Scorers: Fullerton(pen), Bruce, Hancox
After dragging my shattered body up to the club in the hope of witnessing Arsenal stuff Norwich, my attention was turned to the difficult task of stopping Notts as they steamrolled to another trophy.
As a team we have struggled to settle over the past few weeks with various injuries and cry offs disrupting the flow. So we set up with a couple of late additions to the squad. Michael continued his sterling work in goal with Tom, Gary, Ziggy and a welcome return of Will as the back. Midfield was Adam on the left, Max on the right with ‘Stonewall’ Jed in the middle with a cameo along side him from Shane. Will Howarth Johns sat in the hole behind the 3s very own Kurt Balotelli (moody, arrogant, eccentric, hard to manage but what a strike rate).
As expected Notts looked strong with them warming up before we had the nets up! More of that later. The game started with both sides going for it with an early chance falling to Ballotelli after their keeper produced a Paul Robinson air kick. Only a super tackle from their centre half stopped an early goal. Notts began to force the game by some hard tackling and closing us down, but generally they resorted to the long ball over the defence for their willing runners to chase. Defensively we did get turned a few times, and only some desperate defending saved us. Finally they scored after another long ball was chased down by their striker who slid the ball in.
At this point we had begun to settle down with Shane, Will HJ, and Stonewall getting a grip in midfield, and actually bossing the play with Shane’s dancing feet especially effective. Balotelli up front was a constant threat even after their centre half had crunched him early on. And it was Shane who danced through their defence only to be dragged down for a penalty. Balotelli stepped up and levelled the score. With chances now at both ends the next goal would be crucial. We were having great joy down the flanks with Adam and Max linking well with the midfield with some great running off the ball. From one of these breaks Adam charged down the left and after getting behind their defence he deftly chipped the keeper from the edge of the area. I say chipped the keeper but he may actually have just sliced his cross…….the truth is out there.
With this the ref blew for half time.
2nd half and we were playing down the hill, this would reduce the impact of their long balls slightly. We started well and pushed Notts back into their half with Shane and Will HJ pulling the strings. This enabled the whole team to squeeze up a bit. Within ten minutes we extended the lead from a free kick which Shane headed down into a crowded area. Balo took a touch and moved the on to Will who slotted home from eight yards. The crowd were going wild. The crippled Balotelli and work bound Max came off and were replaced by Casper up front and the returning Darren Brown. The game became a battle of attrition with both sides chasing, tackling and generally giving 110%. In defence we looked more solid with Will and Old man Jonesy attacking every ball and reading their attacks better. Michael in goal was sweeping up the long balls and plucking out any crosses.
With twenty to go we came under extreme pressure and repeatedly failed to clear the ball effectively. From this kind of situation Notts scored after the ball popped around the edge of the area and their guy slotted in from the edge. We still looked good enough to score another after this as Casper worked his socks off and linked well with our advancing midfield. Michael came into his own in the last ten as Notts doubled their efforts. He made several fine stops or dived at feet to avert an equaliser. Absolute quality. We managed to see out the game and a well deserved win.
As a team we were superb with full backs helping the wide men and vice versa. Ziggy and Tom got better as the game went on giving Notts very little chance of overlaps. Will and Jonesy also improved and were solid. By the way Jonesy you are now officially the Grandad of the team, congratulations. Adam and Max ran themselves ragged going forward and were disciplined in defence. Shane and Will HJ basically ran the show going forward with their fine touches and tenacious tackling. Balotelli was excellent against a muscular defence. Thanks to Casper and Darren as subs. Casper was especially lively and could have scored. Michael in goal was magnificent and as much as any outfield player deserves the plaudits for this memorable win. Finally Stonewall… what can you say, he tackles like a demon, wins most headers and runs like the cops are after him. On several occasions he cleared our lines or covered the defence when disaster threatened.
With performances like this we can do great things this season. The team work ethic was immense and we matched Notts in every department, which I think shocked them. From defence we need to read the danger a bit quicker at times. Midfield occasionally needs to move the ball quicker and look for give and goes to get behind defences. Up front a little more active and less reactive. These are minor points after a great display but against lesser opposition will give us the edge. We must not rest on our laurels.
Pre match warm up is not putting up the goals! As a team we need to be at the ground sharp and get the goals and nets up. Get changed and on pitch with at least 20mins before kick off to have a good warm up and team talk. This should be the same at away games, no excuses! I hate to go on but this is important, on Saturday we got away with it but that does not make it acceptable. As responsible adults we do these jobs regardless of the skip being there. This team is built on team spirit on and off the pitch so let’s just raise the bar a little bit.
A final congratulation to all concerned, it was monumental at the weekend. Arsenal who!