A big game down in Dulwich. Not a literal six pointer, they don’t exist, however about as big a game as you will get in the SAL Div 3. We had the opportunity to go top of the pile with games in hand and took a strong squad South of the river. Lee Carlin cemented his self proclaimed ‘Mr London’ status with a good logistical route via Brixton. Really impressive stuff.
Our fail safe scouting network ensured we knew what to expect from South Bank. A number of the lads had checked their goals both for and against on the SAL website, which lead us to the conclusion that they could attack better than they could defend. The gaffer demanded discipline, intelligence and patience. If we could provide these, we were always confident we could nick a goal. A small note about the warm up, Dan Gunyon really needs to stop getting nutmegged by the skipper. It has happened on a couple of occasions this season and that is two too many for a man who is remotely serious about his football.
We lined up in our 4-2-3-1 system, South Bank however dictated the early exchanges. They had good quality ball playing midfielders, some pace out wide and intelligent movement up top. Our early passing resembled an Egan mother in law joke. Laboured, disjointed, predictable. This, as usual, lead to the skipper deploying his unquantifiable yet cutting edge psychological techniques, requesting that particular players ‘get into the game’, or ‘give 10% more’.
Unsurprisingly, it was South Bank who had the best first half chances. Simpson made a fine save from a one on one situation and from another just managed to force the striker wide enough to blaze over. We got a handle on things in the centre of the park and settled into the game from that point on. Admittedly, we were lacking a little creativity but given the quality of the service, our front few had a particularly difficult job. Hughes headed our best opportunity of the half over but it was a half chance and nothing more.
We were quite calm at half time. The work rate and discipline were there, we were just lacking that little bit of quality. We had real belief that we would score at some point, so it was just a matter of patience and composure. We came out and proceeded to play our best 15 minutes of football of the game. Gunyon and Morris really came into it down the right, we kept the ball a lot better and Nicholau and Jones won and recycled the ball consistently in front of the defence. The pressure eventually told, K .O’Leary drifted in a deep (kind) free kick towards the back stick, it was well kept alive, Kelly found Jones who chested and prodded home. A bit of a scrappy goal but a genuinely good finish from the social media guru #shinner.
The game petered out a little from there, Dan O’Leary and Kenga were introduced and did well. South Bank came back territorially, however we showed the sort of characteristics that have lead to such an impressive defensive record thus far. We narrowed things up, dropped a little deeper and allowed South Bank to play the majority of the game in front of our defensive line. We kept our shape and stood firm. Our aerial ability and Simpson’s handling allowed us to run down the clock. There were a couple of hairy moments along the way, a 25 yarder whistled past the upright and Egan put in an absolute monster of a last ditch block. We did however have enough about us to see off the final few minutes and secure a huge 3 points. A really gritty and disciplined performance by the boys, and an excellent second half. A couple of people sang 2 Unlimited – No Limit in the dressing room, such was the euphoria. I am hoping to install this as an unofficial dressing room anthem along with the darts song.
So we go top, we remain unbeaten. Credit to the squad, the belief is huge, we keep finding a way to win and the on pitch work ethic is exceptional. We have put ourselves in a great position but the job is FAR (please note the CAPS yeah) from done. We are only just past the half way mark and we follow up with 3 points on Saturday gents.
MOM: Simpson. Can go periods of our games as a spectator but really earned his salt Saturday. A fine stop at a crucial point in the game, some great takes under real pressure and near immaculate distribution throughout. A quick thanks to Mick for making the big trip down on Saturday, the support is always much appreciated.
Simpson, Gunyon, Patterson, Egan, Carlin, Nicholau (D. O’Leary), Jones, K. O’Leary, Kelly, Morris, Hughes (Kenga)