Were Metropolitan Police denied a penalty during their 2-0 defeat against Swindon Supermarine on Saturday?
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Swindon Supermarine produced a smash and grab performance away at previously unbeaten Metropolitan Police on Saturday to steal their first win of the new season, writes Nick Taylor.
Having arrived at the historic Imber Court ground at 2.15pm after being stuck in traffic en route for 45 minutes, Marine started sluggishly and the home side’s front two of Jack Mazzone and Max Blackmore were causing the visitors concern with their positive runs forward.
Blackmore threatened Josh Hill’s goal early on with a curling shot which flew over the crossbar.
On five minutes, good work from Marine midfielder Luke Williams saw his floated cross to Brad Gray but his outstretched boot couldn’t quite connect to the inviting pass.
Blackmore again tried his luck from distance before Marine skipper Zak Westlake’s header on the back post was tipped over for a corner by home keeper Luke Williams from Gray’s free kick.
The alert Gray was again unfortunate not to find the back of the net on 18 minutes after racing onto Hill’s long clearance after hesitancy in the home back line, his attempted chip just clearing the home upright.
Mets ‘shoot on sight’ plan continued, Mazzone letting fly from 20 yards out straight into Hill’s welcoming arms.
Marine summer signing Connor McDonagh then started to come alive, shooting just wide from Brad Hooper’s set up on 30 minutes and 60 seconds later went even closer having driven through into the box left side only to direct his strike straight at keeper Williams.
On the stroke of half time, Mazzone managed to shrug marker Westlake off only to see his shot whistle wide of the Marine goal.
Discovering that their changing rooms were locked and with the clock ticking and no key appearing, Marine boss Lee Spalding decided to conduct his animated half-time team talk on the pitch before the two teams resumed, with no changes for either team.
The unorthodox interval chat clearly had an effect on the visitors as they began the second period with far more vigour and drive than they did in the first half.
On 48 minutes, Westlake’s header from a corner rebounded out to Gray, whose strike was eventually cleared by a relieved Police defence.
Marine grabbed a deserved lead on 52 minutes when McDonagh was on the end of Gray’s delightful cross to volley home after great interplay between Gray and Stuart Fleetwood down the right wing.
With increased self-confidence, Marine pressed on and should have doubled their advantage five minutes later when Hooper drove his effort wide after McDonagh had cued his team mate up nicely.
Spalding then shuffled his pack, Josh Parsons coming on for Luke Williams as Marine looked to seal the win.
Fleetwood’s hard graft up front nearly paid dividends when he was able to beat the offside trap but his chipped effort crept wide of the Met goal.
The dangerous McDonagh again worked his magic, resulting in a curled shot just sailing wide of the far post.
Appeals from the home side for a penalty as Blackmore went down in the box were then waved away by referee Connor Farrell, who was well positioned to see Dan Williamson’s challenge for the ball.
More pressure from the Police came, Marine left back Michael Hopkins was in the right place at the right time to head off the line from Mekhail McLaughlin’s directed header from a corner.
The travelling Marine supporters, who appeared to outnumber the home fans in the crowd of 100, then breathed a sigh of relief as Fleetwood chased down Williams’ poor clearance on 67 minutes before coolly rounding the keeper to slot home his first league goal for his new club to make it 2-0 to Marine.
McDonagh nearly made it three to the Swindon side on 70 minutes, turning his marker inside out before forcing Williams into a great save low down.
Spalding switched things again on 74 minutes, with Gray being replaced by Joe Selman and Sam Morris swopping with the departing Dave Bampton.
After another strike from distance by the home side, substitute John Gilbert unsuccessful in his attempt, McDonagh’s trickery again caused panic in the Police box and again frustratingly watched his effort go just wide.
Parsons then teed up a golden opportunity for Selman, who was unable to fully connect to the inviting cross inside the six-yard box.
Gilbert then forced his way through the Marine back line only to produce a weak strike which Hill gathered gleefully.
Fleetwood had a chance to add icing to the Marine cake in the 88th minute, a tired looking chipped shot dragging wide after a deliciously weighted pass by Hopkins.
Referee Farrell blew his whistle to signal the end of the game, Marine had deservedly gained their first league win and the thought of the long journey back through the heavy traffic and roadworks of Surrey now didn’t feels so bad after all.