Slough were always going to find a match against the tough, physical side of Uxbridge a challenge, but as the number of injuries and suspensions rose in the run up to the big match, a win was looking less likely.
The home side started brightly enough, with Slough’s pacy frontline forcing their way into winning a corner within the first two minutes. Both Jordan and Romeo had chances to convert early on, but failed to take advantage of Uxbridge’s sleepy defence.
The sustained pressure from the Rebels soon bore fruit and captain James Pritchard danced his way around two defenders before sending McCarthy the wrong way and striking home.
Less than a minute later, Bubb struck a forceful shot just over the bar. Against the run of play however, Uxbridge broke forward with astonishing speed and the early strike from Slough was equalised in the 19th minute after some poor defending from Slough’s makeshift back four. Dave Lawrence found space in the box to beat Carl Dennison with ease.
The goal reignited the Uxbridge midfield, which dominated much of the second half, stringing together multiple successful passes and shredding the Rebels’ defence, culminating in a well taken, but poorly defended cross, allowing Lee Tunnell to head clear of Dennison’s flailing arms.
A third goal was disallowed minutes later for being offside, but the truth is Slough could have been 1-4 down by the end of the first half. Miscommunications at the back with new keeper Dennison made Slough look amateurish and Dennison’s nerves began to show – several times he ran flying out of his area to clear balls which should have been dealt with by Harper or Fenton and his orders when coming to claim aerial balls were frequently ignored.
Frustrations began to show on the half hour as Laurence Brown picked up a booking but Pritchard appeared to have reorganised the midfield so that there was finally a distinguishable shape to it. A few bright spells emerged; Platt shot on target following a sweet ball in from Pritchard and Yashwa Romeo ran the length and breadth of the pitch for the final 15 minutes of the half in an attempt to generate a goal scoring opportunity. Sadly, Uxbridge’s defence held strong and, unlike the home side, proved efficient at clearing their lines strongly.
When Slough came back out the fans hoped the management would have spent the break telling the boys to shape up and stand up against the physical opponents before them. They hoped the management would have told them to keep their heads, and that actually the fact they were only one goal down was a blessing. What the fans got was a more organised Slough side, a much improved performance from Dennison and a calmer midfield, particularly after a 60 minute substitution to bring on Glen Harris, but ultimately the half proved to be frustrating and fruitless.
Harper fell into yet another altercation with a member of the opposition, this time the controversial Nicholls, and, after an alleged elbow to the face, Harper was sent off. After being reduced to 10 men, the Rebels found themselves in an ironically stronger position – the home side began to string together passes, used the width of the pitch to their advantage and even managed to get a few shots on target. Unfortunately, when Slough finally started to show form, Uxbridge stepped up the physical side of their game, and the home side found themselves constantly hacked down with clumsy challenges, which disrupted play. The referee appeared oblivious to the bully tactics and refused to award any cards Uxbridge’s way.
Attrell made an appearance for Durrant, allowing Tom to make pacy runs down the left wing, but in truth the substitution was probably a case of too little, too late.
1. Paul McCarthy, 2. Gavin Brown, 3. Dave Thomas, 4. Ryan Wharton, 5. Mark Dennison, 6. Wayne Carter, 7. Dave Lawrence, 8. Kevin Warner, 9. Lee Tunnell, 10. Mark Nicholls (c), 11. Neil Davies Subs: 12. Johnnie Dyer, 14. Ian Dickens, 15. Ryan O'Toole, 16. Bill Reynolds, 17. Dave Warner