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Smart saves late spot-kick as 10-man Thatcham hold leaders to goalless draw

Thatcham Town boss Yashwa Romeo couldn't help feeling his side were a little unfortunate not to take all three points following their goalless draw with Isthmian League South Central leaders Raynes Park Vale.

The Kingfishers played almost an hour with 10 men after centre-half Josh Blackwood was sent off for kicking out off the ball while goalkeeper Callum Smart saved a 90th minute penalty from Jordan Gallagher as Thatcham picked up a hard-earned point against the league leaders. The hosts had to ride their luck at times, particularly in the final 20 minutes, but were a persistent attacking threat and hit the post through full-back Kyle Daniel-Spray.

"It's a weird one, it was one of those games that had everything," Romeo said.

Thatcham Town boss Yashwa Romeo has been impressed with his side’s recent defensive improvements
Thatcham Town boss Yashwa Romeo has been impressed with his side’s recent defensive improvements

"They're clever at what they do. They've got a lot of experienced players and draw a lot of fouls, there have been a lot of red cards in games they've been involved in.

"When it was 11v11, we dominated. We had four good chances and they didn't land a glove on us, we were totally, totally in control.

"I think even their manager said it, if we'd kept 11 on the pitch we'd have won that game hands down.

"Even with 10 players, we still had good, good chances. I have to give huge credit to the boys."

Young goalkeeper Callum Smart, who signed last week on a dual-registration deal from Gosport Borough, kept a second clean sheet in succession following his 90th minute save from the spot. The Kingfishers have now kept three shutouts in their last five, having managed just two in 11 before that, although Romeo admits there is a risk he will be without Smart this weekend after Gosport's first choice goalkeeper was sent off on Saturday.

He said: "Callum has come in and done really well. He was magnificent on Saturday and the defenders in front of him were just as good.

"It could be a sticky period, we're still waiting to see what Gosport are going to do. We're keeping our fingers crossed."

Another player Romeo is set to be without is former Reading City skipper Josh Blackwood, who is in line for a four game suspension following his red card on Saturday.

"I can't have any complaints," Romeo said.

"It was silly. They're an experienced side who have mastered the dark arts. Josh has just kicked out and the referee's spotted it. You simply can't do that.

"We've got a bit of a dilemma now. We might think about promoting someone from the squad, or we might look at bringing someone in."

Thatcham have been on a run of much-improved form of late, winning three of their last four games. The Kingfishers went 10 unbeaten over the festive period last term, leaving them just outside the play-offs, and Romeo is confident his side will be looking up rather than over their shoulders once again come next spring.

He said: "The feeling right now is good, even if we'll be without Josh, Jordan Brown, who got injured, and maybe Callum for one game.

"At the minute there's a lot of belief and I think we've got some winnable games coming up, so I think we'll be in the top half."

Thatcham host Reading City in the third round of the Berks and Bucks Cup on Tuesday night, with Romeo set to make use of his squad and hand starts to four 17-year-olds and two 20-year-olds.

"It's going to be a young squad, but still full of quality," he said.

"Basim (Mirtahmasebi) was exceptional against Binfield, Noah is the youth team captain and we've got a couple of other really good players.

"Fingers crossed there's enough out there to get the job done."

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