Goals: Jeator, Thrale
You should have heard the moaning and groaning going on in the Reserves when they found out we were playing at New River – “The pitch is too big, its knackering”, “When the ball goes out and runs down the hill it takes ages to get it back”, “Fred Knight is our lucky ground” – just a flavour of the moans that the Gaffer and Skipper had to deal with this week. Good job we had the full squad then!
For the second week running the oppo arrived before us, despite having trekked from the dirty south, in this case the stock-broker belt of Woking, Surrey. Fair play to them – for a 1.45 ko they must have left at about 10.00! Kit based anxieties were soothed as Keith arrived early with the kit, and we had lots of time to get changed, get out and have a warm up – it makes such a difference. One of the talking points before the game was Jeats lucky bear jumper. It is a horrendous garment, but he is unrepentant, claiming that it gives him special powers.
We started with a similar team to the impressive win vs West Wickham, with Wootten coming in for Saunders and Wilding, Nicholas and new-boy Thrale coming in from the 3’s. In terms of selection, it is tough at the moment – since we have hit a bit of form, players go to extra lengths to make themselves available to play, because of that people will always be disappointed, as they may have to drop down a team to play. This problem is exacerbated by players coming down from the 1’s – the Gaffer takes the opinion that you are more likely to get playing time, hit form you need and get back into the team above if you drop down for a week or two. Please be aware that these decisions are not taken lightly, and every skipper or manager will try to do right by his players.
We started slowly – OW had the first chance of the game and forced a good reaction save from Mike, and it took us a bit of time to get into our stride. They were a decent passing team, yet again another first XI that we are drawn against in the cup (why do first teams enter the Reserves Cup? An unfair advantage? Sort it out AFA). However, we got into our stride and showed that we could pass just as well, if not better, but had much more grit to our play (you should have seen their midfielders face fall when they saw Sly!). We took the lead when Jeats shouldered one in from a corner (thus justifying the ludicrous jumper) – he then did a ridiculously over the top celebration, chasing his team-mates to try and get a cuddle, but most were having none of it – Macca took pity and partook in a hi-five but that was it. The first half played out much in the same vein – it was a game of few chances, but great endeavour, especially in the middle of the park, where Sly and Richie were generally bossing a triumvirate of oppo CM’s.
The message at half time was continue playing as we were but to up the effort another 10%, which should see us through. Thrale was then introduced for Skipper Macca, and justified the Gaffers decision by scoring within ten minutes – a cross from Les Manu was shin rolled by Ben and was going 5 yards wide until Tom slide into smash into the roof of the net from 4 yards.
From there the game was pretty much won, with OW’s threatening Mike’s goal on few occasions. Centreback pairing of Simmo and Jeats were imperious, with Woots really picking up after an unsure first half – one excellent recovery tackle after a painfully bad attempt at a header (it was decided after the game that the most uttered phrase on the pitch is ‘good recovery Woots!’) Dan Wilding came on from Les, who put a massive stint in defensively and caused real problems, and Louis came on for Mike Hubbard who ran himself into the ground. Special mention too for Karnell who ran all day and took a complete pounding from the oppo.
With 5 minutes to go, instead of seeing the game out we all decided to pour forward, give the ball away and give the ball to an oppo player to run clean through. Luckily, he was extremely slow, so Simmo was able to get back and make a great challenge. Dissapointingly, a couple of the oppo players were refused to shake hands at the end of the game – they were well beaten and only really had one shot. Dignity and graciousness in defeat is an important quality for a team to have.
So in the last 3 games we have had 3 wins, 2 clean sheets and we are beginning to become a force to be reckoned with. Old Salesians await us in the next round of the cup in December, and Ealing Association await us in the MEI Cup next week – bring it on!
MOTM – Simmo and Jeats – brilliant at the back.