2nd XI - LOST v Old Blues 1st XI (Away). Old Boys’ Cup
For the third week in a row the lads had to travel to Richmond to face Old Blues first Xl. Unfortunately there were only eleven players available for selection; the team were in for a tough day without any substitutes.
The starting line up saw Mario in goal with the usual back four of Chris, Kyri, Paul and Sean. Sam, Lenos, George Beef and Rob made up the midfield with Pani and George Winter up front.
The match started evenly both teams battling over possession during the opening exchanges, Old Blues looked to keep the ball whilst we sat deeper looking to soak up the pressure. They were drilled to keep the ball so we allowed them to pass in their own half whilst waiting for the right moment to catch them on the counter attack.
The counter attacks almost prevailed as Stationers’ defence held firm, limiting Old Blues to crossing the ball into the box from wide areas. Pani beat the offside trap after a sublime through ball from Lenos, bursting into the box before rounding the keeper but saw his effort cleared off the line by a covering defender.
The first big chance fell to Stationers followed by the second. A corner from Stationers landed to the feet of George Beef, he unleashed a stinging shot from 12 yards but the keeper instinctively got a strong hand down into the bottom right corner to deny Stationers the lead.
At half time the orders were to stay tight and look for the quick counter, although without substitutes the players knew the size of the task in hand. Unfortunately 5 minutes into the second half a rash challenge on Lenos reduced Stationers down to ten men through injury. George Winter moved into the middle to fill the void, Old Blues seized the opportunity and began dominating the midfield with the man advantage.
The 60th minute saw Lenos return to the field and the numbers were level again. Although tiring Stationers still created the two more chances to take the lead. The first was a handball in the box by the Old Blues defender. The ref decided it was a free kick in the defenders favour before the handball occurred. The second was a curling free kick from Sam that forced the Keeper to produce another quality save. Either moment could have really given us the momentum to earn a passage to the next round.
Finally the Stationers succumbed to fatigue and Old Blues broke the deadlock around the 80th minute, a counter attack saw the midfielder progress down our left side to the by-line, before cutting the ball back to the approaching forward to score, 1-0. Then in the last few minutes Old blues scored again, a suspected handball started the build up to another counter attack they eventually scored from, 2-0.
With a full squad we could’ve beaten Old Blues (bearing in mind it was their club’s 1st Xl against our 2nd Xl) on another day. We could have prevented the first but the second was down to fatigue. A brave performance from the lads who turned up, each player put in everything they had which is all that is asked of them. Next week we turn our attention back to the league and hopefully add another three points to the board.
4th XI LOST 5-2 v Norsemen 6th XI (Away)
A tough encounter against a savvy Norsemen side who played the conditions a little better than us and had a disciplined back line playing an effective offside trap, particularly in the first half. We began brightly, playing a neat passing game which was no mean feat given the length of the grass! Battling George Attrill was hoovering up the loose balls in midfield and our young flyers Harry and Rob were fed numerous times by the guile of Justin Zacharia but we could not find space behind the oppo defence. Too often we were forced to come inside into a wall of bodies and this meant it was hard to get a shooting opportunity. It was in fairness good defence by Norsemen who were content to sit back and hit us on the break. They did this to good effect in the first half, lobbing our keeper from 35 yards to take a 1-0 lead and then after winning a dubious throw in flicking a header inside the far post to go two goals ahead. We are still getting used to each others game so the lack of marking for the second goal can be expected but is something to learn from for the next game.
Heads did not drop as we had been playing the better football, and within a minute we witnessed a candidate for goal of the season. The determined Brian took a pass out wide on the left, powered his way infield past a couple of challenges and struck a piledriver from 30 yards into the far top corner of the Noresmen net. Total quality. Tails up we pushed forward with Justin Zacharia prompting all around him with his clever passing and George Attrill mopping up loose balls in the midfield to keep the pressure on. It felt like it was just a matter of time before we drew level, but as it turned out a long ball forward by the oppo found their powerful right winger on the touchline. He got beyond our defence through sheer strength and pace and thrashed a strong shot inside the near post to give Norsemen their 2 goal cushion again.
We fought back and George Attrill struck a free kick of high quality over the wall and into the net beyond a despairing goalkeeper to give us some hope for the second half. HT 3-2 down.
The second half was difficult, playing up the slight slope, into the strong wind. This meant Norsemen were able to again sit back and play long forward balls out of defence to their attackers, who all had pace. Strangely this tactic, whilst troublesome, did not result in any goals for the oppo, but unfortunately your match reporter (ie stand in goalie) flapped at a throw in to allow a soft goal for a 4-2 lead, and later in the half was lobbed from 30 yards after staying too far from the goal line. We walked off with heavy hearts as on another day (and with a proper keeper) I think a different result was possible. The good news is that our football was an improvement on early in the season and you can sense we are building something positive. It is particularly heartening to have some of the stalwarts of the past back in the team and the understanding that is key to a successful squad will build as time goes by.
5thXI WON 5-2 vs CEV 7th
Scorers: Phillips (3), Blackmore, Kyriakides
Interesting game this one, against a well organised though miserably grumpy vamps xi. We started brightly with a 4-5-1 line up, using Billy Phillips as point man up front ably supported with pace down both wings provided by Blackmore and Kyriakides. Our midfield had a decent balance about it with Mike D holding, Ross Wright buzzing, and Ron Hanson playing the creative passes. Combined with our solid back four of Murphy, Avis (welcome back), Amato, and Zaf, with Karl in goal, this was a solid line up. Early on we played much of our football on the deck, and were able to put the oppo under a reasonable amount of pressure. It took a bit of time before Phillips scored our opener with an effort from outside the box that their 'keeper probably should have stopped but couldn't hold on to. A while later Blackmore got our second (with a thumping finish from a Kyriakides lay-off), and we looked good value for a two goal lead. However, just before half time we made a couple of mistakes in our defending, and conceded two cheap goals to make it level. Essentially, we'd got suckered into playing a physical game with the oppo towards the end of the first half, which made it a 50/50 game much more suited to their style of play, and gave them the initiative and momentum. We tried to correct this in the half time team talk, and I think all agreed that we needed to get the ball down again. We also brought Darragh Deering on, who had spent the first half pacing up and down the touch line taking note of all the niggly fouls and moaning going on from the oppo, and seemed a little wound up by it... Second half we got back into our stride, but early on conceded a penalty, which at the time I thought was a harsh decision against Ross Blackmore, but probably was fair. This was a key moment, because had the oppo converted we might have found it tougher to get back into the game. Fortunately for us they drove the spot kick wide. Karl also had made a number of decent saves towards the end of the half and the start of the second, so we should be grateful he was on good form. From the penalty miss the second half developed well for us, with Darragh winning practically everything that came anywhere near him, and busting a gut to get across to far flung corners of the pitch to win the ball there too. This allowed us to set attacking moves in motion with renewed frequency, and the pressure told in the end. Our third goal was from a Billy Phillips low hard free kick from about 20 yards out giving their 'keeper no chance (a free kick won off about the clearest handball you could ever see in a game of football, though the offending player argued endlessly with the referee about the award). Our 4th goal was a Kyriakides finish, played in to a definite onside position to slot home just inside the area (again the oppo argued endlessly about it being offside, but it certainly wasn't). The 5th goal - and his hatrick - was all about Billy's pace pursuing a through ball that bounced unkindly in front and over their 'keeper, leaving Billy with a tap in on the line. There was a late rally from the oppo, who actually started playing the ball about a bit, and had a fair bit of quality hidden away behind all the moaning. However, we managed to ride the late pressure out and seal the win. A good win against a tricky oppo who will be strong all season long, so we should be very pleased with it. Men of the match two weeks running: Ron Hanson (midfield creator), and Billy Phillips (consecutive hatrick).