THE new football season may only be a matter of a few days old but already optimism is growing at the Westfield Lane home of Badshot Lea.
Gavin Smith’s boys charged to the top of the Premier Division of the Combined Counties League with a 5-0 thrashing of newcomers Frimley Green on Tuesday night – having shocked last season’s runners-up Sutton Common Rovers 4-1 on their own patch on Saturday.
And Smith, who is entering his first full season at Badshot Lea having taken over the reins with Dave Ford midway through last season, is hoping that this is just the start.
“We haven’t played as well as we did in pre-season yet so hopefully there’s more to come,” he said.
“We were really organised on Saturday and for our work rate and effort we deserved the win.
“Frimley had a good spell in the game last night but didn’t score and when we scored it hit them quite hard and they couldn’t respond. They caused us quite a lot of problems to start with.
“They were up for it and I knew it would be tough. It’s always going to be difficult coming up against sides like that but in the end we were more clinical and that’s all it came down to. Once we were in front the lads started to relax a little bit and enjoy it.”
A Westfield Lane crowd pushing up toward 200 witnessed a pulsating clash with frantic goalmouth action at both ends, with newly-promoted Frimley giving as good as they got before running out of steam.
And physical Frimley, who were denied on several occasions by excellent Lea shotstopper Kallum Lunn as well as having an effort ruled out for offside, were punished in some style as Nick Medcraft helped himself to a stylish hat-trick while experienced newcomer Nic Ciardini and speedy winger Danilo Cadete also hit the target.
“Frimley had a real go and were unlucky not to get a couple of goals themselves,” said Smith.
“If Kallum (Lunn) had not been in such good form they may have gone in a couple of goals up. He made two or three one-on-one saves and if you’ve got a keeper like that then you’ve always got a chance.”
Former Farnham Town wide man Medcraft began the rout on 19 minutes as he cut in from the right and smashed a low strike beyond the despairing dive of Frimley keeper Ricky Borrat.
But a fine smothering block from Lunn four minutes into the second half to deny busy Frimley striker Nick Thumwood proved crucial as Lea doubled their lead on 55 minutes, as Medcraft fired low right-footed into the bottom left corner after fine work from Cadete.
Lunn was called into action twice more in five minutes to maintain Lea’s two-goal cushion – first a point-blank save from Thumwood before Zac Horkan saw his goal-bounder downward header flipped wide of his post by the quick-thinking Lunn.
And those saves proved vital as Lea added a third goal on 63 minutes to kill off the game when big forward Ciardini used strength and positioning to spin and plant an unstoppable shot beyond Borrat.
But Lea weren’t done there and took full advantage of a Frimley side who threw everything but the kitchen sink at Lea in the first half but who withdrew into themselves as each goal smacked the net.
Cadete deservedly made it four after substitute Shaq Williams’ blocked effort fell invitingly and Medcraft rounded off the scoring, and completed his personal hat-trick, from the penalty spot in the last minute after Williams had been impeded in the box.
“One thing we struggled with last season was goals, but we’ve now had five different goalscorers in two games.
“Nick Medcraft scored goals for Farnham last season and he’s so quick, especially when he comes in off the left, and he had two great finishes last night, very composed. He’ll be a big plus for us.”
On Saturday, Lea will turn their attention from league action to the magic of the FA Cup and a ‘home’ tie against Ascot United, which should have been played in Berkshire but has been switched to Westfield Lane.
“I never made it to the first round, came close a couple of times, but it’s a big buzz when you are in the FA Cup,” said Smith. “Obviously we have to start right at the bottom but you can have a good run in it. If we could get through a couple of rounds there would be financial benefits for the club that can set you up for four or five months.
“We had a good crowd for last night’s game, which is really good for the club, and hopefully people will start coming down and taking an interest, especially if the games are exciting.
“We were pleased with what we put together last year and we’ve been really pleased with the lads that have come in. Their attitudes have been brilliant. We’ve told them what we are expecting and they have all bought into it. You need a good squad to win leagues.”