Our cup draws haven’t been kind to us of late. After a narrow 2-1 loss to Old Carthusians we would have the opportunity to test ourselves against one of the SAL Heavyweights
We started the game a little apprehensive. West Wickham knocking the ball around neatly but without really threatening. The opening goal had a little slice of luck to it. A free kick from WW whipped in. Hitting the striker on the back before ricocheting nicely into the path of the lone Wickham winger whose first time shot cannoned off Jackos slowly shuffling feet and into the bottom corner. Just like against Carthusians 1 nill down to on paper far higher opposition. Our character was to be tested again.
The goal woke us up. If we were going to lose, let’s go out playing the Stationers way. Our football started to do the talking and we were pegging WW back. Everyone starting to look comfortable on the ball and chance after chance was created. If we thought their opener contained a little bit of luck our equaliser was straight out of one the Christmas Football blooper countdowns you’ll no doubt be watching on Boxing Day! Some good work by Sean D down the right hand side. And attempted 70 yard cross field pass to the onrushing Bradley was inexplicably turned in off the WW centre half head from 30 yards out. The luck was no more than we deserved. With 10 minutes of the half left, Old Stationers defending the slope and WW on the ropes we sensed a real chance to get in at the break with a big advantage.
Some more great running from Elsey found himself in the oppos box heading away from goal. After a first nibble, Elsey stayed on his feet. The second clumsy kick sent the most fouled SAL player tumbling. Penalty OS! The giant killing was on. Unfortunately David’s low effort to the bottom right hand corner was saved by the keeper and pushed to safety.
Never mind 1-1 would be the least we deserved from that first half. As if it would ever be that straightforward. With a minute of the half remaining a jinking WW run which should have been stopped far earlier found himself 1 on 1 with Wattsy. No complaints about the penalty. Jacko guessing the wrong way and somehow we found ourselves 2-1 down at the break.
Considering we played that half without our goalkeeper who was rushing there from work. And Simon who was carrying an injury but battled on bravely for the side. We were confident this game could still be won.
Cup games call for bold tactics. Perry on for Simon. Perry donning his gloves. Jacko up top with Sean D.
We started the second half brightly. Phillips getting lots of success down the right. Really pinning their winger back. Dan Breens dead ball delivers being on point. We forced corner after corner. Every single time looking like scoring. No surprise the equaliser came from a Breen corner knocked down by Jacko and from a yard out the drought was over. Seany D running off like Filiipo Inxaghi! Just in time for the Vamps game on Saturday. Hallelujah! 2-2
While we were now on top. WW were still looking dangerous on the break. And considering how dangerous we looked in the oppos box from set plays. It was disappointing to concede from a corner. A great delivery was met with an emphatic header. 2-3 Wickham.
With the crowd now fully absorbed in this cup game. The Stationers lads again knuckled down. Long balls to Jacko we’re helping pin WW back. Seany and Elsey were linking up nicely. Elsey crashing a shot against the post. Phillips nearly winning a second pen. Our 3rd equaliser of the game came when a corner just stood up by Breen begging to be attacked was met by the gaffer despite having 2 men on him. Bosh 3-3!
With a few minutes remaining extra time loomed. But maybe the lack of subs told. As WW attacked. Despite an injury to Breen in the middle. Perry was quick off his line to make a great double save. The cross whipped in only to be met by Jamo and Watts. The clearance again falling to WW. This time an inch perfect cross was met perfectly by the striker. Was a great goal. Although over a minute was played with us a man down.
With minutes remaining WW resorted to holding the ball in the corner flags and time wasting. Would there be one more twist in this excellent cup game?
In the last minute Elsey set off on a run, past 1, then 2. Inside the box, as he hits the byline. Not 1 but 2 clumsy challenges from behind. The WW faithful on the sidelines turned away heads in hands. Every single man on the pitch and the side line expecting the obvious point to the spot. Except it never came. A corner was to be the reward.
The resulting corner pinballed off several Stationers players who put their bodies on the line to keep it alive. Eventually falling to Power whose volley was somehow tipped over by the keeper. A top class save.
It wasn’t to be our day. But I was immensely proud of the effort from every single one of the lads. On our day we can play with the best in our leagues. I thought the back 3/5 were class. Gave up very few genuine chances from open play to a top side.
Focus now shifts to Saturday. We all know how big this game is. Let’s better this performance. COYS!!!