Chequers finally recorded their first league victory of the 2014/15 season at the sixth attempt, after the Purples came out on top in an end-to-end encounter with Houghton United Reserves on a soggy pitch at Tithe Farm Road.
Tom Trigg continued in goal behind a back four of Rob Mardell, Barry Wilson, Tom Tracy and the returning Jon Onyon who has recovered from his broken nose. The midfield comprised of Wayne Mardel, Alex Dell, Tom Smith and Tim Warne, with Michael Ryan joining top-scorer Dean Hinton up front.
The new strike partnership reaped instant reward for Chequers as they took the lead inside 10 minutes. Ryan's surging run was ended with a heavy tackle, but as his teammates shouted for a free kick the referee correctly played the advantage and Hinton dispatched his 5th goal of the season to make the score 0-1. Chequers have not taken the lead in many matches this season, and were obviously keen to retain their advantage as some excellent hard-but-fair tackles from Smith, Dell and Onyon in particular left the home side short of ideas. United did force Trigg into a save as a loose ball broke to a striker in the box, but his close range effort was saved by the in-form 'keeper's legs. Ryan almost doubled Chequers' advantage as his powerful shot flew narrowly over the crossbar, but the game was about to change after a nasty exchange on the halfway line. Mardell went in for a 50/50 tackle with a United player, and as they picked themselves up from the turf last season's Player of the Year appeared to be slapped across the face by his opponent. After some handbags and furious gesturing the referee took no further action, which left Chequers bewildered. The home side almost capitalised immediately as a free header narrowly missed the target, but Chequers' reprieve was to be short-lived. A foul 30 yards out saw a routine cross evade the entire defensive line, leaving three unmarked United players on hand to touch the ball past the stranded Trigg for 1-1. The final 10 minutes of the first half saw some nasty tackles go unpunished, leaving a bitter taste in Chequers' mouths as they had been by far the better team but had lost their advantage.
A rousing half time rallying cry from head coach Enzo Sgambati helped refocus his players for the second half, and the excellent Trigg was again on hand to save a one-on-one early in the second period. United almost took the lead in stupendous fashion however, as a striker pulled the ball down 25 yards out and smacked a half-volley past the motionless Trigg and off the face of the crossbar. Chequers countered, and Mardel's precise cross found Warne inside the six yard box, but his point blank header was expertly saved by the United 'keeper. From the resulting corner, Mardel's delivery sparked a goalmouth scramble which saw Ryan nod the ball into the far corner via the outstretched hand of the goalkeeper to put Chequers back in front at 1-2 on the hour mark. The lead was almost doubled shortly after, but Hinton was adjudged to be offside as he finished from inside the penalty area. The home side tried to apply pressure and force an equaliser, but they struggled to create chances against a resolute back line marshalled well by Tracy. The closest they came to levelling was a backpass from Wilson that saw Trigg miskick, but Chequers' luck was in and the ball trickled wide for a corner. Roullier then replaced the hard-working Hinton up front to provide some fresh legs for the closing minutes. The Purples defended stoutly, throwing bodies in the way of shots and winning every battle, and the final whistle brought the three points they so richly deserved.
The result sees Chequers remain second from bottom, but level on points with two teams above them. More importantly, they finally achieved the win they've been seeking all season which should give them a confidence boost for their upcoming games.
Man of the Match went to Tom Smith who has been in fine form in midfield in recent weeks.