Scorers: Kelly 2 (2 pens), O’Leary.K.
With promotion achieved, but the title still to secure and an unbeaten record to maintain, the 1st XI headed to Chiswick for our first encounter of the season with IBIS.
Preparation wasn’ t great, having lost Sam Morris to detention, Dan O’Leary to a chiropodist, Elion Kenga to more gainful and paying employment, and Dan Jones to love. The latter, having nursed his loved one, reassessed his priorities (and 1st Team place!) and made a late dash to Dukes Meadow, to give us a squad of 12.
Unlike the season so far, our pre match preparation was thus somewhat shortened and lacking, which certainly showed in a laboured opening 15 minutes, in which a really motivated IBIS team dominated the early exchanges, and came close on a couple of occasions to breaching one of the meanest defences in the SAL this season. Having recovered our composure, improved possession, and increased our work rate, we got back into the game, with Nicholaou and new boy Brown going close and Carlin rattling the bar with a powerful header. We got the breakthrough 10 minutes before half time, when Kier rifled in a free kick from the edge of the box..ok with the assistance of a healthy deflection!
Half time and 1 – 0 up, but knowing we were in a real contest with a well organised and drilled IBIS side, and needing to do better on tracking and winning the second balls. A ding dong of a second half saw 3 penalties, and ruffled feathers in the AP ranks! We were pegged back to 1 – 1, from the penalty spot, following an innocuous challenge from Brown. We then lost our way and discipline a bit, as a frustrated Brown let rip in a rich Irish brogue, only to trigger an assertive and less than polite response from our shy and retiring centre back duo of skips and German! The gaffer sought to restore order by gently reminding skips of his leadership responsibility and the armband that he so proudly wears.
The lads dug in and knuckled down again, and the lead was restored from the penalty spot, by a confident Kelly, following a spell of sustained pressure. However, a good counter attack by IBIS and a lapse in AP concentration brought the scores level again, with a crisp finish from the edge of the box and the best goal of the game. With some 15 minutes to go, cages rattled and nerves fraying, we’d probably have settled for a draw. But then 10 minutes from time, some good link up down the right freed Kelly in the box, only to be up ended by their advancing keeper, and the resulting penalty was again coolly finished by the prolific Kelly ( 22 for the season so far ).
So in the end, a gutsy second half performance, saw us get perhaps a generous 3 points. We must now ensure we learn from the game and better prepare for the return of IBIS to the racecourse this weekend, in front of what I am sure will be a bumper crowd on old members day.
MOM – Carlin, dominant, confident and adventurous performance at right back.