After the euphoria of the previous week you knew this match was going to be a whole lot more mundane. And so it proved.
With four absentees from the usual squad we drafted in Leon Brown from the 4s, youth player Will Howarth Johns and a welcome return of Dan Wilding. We set up with Michael in goal and a defence of Leon, Will, Moruzzi and Tom. Midfield of Dan, Jed, Jason and Ashley. Fraser and the Skips finished the line up.
Priority was not to concede in the first 20, a dodgy proposition in recent weeks. But a task we all knew was vitally important against a tough Bank side. Playing on the expanses of our main pitch gave us the opportunity to try and play our passing game. From the off we looked a little sluggish with Bank winning most loose balls. They then showed their game plan early, which was to hit it long to release their speedy winger. This was a real baptism of fire for Leon as time and again he tried to get past. Leon though was having none of it and continually snuffed out any threat.
Bank managed a couple of long range shots which whistled over, but never troubled Michael. Going forward we managed to get a bit more possession, mainly with Fraser pulling the strings. Jason and sicknote in midfield were strangely subdued, although Bank gave them no time to settle. We created some half chances but their keeper was dealing comfortably with any crosses and through balls. Ash was looking dangerous without really penetrating the defence. Dan looked good on the ball but the final pass was lacking. The skips was putting himself about and had chances to break, but could create little.
The half was a bit of a struggle for both sides with very little incisive football. It was clear the goalfest of our previous meeting would not be repeated. Defensively we looked reasonably solid, with Will and Moruzzi not overly worked. Tom made a passable left back, and appeared to have mastered the art of the throw in. The highlight of the half was Leon nailing their winger with a perfectly judged flying tackle, which if he had got wrong was a penalty and red card. 0-0 at half time and we needed to up our game if we were to score.
We started better, with Fraser obviously up for it. For ten minutes we seemed to get a grip on the game with Skips testing their keeper who had to make a sharp save. That apart, it was business as usual as both sides began to huff and puff to little effect. First change was young Will on for Skips. Ash went up front, Fraser to the left and Will tucked into the hole. We seemed to improve with the change with Ash looking to give their defence more to think about. With us playing a bit more football it was ironic that the goal should come from a long punt downfield which Fraser latched onto as it bounced in the area. He struck it with the outside of the left boot and slid it past their stranded keeper.
Now it was a case of can we keep a clean sheet? The guys at the back responded in kind, with some excellent tackling and reading of the game. Jason also sprung into action as he tackled furiously in midfield, even when prostrate on the ground. His passion seemed to be infectious, as all concerned battled for every ball. Young Will was making some nice passes and always looking for space. Bank continued to push us all the way and Will and Paul made some timely interventions to deny any openings. Michael pulled off one great save late on, but that was the only real chance they had on target. Daniel came on for …..err, Daniel. Fraser regardless of his goal worked tirelessly until the final whistle. So we fought and got the win that secured promotion.
It was a real battling performance against an improved Bank side, who refused to give up. And to be honest it was the kind of test we needed to see if we could be strong enough to get a clean sheet and still create chances. Michael was mainly a spectator but was solid when needed. Will and Paul at the heart of the defence were excellent with the oppo never really getting a sniff in the box. Tom as makeshift left back was never out of his depth. Leon at right back was a revelation and proved that the 4s hold some quality players who could or should be playing higher. So all the regulars should be upping their game to ensure their place for this and next season. Sicknote made it through 90mins, although at times it was unusual to see the game pass him by. Jason was inspired for the second half and showed that you win nothing without giving 100%. Ash and Dan on the flanks worked really hard but lacked the cutting edge that we normally expect, but you can’t be brilliant every week. Kurt was impressive as he fought for every ball, but he was living off scraps and was continually isolated. Young Will brought some calmness to the proceedings as he played the simple game whenever possible. Daniel on as late sub got stuck in as well. Finally man of the match Fraser, who not only tried to play the passing game, scored the goal and worked like he was getting paid for it.
Well done to all on a hard fought win. Sometimes you have to be content with the result as opposed to the performance. Old Lats next so let’s keep the momentum going and try to up the performance for this one.