts this season for Christian Metcalfe, Andy Cook and Danny Williams but with several drop-outs in the days leading up to the match, they found themselves with only ten players before finding a gallant volunteer in Steve Ledger to make up the side. It meant neither side had any subs to call upon so perhaps it would be survival of the fittest.
Dave Nolan was first to get in a blow with just four minutes on the clock as he burst through but saw his well-struck shot well-saved by home legend Danny Rose in goal.

The home side were soon moving forward themselves though with 46-year-old Stuart Massey the playmaker and he forced Ken Lavender into his first of several fine saves from a free-kick. Marcel Dennis was full of pace down the flank and his cross looked to be converted by poacher John Fowler but Danny Williams did well to clear off the line.

Martin Randall, who has been playing occasionally for Egham Town in the Combined Counties League this season, got his head to a Nolan cross soon after but it lacked the power to beat Rose and then Randall combined with Cook for a shot which was blocked for a corner. Woods first-team manager Steve Hale latched onto a poor defensive pass after 18 minutes and looked likely to give the Woods the lead but his effort was comfortably saved by the ‘keeper and Whyteleafe showed that they were still in the game with a chipped shot from Massey only just over the bar.

It was entertaining stuff and Northwood were certainly holding their own with Hale shooting wide after Paul Rogan and Randall had combined to set him up and then Richard McDonagh had a long-range effort well held by Rose. It was the 49-year-old Lavender’s turn to impress on the half-hour as he made a great save to deny Fowler from close range after another good run and cross from Dennis while Randall rolled back the years with a great turn and shot at the other end which flashed just wide of the post.

But it was Whyteleafe who finished the half on top. Lavender saved again from a Fowler header, Chris Dickinson scooped a shot over from close-range and then former Sheffield United and Brighton midfielder Paul Rogers began to threaten with a shot which Lavender pushed wide of the post.

It was the pace of Dennis and the engine of 45-year-old Rogers that gave the home side the edge after the break. Dennis had already had one dangerous cross cut out by Lavender before he somehow headed a deep cross from Massey over the crossbar from a few inches. He then failed to hit the target with another couple of strikes in quick succession but the Woods were still defending stoutly and on a rare attack Danny Williams knocked in a good cross and Cook controlled the ball well before hitting a shot on the turn only just over the bar.

But the opening goal was soon to follow and came from a direct run at goal from Fowler who raced past McDonagh and was then tripped in the box by Gary Williams. A penalty was the result and Massey stepped up to smash the ball past Lavender, though only in off the underside of the crossbar. When Fowler raced onto a Dennis ball and fired home a second goal after 67 minutes, it also signalled the departure of stand-in Ledger who had, to be fair, given a solid performance in exalted company at left-back. With ten men there seemed little likelihood of a storming comeback yet just a minute later the Woods forced a corner and when Nolan knocked the ball in, Hale slotted home to reduce the arrears.

Unfortunately, there was never an opportunity for any more heroics as just two minutes later, Dennis revelled in even more space on the right and cut the ball back for Massey to knock in his second of the game. The scoring was then completed with a fifth goal inside twelve frantic minutes as Dennis once again got down the flank and this time set up Fowler for his second.

Fowler sportingly left the field soon after (or he had just had enough!!) to leave the two lots of ten men to battle out the final ten minutes and the Woods did rally with McDonagh going closest to reducing the arrears with one shot wide of the target and a free-kick which curled just over the top.

So the Woods Vets are still looking for an away win after four years of playing in this competition and home advantage certainly seems to be a huge plus with Northwood’s only home defeat being when they lost to Bromley in the 2009 Final.

Whyteleafe: Danny Rose, Dean Davenport, Luke Ringrose, Phil Dawson, Paul Rogers, Gavin McGowan, Marcel Dennis, Gary Wilgoss, John Fowler, Stuart Massey, Chris Dickinson.
Northwood: Ken Lavender, Christian Metcalfe, Danny Williams, Dave Nolan, Martin Randall, Gary Williams, Steve Ledger, Paul Rogan, Steve Hale, Richard McDonagh, Andy Cook.

Report by ALAN EVANS