5th XI, LOST 4-2 (AET) v Old Meadonians (AFA Sr Novets Cup)
This was a cracking game, played in a great spirit, between two sides that were very evenly matched for the first 90 minutes. The oppo were a good side, with players on average in their late twenties and in decent physical shape, playing good pass and move football. However, we produced a great team performance to not only compete with the oppo, but in the first half have most of the better chances. This despite having to start with Darrgh Deering deuptising in goal for a late running Ron Hanson, himself a stand in keeper with none of our regular stoppers available. Before Ron arrived Darragh did have time to show that he sort of knew what he was doing in goal, including saving a penalty, so the 'play in every position on the park' challenge is on for Darragh this season, whilst Ron is seeking to lap him... We were actually 2-0 to the good at half time. Both goals by Billy Phillips. The first one a good shot from close range following some really excellent approach play by Alex Kyriakides, who linked up brilliantly with Billy throughout the game. The second goal I honestly think might be the best individual goal I've seen in OSFC football, with Billy at full pelt somehow managing to generate a forceful yet cushioned shot from 25-30 yards out having spotted the keeper off his line. The ball described a perfect parabolic arc through the blue winter sky over their keeper's head and into the middle of the net. It was so good there was a moment of silence whilst the goal was fully appreciated by all on the pitch. It was scored at an ideal time for us too, just in the run up to half time. However, second half the oppo game back at us, and we gradually began to lose ground, quite literally the whole team moving from advanced positions, to the centre areas, and finally defending on the 18 yard line and in the box. I think we spotted too late what the problem was. We'd taken Dave Campbell off at half time (at his own request - he was going to be sick) and with it had lost an element of passing to our game. Dave had been playing the ball simply, and keeping moves going, and without him doing that the oppo were required to do less defending, with Alex and Billy seeing very little except the odd scrap of possession. As we dropped further back then obviously we invited play to develop in front of our defensive lines, and whilst it's possible to cope with that for short periods, for a while 45 minutes is a lot to ask. During this period we conceded two goals, and looked vulnerable to losing. We did rectify the formation with ten minutes left in the half, with Dan Avis coming out of defence into midfield. Dan's approach of playing and tackling quite high up in the midfield areas was high risk at first, but actually did push the oppo back, and allow our players behind to regroup and take up better positions in support of him and the two strikers. So with ten minutes to play we had got back into the game, and might even have scored. But we didn't quite manage it. So the game went to extra time. Extra time I'm afraid the physical difference between the teams told. Their younger and fitter players new they had the edge, as our older players succumbed to various aches and pains. Still, it could have been better for us initially, with one goal mouth scramble in the oppo box that we had three or four goes at, but just couldn't convert. Apart from that, most of the traffic was in the opposite direction. Although, I've got to say just recalling the two goals we did concede we surely could have done much better with them. After we were two down, to be honest we rode our luck at times trying to get one back, and I think we were a little bit lucky we didn't end up on the wrong end of a bigger score. However, sometimes fortune favours the brave, and we nearly got something in the dying minutes, with Darragh being close with a header off a corner kick, and Murphy hitting the post with a shot.