It was a case of opening night stage fright for the Reserves in their new season curtain-raiser at the Racecourse on Saturday. With Simmo unavailable, Egan stepped in at centre back to partner Skipper McLoughlin, We welcomed back Mbelo and Gonzalez, with Amankwah dropping down to the bench.
We started poorly to be honest – gone was the high tempo pressing game we have seen in pre-season, in was a worried kick and rush style that did not suit is. At the back we left huge gaps, not being able to decide whether to play offside or step man to man. Up front, nothing was sticking, and we offered very little width. This became a problem because there was little respite for the defence, with wave after wave of OWC attacks. OWC took the lead on 35 minutes, when a sliced clearance by Nugent was not cleared away to safety and was worked out to the right. An excellent ball was whipped in, and the untracked Citz striker found space to give Stimpy no chance in goal.
All in all, the first half was poor – even with corners and set pieces, with which we were so strong last season, we offered no threat – mainly because of poor delivery and lacklustre movement – there is no point in planning these things if we do not run where we were supposed to go!
At halftime Gaffer Morris was rightly unimpressed, as within 5 minutes of the second half kicking off we saw the introduction of all 3 subs, Tolu, Zack and Stew. We started with a better tempo and looked much more comfortable on the ball. For 30 minutes, we were the better team, making all the play. We had finally found our width and Zack and Sam were destroying their fullbacks time after time, but the final ball kept letting us down. Despite this, we had our chances – Steve Glynn had a perfectly good header disallowed by our octogenarian referee for offside, when he made the late run into the box and was no way off. Claude hit the post, and it did seem that it was a matter of time until we scored – alas it was not meant to be – the otherwise faultless McLoughlin and Johnson got in each other’s way with the formers  50p heading it into the path of their marauding fullback who lobbed Stimps, despite the Skippers best efforts to keep it out. There was still time to create chances, with Tolu hitting the underside of the bar, but after that the game somewhat petered out.
So, a harsh lesson in our first game at this level. I thought we could have sneaked a draw, and maybe 2-0 flattered Citz, but they are a decent team who played the game in the right spirit.  As a team we had a good airing of concerns in the changing room after, which will stay in there.  This result will not sit well with me this week, but we have the opportunity to put it right next week away at Old Parks. We have arrived in this division – let’s make sure we do not choke.
Team: Simpson, Nugent, Moruzzi, McLoughlin, Egan (Johnson), O’Leary, Glynn, Carter (Amankwah), Morris, Mbelo, Gonzalez (Popoola).

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