Rayners Lane's Tithe Farm Sports Club ground, known locally as The Lane, has long been on my list of grounds to visit. A friend lived within walking distance a few years back but I never managed to tie in a visit with a game. The ground is just to the South-West of Harrow and, although it is situated smack bang in the middle of a highly populated urban area, it is surrounded on three sides by trees. The Sports club has a reasonably large car park and there is also some limited parking available on Rayners Lane just outside the ground. Access is through a single turnstile. On the car park side of the ground is the clubhouse and toilet facilities, as well as the players and officials block.
Dugouts are on the clubhouse side of the pitch and access to the opposite side is only available behind the goal at the Lucas Avenue end. the Rayners Lane goal is so close to the tree line and thee lane itself that there is no access behind the goal for spectators. The playing surface was converted to 3G in readiness for the 2018-19 season.
Fourteen places separated the sides at the start of play. Rayners lane sat sixth, just outside the playoff spots by means of having a worse goal difference than fifth placed Rising ballers Kensington. However, Lane have played more games than the teams immmediately around them, three more than Kensington and six more than third placed Sandhurst Town. Hounslow's season has not been brilliant, top say the least. Sitting in 20th, one place above the drop zone, at the start of play. They had a two pint advantage over Hillingdon but had already played two more games. They came into the game on a run of three consecutive league defeats, their last win being a 2-1 defeat of Westside back in October. Rayners Lane had also hit a shaky patch. They beat london Samurai Rovers 2-0 on December 27th but then went on to take just one point from the next nine available. However, that changed last week. Following a 4-1 defeat of Hiulligndon Borough in the cup, they then hammered the same opponents 8-0 last Saturday, do tonight's opponents a massive favour in the process. Although there hasn't been a previous league meeting this season, the teams did meet in the Middlesex Charity Cup in November. On that occsaion Hounslow came out on top, 5-4 after extra time.
It was an interesting opening few minutes to the match. Anyone who didn't know the teams would have been forgiven for thinking the team in green and white were the one near the top of the league, such was the confidence that exuded from Hounslow. They knocked the ball around with some style. Admittedly, they didn't manage to trouble Patmore in the home goal, but they looked like they were here with a purpose.
Unfortunately for Hounslow, the initial burst did not last. Rayners Lane began to find their feet and, after 10 minutes, had nullified Hounslow's quick start. The first real effort on target came from the hoem team on 11 minutes when Ronnie Blagden tried his luck from outside the box. It was straight at Matt Bonnett, but it was a warning to United. Two minutes later Lane should really have been in front when the ball fell to Oliver Lawford who shapes to pass the ball into the far corner but put the ball just the wrong side of the post.
Just past the halfway mark in the firest half Luke Peerless was the next try his luck with a shot from way out side the box. Again Bonnett was not troubled. However, on the half-hour mark the Hounslow stopper was left floundering as Rayners Lane took the lead in unusual style. Jake Tabor, fresh from scoring five against Hillingdon, curled in a wicked corner from the left. Whether this was an attempt at goal or just an opportunity to put extreme pressure on the keeper by getting the ball right under the crossbar, we may never know. Initially it looked as if Kyle Clifford had got to the ball and diverted back across the goal line for Jason Kitenge to tap in. However, the stadium announcer credited the goal to Clifford rather than Kitenge. Then, as th sides returned from half-time, we learned that it had gone straight in and the goal was given to Jake Tabor. 1-0
Four minutes later, with Rayners Lane now in full flow, Tabor was on the mark again drilling the ball low past Bonnett from the edge of the box. 2-0.
Hounslow were now struggling to make headway in the game. Their initial snappy passing moves had been curtailed by a hard-working Lane team, who had close down all the space for United. One or two "lively" challenges wre going in too. Paolo Deritis picked up a sore looking knock to the leg quite early on, and handed out a little retribution to earn a yellow card.
Just before the break Lane effectively secured the points when they went three goals in front. it all came from a hurried clearance from Bonnett. The ball was immediately returned to Tabor before the visitor's defence had time to reset. Tabor's shot was blocked by the legs of Bonnett but the rebound fell to Kitenge, who made no mistake. 3-0
HT Rayners Lane 3 CB Hounslow United 0. Hounslow started really brightly but Lane soon got into the game and had the visitors on the back foot from the tenth minute onwards. It took Lane half an hour for them to finally break down a determined defence but once the first goal went in, it was only a matter of time before they scored again.
At four up you could forgive Rayners Lane for taking their foot off the gas a little. This they did, much to the ire of their bench, who were berating their players for not working hard enough. However, despite lane easing off, Hounslow were a beaten team at this point and never looked like they would get back into the game.
Tabor certainly wasn't finished though. On 75 minutes he decided to take the Hounslow defence on, bursting through from midfield before getting fouled some 25 yards out and just to the right of centre. After picking himself off, and seeing the referee issue a yellow for the foul, Tabor then proceeded to produce a stunning, curling effort into the top left-hand corner of Bonnett's net. An unstoppable effort. 5-0.
The game was done but there was still time for Tabor to almost sign off five goals for a second consecutive match. However, he was denied by a decent save from Bonnett.
FT Rayners Lane 5 CB Hounslow United 0. A comprehensive win for Rayners Lane which takes them into the playoff places. In fairness, it could easily have been more than five in the end. Once they went four in front, Lane were guilty of overplaying at times and could probably have cut through United with some more straight-forward moves. Matt Bonnett also made a couple of good saves to help keep the score down. Jake Tabor now has nine goals in his last two games for The Lane taking him to the top of their goalscoring leader board despite only having played five games for the club.
For their part, Hounslow showed in the opening few minutes that they can play some nice football. If they had managed to get a goal early on, who knows what it could have done for their confidence. There's certainly some talent in the squad.
Both sides are in league action again at the weekend. Rayners Lane make the journey to Hayes to take on 15th placed Brook House. When the sides met at The Lane goals from Clifford, Griggs and Blair saw Lane win 3-2 despite having Alex Ward dismissed for two yellows. Ben Bell and Jake Sobalak replied for Brook House. Hounslow are back at Green Lane for their encounter with Molesey, currently in 14th. Their reverse fixture also finished 3-2 to the home side with Alabi, O'Connor and McDonnell scoring for The Moles. Thompson and Vasibese replied for The Dragons.
Rayners Lane: Patmore, Ward, Griggs, Vangu, Deritis(c), Clifford, Kitenge, Blagden, Lawford, Peerless, Tabor. Subs: Obasa, Togba, Bamgboye, Hyseni, Allen
CB Hounslow United: Bonnett, Silah, Thompson, Hart, Udeze,(c), Vidal, Windsor, Torbett, Dewhurst, Dunstall, Mboma. Subs: Smith, Light, Bennett, Williams, Sawyer
Ground Number: 345