Match report - 1st XI v Old Blues
Despite last week’s disappointing return to league action in 2019, there was an air of certainty, a whiff of invincibility amongst the Stationers boys in the lead up to the make or break top of the table clash against Old Blues. Perhaps it was because it was the first time this season we have managed to name a full strength squad. FOR AN AWAY GAME AS WELL!!! The only absentee being long term injured Chalky, who is sleeping in oxygen tents and bathing in ice baths in his battle to be back before the end of the season.
Three cars and an Avis rental, set off down the A406. Three of which arrived an hour before kick off. In an Old Stationers first, in this decade anyway. We had 11 men at the ground a full hour before kick off. Not quite sure what to do with all this extra time. We sat on the couches and watched the West Ham v Arsenal game. Come on you Irons! Wale using the time to tuck into 3 large bags of Tangfastics.
We all knew how big this game was. Lose and any chance at promotion had realistically drifted away. This wasn’t lost on Old Blues either. Like always, they were also there early. Changed and on the pitch being put through a proper warm up under the watchful gaze of their two managers, who kindly lent us 2 balls so we could ping 30 yarders over the crossbar.
With the 4th car running late, our very own tactical genius Jamo was forced into a quick re-think. These curve balls would wobble lesser gaffers. Brad dropping in as the 3rd CB and Phillips at LWB. Despite Old Blues’ SAS style warm up. It was OS that gained control from the first minute. We managed to get on the ball right away, Utilizing the extra man at the back and in central midfield. Looking composed all over the pitch and moving the ball swiftly from side to side. Phillips and Warle keeping good natural width. So much so that like every other week Phillips apparently has the face of a man whose legs you wanna snap. On the end of 3 horrific challenges, resulting in screams from the OS bench of “He’s got work on Monday”. Seany D was played in over the top 1 on 1, a clip of the ankles and a difficult decision for the ref who decided it was an accidental coming together. We were also getting success from getting the ball wide and crossing from deep. Not every cross has to come from the byline. It has to be said the quality of the deliveries were excellent from the wing backs. And unlike the week before we were picking up the 2nd balls. Simon, Elsey, Breen and Jamo were like magnets. Simon unleashing a thunderbolt from the edge of the area which was excellently saved by the keeper, who was there best player throughout. In a thoroughly dominant first half, we created several more good goal scoring opportunities. Seany D unlucky not bring the ball down on his chest that would have left a tap in. Jacko having a good strike blocked. Wattsy getting his head on everything. And a couple of penalty shouts turned down.
At half time. The talk was of keep doing exactly what we were. The beauty of having 3 quality subs is that we have options and no matter what Jamo does the side doesn't get weakened. With the back 3 looking strong, Power was brought on in CM, Matt and RWB and David replacing simon in the Trequartista role, or in English, I’ll do little to no tracking back please role. This season not only have we been Jekyll and Hyde like from week to week, we have also been like it from half to half. Could we maintain the dominance on the ball. The answer was yes. If anything we upped the intensity. Jamo covering every inch of grass and looking like 2015 Matic. nicking the ball so often and starting attacks. Every long ball won emphatically by Wattsy, Jacko and BRAD! And I’m not sure when the last time Matt got laid was? Because he was in beast mode. Playing like a man with some swollen testies, he was taking it out on the Old Blues wingers winning every 50-50 and 70-30.
This intensity off the ball coupled with the composure on it eventually saw us take a deserved lead. The ball worked down the left, eventually finding David on the edge of the box. An awkward ball effortlessly controlled. And this is why we have Trequartistas, while the rest of us would have lashed at it. David intelligently bought himself the extra quarter second which opened up a gap and he just calmly half volleyed into the side netting. Class finish.
No resting on our laurels this week. We carried on pushing and a second was added. A corner met by Powers head onto the crossbar. The rebound dropping to Wattsy who after a little bit of river dancing finally decided to pass into the empty net from a yard. It's been 16 years since I’ve seen a Power that dominant in midfield. Great 2nd half performance.
Old Blues started to pile men forward. But still didn’t manage to create much of note. This created some large gaps for us to exploit on the counter. After a few wasted opportunities from good positions and a 40 yard Elsey bicycle kick, Sean D eventually put the game to rest with a cool finish after another flowing OS move.
We saw out the game professionally knocking the ball around in triangles all over the pitch to exuberant screams from the returning Langley that “we’re breaking their hearts”. Perry made his 1 save in the dying moments brilliantly clawing away a top corner header and ensuring the clean sheet.
7 games left and the bar has been set. Regardless of oppo. That level of workrate. That desire to win every 50-50. That intensity in the press. That level of talking on the pitch. That level of encouragement. If everyone to a man runs their bollocks off then with the amount of ballers we have on the pitch. The performance will take care of itself.