It was a very tight first 10 minutes, with both teams enjoying good spells of football without really challenging either goal. Some excellent runs into the box by Magnus Crook (playing in centre midfield) and Louis Horsley, were shut out well by the solid Elstead centre-pairing. Loxwood defended a corner superbly with Ollie Zeffert on the line to make a big clearance.
It took a special goal to break the deadlock. Elstead broke forward and from an unthreatening position the right winger struck a wonderful shot from outside the box that curved wonderfully late and into the corner of the net. One of the best goals we have seen in this league this season. The goal instantly livened the game and brought a reaction from the Loxwood players. Crook began finding searching balls for Tom Pearce, Toby Chandler and Horsley and we began to find space in the pockets around the Elstead defence.
The equaliser came on 15 minutes, Crook fed Horsley who jinked his way past one before pulling a cross to the penalty spot for Chandler to curl an effort over the outstretched arms of the Elstead keeper. Elstead fought back but found a solid back three of Theo Rawlins, Ollie Zeffert and Josh Arnold in no mood to make life easy. A rapidly tiring Crook was swapped for Harry Hunter on 20 minutes and he brought renewed energy to the midfield. Hunter's surging runs and balls out to the wings once again opened the play and on 25 minutes Loxwood took the lead. Pearce fed Horsley who hit the by-line and pulled one back to the near-post, which Hunter controlled and buried past the keeper. A composed, neat finish.
The Tigers started the second half well, again finding good positions on both wings. Pearce made one or two runs deep into Elstead territory, but wasn't quite able to make the crosses count. The Tigers got their third goal a few minutes into the half, Pearce again finding Horsley, whose wonderful cross left a simple tap-in for Hunter in the middle of the goal. Sadly Zeffert had to leave the match and was replaced by a rested Crook at the centre of defence.
One thing we have learnt from our recent matches against Elstead, is that they play with great spirit and are not easily disheartened by conceding. It was no surprise that they got a deserved goal back. Loxwood were slow to take their positions for a corner, Elstead worked it short and then hit a nice cross to their unmarked attacker at the far post, who controlled the ball with his first touch and drilled his effort past Toby Nicholls. It was a warning to the Loxwood team never to switch off.
Hunter made way for Hamish Ramsay on 40 minutes and he immediately made an impact. Pearce was this time the provider, with a well weighted through-ball for Ramsay to run onto and tuck his effort over the advancing keeper into the bottom corner. Horsley (having played a full game for the Lions earlier in the morning) made way for Hunter on 45 minutes. Ramsay went close after a lofted through-ball from Pearce, but was unable to find the target. Chandler then hit the post having been put through by Hunter, but the Tigers were unable to capitalise on the follow-up. With chances missed and Elstead always capable of scoring, it was a relief to get a fifth. Hunter again found the killer pass and Ramsay was composed in front of goal to again tuck his effort past the Elstead keeper and into the bottom corner.
At the other end, Elstead went close and Nicholls did well to stay alert to smother the effort, only for the linesman to raise his flag. Then, some over-zealous defending by Crook gave the referee no option but to point to the spot. There was nothing Nicholls could do to stop the resulting penalty, the Elstead taker smashing his effort into the roof of the net. With the clock running down, the Tigers grabbed a sixth. Ramsay was this time the provider, working his way to the edge of the penalty area and crossing for a simple Chandler tap-in. It was to be the last kick of the game.
It was a brilliant team effort that takes the Tigers above Cranleigh into third place in the league. A few absences meant that we needed to call upon players who had already given a full 70minutes for the Lions, but the fitness sessions have clearly benefitted the boys and each was able to give important 20-minute spells. The improvement in the Tigers is clear to see with telling performances from Horsley, Pearce, Rawlins and Chandler as well as the usual solid performances from Zeffert, Arnold and an increasingly confident Nicholls in goal.
Team: Toby Nicholls, Josh Arnold, Ollie Zeffert, Theo Rawlins, Magnus Crook, Tom Pearce, Toby Chandler, Louis Horsley, Harry Hunter and Hamish Ramsay
Goals: Toby Chandler (2), Harry Hunter (2), Hamish Ramsay (2)
MOM: Louis Horsley