06:51PM, Saturday 03 August 2019
Slough Town 0, Dorking Wanderers 1
A controversial injury-time strike from Dorking's Matt Briggs condemned Slough Town to an opening day defeat at Arbour Park this afternoon.
The Rebels looked a disjointed outfit for much of the afternoon, and joint manager Jon Underwood admitted afterwards they'd been far from their best.
But, having improved markedly after the interval and carved out their fair share of goal scoring chances, they succumbed in the final seconds of five added minutes when Briggs beat the Rebels' offside trap, ignored the raised flag from the linesman, and stroked the ball beyond Jack Turner.
Slough's players were incensed by the decision of referee Jason Richardson to allow play to continue - and a number of their back line did stop playing when they noticed the flag go up. But Briggs had run onto the ball from an onside position, and Underwood accepted that 'technically' the referee had been right to wave play on.
Dorking's goal followed the dismissal of Slough's captain Sam Togwell for a second bookable offence in the 85th minute.
The Rebels were without several key players for their opener. But with ex-Maidenhead United players Max Worsfold and Ryan Bird both making their competitive debuts from the start, Slough began brightly with Matt Lench - arguably their brightest player on the day - stroking an early effort narrowly wide.
Dorking, who won their league at a canter last season to gain promotion, grew into the contest as the half wore on, and would have held the lead at half-time but for a couple of smashing saves from Turner. He stuck out his right boot to keep out Briggs' well struck shot in the ninth minute before denying James McShane from even closer range - again with his feet - during a particularly ragged spell for the Rebels midway through the half.
McShane then missed a glorious chance to open his account for the season, side-footing wide from Briggs' cut back with only Turner to beat.
The Rebels best chance of the half arrived five minutes before the break when Bird cleverly lifted the ball over the keeper Slavomir Hur before heading goalwards, but a Dorking defender managed to get back and scramble the ball off the line.
Underwood and joint manager Neil Baker cut frustrated figures at the interval, but they opted against any half-time substitutions. Whatever was said at the interval clearly worked as Slough looked a far more cohesive unit. Warren Harris sprinted clear but took too many touches before being crowded out, while Bird was inches away from touching home Worsfold's left-wing cross. There were big appeals for a penalty when Lench took aim from distance, the ball appearing to strike the defender's hands before deflecting away to safety, but the referee was unmoved.
Francis Amartey's introduction for Ben Harris galvanised the hosts on the hour mark. Sam Togwell headed wide with a free header from a Guy Hollis cross in the 61st minute before Bird was teed up by Amartey but saw his shot blocked. Amartey's pace scared the life out of the Wanderers' defence, and Hur was forced into a fine save after the young attacker outstripped the visitors' defence.
But, with the encounter drifting to what would have been a fair result for both sides, Togwell was given his marching orders after taking down Giuseppe Sole as he looked to race clear on goal. He began walking off before the card was shown and the sending off gave Dorking the impetus to take the game to the Rebels once more. Isaac Philpot blazed over, Briggs sent another effort a whisker wide and the Rebels' post was rattled by Jason Prior. It looked like the hosts would survive the late counter offensive, that is until Briggs beat Turner to send the Dorking fans delirious.
Highlights uploaded to Youtube by Slough Town FC
Reflecting on a disappointing opening day result, Underwood said: "We were nowhere near our best to be fair. Quite often in the first game you don't reach the heights you do later in the season. I thought in spells we played well but in other spells we were disappointing.
"We felt like 0-0 felt like a fair result. It was quite open, there was always a chance someone was going to nick it. Obviously when we went down to 10 men we would have been really happy with a point. But, five seconds from the end, they get the winner. You feel sick and it's not how you want to start the season.
On the game's key moment - Briggs' late winner - Underwood added: "Technically the referee got it right. The lad who scored wasn't offside. Our complaint is that the linesman's flag has gone straight up and our players stopped on that. Maybe they shouldn't have done but it stopped our players recovering and it allowed him the space to get away and score. Technically the right decision from the ref, but the linesman's flag shooting up cost us the chance to stop it."
Joint manager @JonUnders’ thoughts on the game’s key moment, Matt Briggs injury-time winner which came after the linesman had initially raised his flag for offside. @sloughtownfc @ExpressSeries pic.twitter.com/obvPojnqpE— Daniel Darlington (@Darlington10) August 3, 2019
Slough Town: Turner, S Togwell, Hollis, L Togwell, Worsfold (Davies 68'), Lench, Harris (Amartey 58'), W Harris (Williams 77), Bird, Dunn, Fraser.
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