Oxhey Jets Vets v Reserves, 12 Dec 2020 (League)
Buntingford Drew 2-2
The Ressies set their compass for south Watford for their 6th away fixture in a row.
Buoyed by the return to fitness of Liam Faik and Reece Knapp along with the additions of Chris Winder and Dan Share from the first team there was plenty of reasons to believe they could get a result against a team 2nd in the league who had scored 21 goals in their last 5 home games.
A blow for Town in the warm up though as Liam Faik rolled the suspect ankle he had been nursing which ruled him out probably until the New Year.
Danny Holding replaced him up front after a long absence and there was a starting place for George Bower in goal, becoming the 4th gloveman for the ressies this season.
On an absolute turnip patch of a pitch Town got off to a steady start with Bower making one save from a tight angle early on.
A youthful looking Oxhey striker caused Town a few problems as he twisted and turned and ran at them but with Prior, Winder and Arnold at the back, Town were oozing a nice mix of quality and experience.
The treatment table almost collapsed after 7 mins when Reece Knapp had to be removed when he twisted his ankle on the uneven ground.
Dan Share replaced him making his reserve bow a little earlier than anticipated.
After 15 mins Oxhey were awarded a soft penalty as Bower was adjudged to have fouled a man in the box; in reality all he had done was make a smart save and then have a player run into him.
As it happened justice was done as he plunged to his left and pushed the spot kick away for a corner - what a way to start your debut!
Town had some decent possession without causing the home side much concern but all the same making them work hard to keep us out.
Dan Share first had a shot from distance that went comfortably wide and shortly after Ross Murphy had a similar effort which didn’t test the ‘keeper.
Oxhey looked sharp on the break, with their big man/small man combo up top they looked dangerous in the air and on the ground and Bower bravely came out to field a through ball at the feet of an attacker.
Town were putting together some excellent flowing passing now but without being able to find the final pass, with Oxhey sitting deep, the space in behind was limited.
On 30 minutes Knapp felt good enough to return to the action and after an excellent flowing move involving Prior, Sloan, Kaps and Share resulted in the latter being fouled about 30 yards out.
This gave Sid Arnold the opportunity to deliver a superb set piece onto the head of towering veteran Chris Winder who planted the ball into the roof of the net; 1-0 Town!
Town were on the front foot and the midfield 3 of Patel, Murphy and Knapp combined a lovely blend of pace, passing and composure which the home to struggled to keep up with.
For the remainder of the half Town dominated the ball, playing down both flanks but finding the home defence extremely experienced and well organised.
1-0 up at the interval and Town had played arguably their best half of football all season - the challenge was to maintain that for another 45 mins.
Whatever Oxhey Vets had in their half time Ovaltine worked a treat as they came out all guns blazing.
They played at a much higher tempo and closed down Town constantly.
The number 10 had already beaten 2 players and blazed over from a tight angle before the ball dropped on top of the Town cross bar and bounced to safety; within minutes the ball had also hit the underside of the Town bar and been cleared away.
The equaliser wasn’t long coming and after a sustained spell of pressure Oxhey forced the ball in to make it 1-1.
Before Town had a chance to reorganise a deep cross was met by a gigantic Oxhey player who steered a great header across goal and into the top corner, 2-1 Oxhey.
Town looked to change formation not to try and ease the pressure on them, going to 3-4-3 in the hope that they could find a way back into the game.
This seemed to work as they began to enjoy more possession again and with the introduction of James Cotton, Josh Bradfield, Danny Holding and Toby Grieves, the fresh legs seemed to give them a lift.
Some flowing moves down the right hand side for Town resulted in several corners and on one occasion Share flashed a ball across the face of goal but Town failed to capitalise.
With 10 mins left Toby Grieves tenacity in midfield drew a foul and once again Sid delivered the perfect in swinging set piece which was glanced goal ward by Grieves only to see the goalkeeper let the ball slip through his hands low down and into the net - 2-2!
The final stages saw plenty of niggle in a game of high drama, a penalty appeal for the home side waved away, slips, trips and a last minute header for Town that Danny found just behind him and failed to steer on target.
A third 2-2 draw in a row for Town and a hugely improved performance from last week.
A point away against the team in second was creditable and next week Town will feel that on their bigger, smoother surface at home, they might be able to claim all 3 points.