MAC Ford’s wonder strike paved the way for a fourth consecutive league win for Badshot Lea on Saturday – and it also ended a Krooner Park hoodoo.
Ford hit a stunner from fully 25 yards which sailed into the top left corner to give Lea a 14th-minute lead that they would never relinquish against an ultimately well-beaten Hayes side.
And it was significant because it was the first goal from open play that boss Gavin Smith’s in-form charges have scored playing up the not-inconsiderable slope at Camberley Town’s Krooner Park ground all season.
“It was pleasing to play up the hill and get a lead because we always know playing downhill in the second half we will do much better,” said Smith, who has seen his side win seven out of ten matches since he and Dave Ford took over the Lea reins after Christmas.
“It was a great goal. We were at a great angle and we could see straight away that it was going in.”
Pacy winger Danilo Cadete converted substitute Brandon Lewington’s cutback from the byline with a smart finish into the far corner to seal the points and a fourth straight win which leaves Lea 11 points above the Premier Division relegation zone with nine games to go.
“If we had won 6-0 I don’t think they could have complained,” said Smith. “I thought we were by far the better team and looked like we were going to score everytime we went forward.”
For a long time on Saturday it looked as though Lea would end up with a 1-0 win for the second successive week, but it was an altogether better and more polished performance than against Hanworth Villa seven days earlier.
From the opening kick off, Lea took charge, playing with real zeal and purpose on a bobbly surface which didn’t always suit their intelligent passing game.
And they were a constant threat to a Hayes side who themselves have been in fine form in recent weeks, with Ford, target man Jack May, Cadete and Stacey Thripp a real handful for the Hayes back four while Max Herbert popped up all over the pitch as Lea took the game to their visitors.
“We just told the lads that we can’t give anything up, we’ve got to chase everything down, maybe play a little bit more direct if we have to, get the ball in behind them and try to get up the pitch and keep them up there. And to do that we had to work hard. Everyone played well but the difference for me was the two lads up front, they just chased everything down, and the midfield three,” said Smith.
At the other end, the back four was rock solid yet again and never gave Hayes a sniff all afternoon having shut out Hanworth the previous game.
“Last week it could easily have been a draw and 1-0 is tough anyway because it only takes one corner, one free kick and a team can be completely outplayed and then they can suddenly grab a lifeline. We defended well, the back four defended well, the two full backs were quality and Robo’s (Liam Roberts) had probably the best game he’s had for us, he was outstanding. They didn’t look like scoring.
“It was a good response from the Hanworth game. The next step is to do it week by week and keep getting better and better rather than having the inconsistencies because last week was nowhere near good enough. This was the level we can play at.”
Lea’s rise is quite remarkable given they were languishing in the bottom two and facing a relegation dogfight when Smith and Ford took over and, with games in hand on most of the sides below them, are edging ever closer to safety – and now beginning to cast a glance at the sides ahead of them in the table.
“You never know what’s going to happen in football,” said Smith. “Until it’s mathematically certain, we will just keep trying to take it one game at a time. But I am now looking at the teams above us and going ‘you know what, if we carry on performing like we know we can we could be up there’. I don’t feel like we have got to fear anyone.”
Smith’s ideology will be put to the test in the next 12 days as Lea face three of the top four sides in the Premier Division – away at third-placed Abbey Rangers on Saturday, away at leaders Sutton Common Rovers on March 23, and fourth-placed Guildford City at home on March 26.
But on current form you wouldn’t bet against Smith’s boys.
“I’m excited about playing these games,” he said.
“The table doesn’t lie but if we step up and give it our all every week I really believe we have got the quality to beat them. I want us to beat Abbey Rangers and I want us to beat Sutton Common Rovers.”
Badshot Lea: Clement, Pound, Roberts, Bonsu, Scott, Lloyd, Cadete, Herbert, May (Lewington 71), Ford (Cousins 85), Thripp (Francis 80). Subs (not used): Blake, Close.