Old Esthameians 2ndXI vs Old Stationers 2ndXI
This top of the table clash had all the ingredients for one hell of a match, with the previous meeting resulting in 0-0 draw at home back in early November as a timely reminder how big our task in hand was.
Upon arrival, A full strength Old stationers were in good spirits showing no signs of pre-match nerves, instead laughter and banter filtered through the changing room...maybe it was the sausage rolls?
With tactics agreed, everybody knew their job. Mario between the sticks, a back four consisting of Sean, Paul, Kyri and Christos. The big change happening in midfield, with George Beef being moved back into the defensive midfield role to sit just behind Lenos and Marcus. Kieron and Sam on the wings with the pace up top in Mark. Subs, Big P and George Winter would come in to have impact.
The first 15 minutes went according to plan with the Stationers carving out 3 fantastic opportunities to score with only the opposition goalkeeper keeping the scores level. We managed to spin the Old E's defence on numerous occasions with direct balls over the top and into space for our attackers to press but on the half hour mark Old E's went a goal up against the run of play, a long throw not being cleared the first time from a flick to be met at the back post by their winger. Then within minutes Old Stationers found themselves 2-0 down after the opposition right winger cut inside to shoot which took a massive deflection that evaded Mario. Old E's celebrated this goal like they had already won! Big mistake. We re-grouped, looked to each other and continued to believe that one goal before the half would get us back into this tie. Mickey then made a bold substitution bringing on Winter for Kieron on the left wing which instantly gave us further energy. The goal we searched for arrived just before half time, with George Beef tackling their attacking midfielder to then flight over a perfectly weighted ball into the path of Mark who was brought down for a penalty...which was calmly slotted home by Winter. 2-1 HT
During halftime, we regrouped and focused our energy on the biggest 45 of our season, as it stood, Old E's would leapfrog us into top spot and our challenge ahead was huge as they haven't lost at home all season.
The 2nd half started and went according to plan, with our team working tirelessly, pressing the opposition we won a corner, which resulted in a goal from the ever present midfielder Lenos. Marcus whipped in a dangerous ball with Lenos out-jumping everyone at the back-post to head home the equaliser! 2-2 Game On!
Belief circulated throughout the squad, while Old E's looked shocked that they had thrown away a 2 goal lead. A battle was unfolding, passions running high, big tackles from both teams while the referee maintained control of the game.
Then against the run of play we failed to clear our lines twice, resulting in the Old E's winger getting to the by-line to cut back a cross met by the approaching midfielder. 3-2 to Old E's with 30 mins to play. At this point we could have easily crumbled especially after Sean and Winter received hairdryer treatment from Kyri! But our boys are made of strong stuff and didn't shy away from the challenge in hand.
The next half hour belonged to us, we wanted it more. A big drop kick from Mario put Mark clean through and he met the ball on the half volley! Goal! 3-3! We could've shut shop at this point, settled for a draw which would have been well earned considering our previous away game...but with our tails up we went on to score our fourth goal, again coming from Mark who was magnificent! 3-4 to Old Stationers! Big P entered the frame at this point up top to help keep possession, straight away getting stuck into their big lump of a midfielder!
Winter then scored a sublime goal, picking up the ball just inside his own half on the left, flying past 2/3 of their players to slot the ball home at the keepers near post (almost a carbon copy of Bale's goal for Madrid against Barca in last seasons Copa Del Ray) ;)
The celebrations that unfolded on the pitch words cannot describe, what an electric feeling! We played out the last 5 minutes with big smiles and relief. Final whistle. Job done. A 5-3 win away from home against a strong Old E's who hadn't lost at home in the league this season.
Every single player played their part, everyone worked together, believed and stuck to the game plan which worked a treat! The defence stood strong, the midfield worked non-stop and our attack was ever present. Special mentions go to George Beef for playing his DMF role superbly, Winter for having such impact on the game and Mark for his willingness to chase everything up top. To Pani, Mickey and Alan for talking to the team throughout the game. Nobody goes un-noticed! Well done Stationers!