Saturday marked AP’s opening home game of the 2011/2012 season and the Gaffer’s message was clear “nothing less than three points will do”. Earlier in the week, after consulting every member of the team, it was (Egan) decided that our opener should be held at the club, and not the newly acquired Fred Knights middle of nowhere Sports Ground. There was a good buzz about the changing room pre-match, helped mainly by Egan’s mix of terrible choons and 50p boom boxx.
It was clear all memory of the previous week had been forgotten, nerves shaken off, as right from the first whistle AP started brightly. We did the important things well – pressing high and hard up the pitch, keeping the ball, and turning possession into free-flowing attacking moves. Kelly worked well down the right flank, coupled well with some great interchanges with Morris and overlapping runs from Carlin that caused havoc in the box, but no end product. And at the other end, the opposition’s long ball football caused no threat to our goal, each ball being met with a towering clearance from Patterson and Egan. This was much the pattern for the first 45, but as the half whistle blew, we went in frustrated not to have broken the deadlock.
At half time, the gaffer assured us patience would pay off, and we would get the goal if we continued to play football. The main strength of the team so far this season has been the willingness to fight and work hard for the full 90 minutes, thanks to a tough pre-season fitness schedule.
As the second half began, we picked up from where we left off: Getting in behind their defence, creating chances at will. In fairness to the opposition, they brought their defensive line forward, which caught us offside too many times.
We finally got our just deserves from another attacking move down the right, which broke to Jones who fired the ball down to the keeper’s right. 1-0 AP.
Jones and Nicholaou continued to boss the middle of the park winning their personal battles and 50/50s. They managed to snuff out the only dangerous threat which came from their unit Grace Jones no.6 in midfield. The second goal, which resulted in Nicholaou stealing another ball away from the opposition, is an early contender for goal of the season! The ball teed up nicely, which Nicholau hit on the spin, half volley from 25 – 30 yards out. It flew over the keeper, who had ventured a few yards off his line, and into the top of the net. Class!
At 2-0 up, AP continued to play some stylish football, bringing on some fresh legs in Kenga, O’Leary and Hancock. But more importantly, withheld a 10 minute spell of pressure later in the second half, keeping a strong defensive unit. One of their moves broke down, and quickly turned into a counter attack, with Jones providing a ball over the top for Morris to run onto. Shaw Morris stormed up from left back to meet a ball at the far post and laid it off to Kenga, who then cooly finished the game off, 3-0 AP.
A great result, with plenty to build upon in the coming weeks. The only disappointment was losing our discipline late on (Carlin reacting, pretty reasonably, to one of their players trying to scissor kick him in the chest).
Team: Simpson, Carlin, Patterson (c), Egan, Shaw Morris, Jones, Nicholaou (D O’Leary), K O’Leary (Hancock), Morris, Kelly, Hughes (Kenga)
MoM – Gaffer’s choice: Dan Jones. Ran the show in the middle, scored the important opening goal. Close second choice – Serg for his Bangers n Mash tekkers, and ‘interesting’ SpagBol sauce!