Scorers: White (p)
Having commandeered a 184 bus, AP 5s made the trip to East Barnet for their difficult final league game against Old Finchleians, a side that are well on course to pick-up the league title and a couple of cups this season.
Despite a number of cry-offs and an early kick-off, enthusiasm remained high, resulting in the mighty tangerines arriving over an hour before kickoff. We used this time wisely, with the returning skipper demonstrating to us how his first touch hadn’t deteriorated while he was away (he can still bring almost any pass under control within a thirty metre radius) and Will Lewis attempting some classic 1950s padlock-inspired banter with the oppo.
With the referee having turned down Tom’s request for a minute’s silence for Whitney Houston, we begun the game once again with our new 4-2-3-1 formation and it seemed to suit us well. Once OF start passing the ball they are very hard to live with, but messrs Fryer, Hyde and White were straight in their faces, breaking up play, while lone striker Bowhill challenged every ball. Meanwhile, much like the rash he inflicted on Burwell a few weeks ago, Brad covered a large area and made a nuisance of himself.
However, after a scrappy first 15 where we had most of the possession, we found ourselves behind. Steve in goal misjudged an OF’s corner and AP failed to clear the resulting spill with sufficient gusto. To be fair to Steve, he didn’t let this effect him and his handling and shot stopping for the rest of the game were class.
The positive side to this was that we didn’t let our heads go down. A quality challenge by Fryer on the edge of our box allowed us a counter attack and Bowhill drew a foul from the defender for a clear penalty. White stepped up to slot home.
The half time team talk was cerebral, analytical and positive. Keep doing what we were doing, but find each other’s feet better and also attempt to bring more width to our attacking play. Burwell supplemented these instructions with some aggressive grunting noises and then we began the second half.
Unfortunately, OF kicked off the second half with renewed vigour. AP continued to battle, however, and neither side created many chances. With 3 points to play for, AP were re-shuffled, with Brad going up front, Marek switching to the left and Liam coming on to the right. Shortly after this Oli Pugh made his debut in a straight swap for Josh. However, the amount of re-organisation backfired, and the discipline and conviction in AP’s play disappeared. This is no reflection on the new arrivals, who each worked hard; it was more that the changes seemed to introduce a hesitancy and lack of confidence into our play, with passes, tackles and simple marking all now being riddled with errors.
OFs scored to go ahead after seventy minutes, with their striker volleying home a fortunate rebound after a couple of decent blocks. If I had a complaint about the game, it was that at this point AP gave up the fight. Fair enough we hadn’t created anything in the 2nd half, but it only takes a second to get a goal back and instead we got even sloppier, dropped ever deeper and gifted OF a third by switching off at a free kick. If we’d reacted more like we had after OF’s first goal, we might still have got something.
Despite the disappointing end, taken as a whole this was an encouraging performance, particularly in the first half. We have players coming back this week and competition for places going into the Spring Cup is stronger than it has been all season. This is a genuine chance for us to win something and if we can play and work as we are capable of doing at our best, then we should at least make the final. So let’s kick things off with a win against Winchmore Hill on Saturday – nothing less will do!
Team: Edelman, Piner, Lewis, Burwell, Krefting, Fryer, Hyde (Pugh), Firth, White, Kralik, Bowhill (Doyle)
Mom: Fryer, battled hard and used the ball well.