Banstead play at Merland Rise, to the South-West of Banstead, not a million miles from Epsom Racecourse. There is a reasonable sized car park both outside the clubhouse, which is sepaarte from the ground, and behind the stand on the Merland Rise end of the stadium. There are actually two old turnstiles that led from the clubhouse car park into the stadium itself, neither of which are in use these days. Instead entance payment is taken by a cheerful young lady who was remarkably amiable given the extremely chilly conditions. Note that there are no facilities in the ground itself. You will need to go back out to the clubhouse for tea, snacks and toilets. This makes the young lady's job even harder because she then has to try to remember who has paid and who hasn't. Rather her than me, I must admit.
The ground itself has stands on three sides, a covered terrace behind the Merland Rise goal, a further covered terrace on the Leisure Centre side and, opposite that, the main stand which offers seating.
Coming into the game Chertsey were sitting in second spot, five points adrift of Sutton Common Rovers but with a massive 7 (seven) games in hand. Banstead were in fifth place, looking to keep the pressure on Southall just above them. Athletic had won their previous two league games (2-1 at home to Camberley and a very good 2-1 win at Guildford), recovering well after suffering a little sticky patch of three consecutive defeats. Chertsey, fresh from booking their Wembley FA Vase appearance, were coming into the game on the back of a hard-fought 3-3 draw at Colliers Wood on Tuesday night and, with just the single league defeat all season, were still very much title favourites.
The reverse fixture, earlier in the season, had been very much a game of two halves with Banstead racing into a 3 goal lead by half-time only for Chertsey to hit back with three of their own in the second-half whcih saw the teams finish with a point each.
Chertsey started the first-half kicking down the slight slope on what was becoming a bitterly cold night, in front of what looked to be a very decent crowd for a cold Thursday evening. The opening encounters were fairly even, with both sides settling into their play well. However, it was the away side who probably had the slight edge early on, making some decent inroads on both flanks and looking lively up front.
It was one such break down the flank, this time the left, that led to the opening goal. The ball was driven down the Chertsey left. The Curfews had a player in an offside position but he deliberately stepped back towards his own half, signalling that he had no intention to play the ball. This allowed a clearly onside player to burst through, taking advantage of a momentary pause in the Athletic defence. The Chertsey player drove to the byline before cutting the ball back intelligently for Lewis Driver to place a low, crisp shot past Jack Minchin to make it 0-1.
On 23 minutes, Chertsey conceded what looked like a needless corner and were made to pay for it when Joe Cheeseman prodded the ball home at the near post. 1-1
Just when it looked as if the sides would go into the break all square, Chertsey got their noses in front again. This time, tricky winger Lubo Guentchev made some space on the edge of the Athletic area before hitting a low drive past Minchin's right-hand into the corner of the net. 1-2.
HT Banstead Athletic 1 Chertsey Town 2. An open, even and entertaining first-half. Athletic will feel unlucky to be behind at the break.
Sixty-eight minutes in and it looked as if the missed chance may be the least of their worries. Just a minute after the referee had spoken to several players after a clash in midfield, the official pulled out a straight red for Chertsey midfielder Kevin McLaren , who apparently kicked out at an opponent. From my position I did not get a clear view of the incident, it appeared to just be a coming together of several players chasing a loose ball. However, the referee had no hesitation and there was little complaint from either the alleged offender or other team-mates, so I can only assume there was an offence committed.
Down to 10 men, Chertsey needed to really dig in for the remaining 20 minutes or so. This they did and, to be honest, probably created as many, if not more, chances after going a player down. Banstead, despite their best efforts, could not make the man advantage pay off. They came close once of twice but it was not to be their evening.
FT Banstead Athletic 1 Chertsey Town 2. A very hard-fought but crucial three points for The Curfews. They were made to fight all the way by a determined Banstead side who, on the night, may well feel that they were deserving of a point from the game at least.
Banstead Athletc: Minchin, Newman, Morrison, Blendell, Costello, Davis, Teutan, Dembele, Cheeseman, Phillip-Ogbuogu, Geraghty. Subs
Ground Number: 191