Goals: Battams, Firth
I bought a flat this week and I can honestly say I spent more time negotiating/organising/begging for a team for this game than I did sorting that out. In the end the overall quality of the 12 players picked was high, but the same couldn;t be said for the balance of positions, with a particular lack of centre backs. This led to Dodimead and the stand-in skipper forming a makeshift, lightweight, partnership which weighed about the same as Burwell’s body hair.
Other than that, we lined up with our familiar 4-2-3-1. With a new defence, the searing 18’C heat and a ‘big boned’ opposition, we all agreed how important it would be to keep the ball.
Indeed, looking at the respective sizes of some of the Winchmore Hill lads I did harbour some concerns about how we might compete in the air. I needn’t have worried however, as Rich Fryer, ably assisted by his gaggle of hobbits (Hyde/Battams/White/Bowhill), won pretty much every header. There was more powerful leaping going on than a stream full of salmon in mating season.
We also played some decent football, albeit with most moves ending with some disappointing final balls and shooting around their box. At the very least we should be working the keeper from these positions (and I don’t mean constantly punting the ball into the woods behind the goal for him to go and find).
In return, Winchmore Hill offered little other than the long ball, which Dodimead was attacking with the ferocity (and appearance) of a crack-addled homeless man. In fact, Hill offered so little down the flanks that Krefting and Atkinson were playing as secondary wingers.
Our breakthrough came when Tom White sent a delightful free kick into the area, Fryer got the slightest of flick-ons and Battams half-volleyed home with great composure.
Once again, however, the second half brought a marked decline in our play. This has been a slightly worrying trend for the 5s – in our previous 2 games the score was 1-0 and 1-1, ending up 2-2 and 1-3. Whether fitness plays a role in this I’ll let you judge, but it was clear in this game that our work-rate and decision making had deteriorated and we had the appearance of a team looking to cling on to what we had. Tiredness can impact mentally as much as physically.
However, despite the role reversal, with Hill now enjoying more possession and us hoofing it long, they struggled to create anything of note and on the rare occasions they did get in behind they gave Ritchie an easy save. The problem is though, when you are under this much pressure, there is more chance of someone making a mistake and so it proved, with the defence misjudging a high ball, allowing the nippy oppo striker to execute a perfect lob.
This was somewhat of a character test for AP, as it meant we now had to stop being negative and conceding possession and try to get on the ball again and create some scoring opportunities. We were having mixed success with this, but thankfully a rapid counter attack, with Marek storming down the right, gave Bowhill the opportunity to execute a classy finish on the stretch, sending the ball low across the keeper into the bottom corner.
With lead restored, it was firmly back to battling. By now Dodimead had cramped up and every clearance was accompanied with screams of pain, which was frankly pretty amusing. Indeed, the workrate and commitment was generally good across the team, but we did not keep the ball well enough or make good decisions, costing ourselves opportunities to relieve the pressure. However, as always, when we did try and pass the ball we looked dangerous, with substitute Milligan unable to finish one particularly impressive move.
The important thing in this game was we got the 3 points. If we can replicate the 1st half performance for 90 mins in our next 2 group games, we will make it to the final of this cup. Every one of you can play football and get stuck in, so let’s learn to do this for the whole game, and we’ll be unstoppable.
MOM: Dodimead. It was a gamble playing our top scorer at centre half, but he made sure it paid off with a near flawless performance.
Team: Ritchie, Atkinson, Doddimead, Piner, Krefting, Fryer, Battams, Hyde, White (Milligan), Kralik, Bowhill.