THESE are troubling times for Badshot Lea.
After a bright opening, the Baggies were deservedly beaten 4-1 at Knaphill last Saturday to slump to a third consecutive defeat and a fourth in the last five games.
And the goals which were flowing freely early in the season have now all but dried up to a trickle.
But there could well be a bright light at the end of the tunnel for co-managers Gavin Smith and Dave Ford and their hard-working and respected coaches Paul Harkness and Dan Bailey.
After a difficult six weeks which has been riddled with injuries to key players, defections and loss of form during a tough period of fixtures which has seen Lea drop to 13th place in the Premier Division after flirting with the top five for so long, that light may well come in the form of a crop of young players who are starting to emerge at Westfield Lane.
Exciting forward Lionel Masudi, who has scored three goals in his last two games following a double in last Wednesday’s 4-3 Surrey Senior Cup win at Colliers Wood and his consolation penalty on Saturday, and precocious midfielder Joe Pilling join the likes of talented defensive duo George Hedley and Adam New in what is slowly becoming a newlook Lea line up to the side which began the season with so much promise in August.
“It pleases me watching the younger players, they just need an opportunity and that’s what we want to do, give young players an opportunity, but we need a mix, a few older heads around them,” said Smith, who has also been boosted by the return of midfielder Stacey Thripp, who has had two spells on the sidelines through injury after an excellent pre-season.
“Stacey came on in the second half and did really well with his passing and how simply he plays the game. He kept the ball and made a difference,” continued Smith.
“We didn’t feel like we needed to bring anyone in and then all of a sudden it’s happened. I feel we have always made the right decisions. I would never look back now and be disappointed with what we’ve done. We’ve brought in the right sort of players.
“George Hedley is going to be a good player, Adam New is a good player, and Joe Pilling is going to be a very, very good player, he just needs to play consistently. He’s intelligent and he will get better and better, he just needs to play.
“The more the young players play, the more comfortable they get and the results will start coming. It’s a process and that’s what our aim has to be, we have a good coach and we want people to learn.”
After a comfortable opening 20 minutes during which Lea were on top despite not crafting any clear openings, Knaphill opened the scoring courtesy of a 25-yard cracker from star man Perry Coles before a poor pass from Hedley let in Carlo Santoro to make it 2-0 just two minutes after half-time.
The introduction of Thripp, Ashley Lloyd and Nick Medcraft gave Lea new impetus which resulted in Masudi scoring from the spot to make it 2-1 after he was brought down, despite the referee initially awarding a free kick on the edge of the box, before a 70th-minute penalty from Jack French and a late Calvin Camara strike sealed Lea’s fate.