Scorers: Johnson, Doyle, Packham
The third week of the season took AP 4s to Crouch End Vampires for a vital away clash. After a 3-3 draw against league favourites EBOGS in the previous fixture the game against the Vamps could define whether the 4s were going to be title contenders for the 2012-2013 season.
On paper the 4s had a strong team out against the Vamps with the mercurial Tony Bent returning in goal, Stu and Gary as a rock solid centre back partnership, and a wealth of attacking talent in Alex Tabram, Jack Morris, Elvis, and Karl. However, for the first 15 minutes of the match AP struggled to get going. Similarly to last week against EBOGs, AP 4s were slow out the traps and couldn’t get the ball down to play their usual attractive brand of passing football. The gap between the midfield and attack was too large and hopeful balls over the top just weren’t going to be good enough. With some tinkering from Jimmy, AP seemed to settle after 20 minutes and got a better shape in place to deal with what was a fluid (as in all over the place) Crouch End formation.
Our attacking 4 soon realised that the referee couldn’t really be bothered to adhere to the rules around offside so had to be clever about their runs, one of which from Jack Morris led to a corner for AP. Stuart came up from the back and with a powerful header from Jack’s corner made it 0-1 and settled the teams nerves. A few minutes later Liam came off his right flank to win a good header in midfielder which he directed into the path of Alex Tabram. Tabram took off and was quickly at the edge of the Crouch End penalty area where he looked up and played a perfect ball across the box to the onrushing Liam. Something Jimmy had hammered home to the team before the game was about movement off the ball and Liam had obviously been listening as he started and then finished what was a great move to make it 0-2. AP controlled the rest of the half and went into to the break deservedly ahead.
The half time team talk from Jimmy largely revolved around simple passing, talking, and taking chances – all things the team has done on and off since the start of the season. The second half started well for AP with Tabram dropping slightly deeper to allow Liam, Jack, and Elvis to try and get in behind the Vamps defence. Great link up play from John at left back led to Jack finding himself in possession approaching the opposition penalty area. Jack beat one man, composed himself and played a great reverse pass into Elvis whose snap shot was parried by the keeper into the path of Karl who despatched into an empty net from 5 yards out. 0-3 to AP and the game was pretty much done with 15 minutes remaining. However, instead of closing the fixture out AP became nervous and reverted back to their form from the first 20minutes of the match. Passes started to go astray and the ball became like a hot potato with a series of missed chances from the forwards epitomising the rushed nature of AP’s play. The gap between midfield and attack again became too big and AP began to be stretched by the two tenacious Vamps midfielders. Two wonder saves from Tony in goal kept it from becoming a contest again and although Vamps did nick a deflected goal in the last 5 minutes it was too late to affect the final result.
Overall a good performance from the team but 40 minutes of the match was spent unnecessarily on the back foot. Man of the match goes to Tony for three fantastic saves that kept Vamps from getting back into the game. Stu and Gary at the back were solid all match and kept the opposition front men quiet. At fullback John was a constant threat on the left flank and his link up with Jack Morris throughout the match made AP look very dangerous. Pat, James Rae, Nathan and Liam all ran their hearts out, defended well and gave Vamps problems on their left side. Adam in the middle controlled the pace of the game and Alex Tabram was a constant threat, particularly in the second half when he dropped a little deeper. Elvis and Karl did well up front and probably should have had a few more goals each to their names but they kept the Vamps defence busy all match and defended well from the front.
Crouch End Vampires is always a difficult away fixture and as usual the opposition were pretty vocal, happy to fly into tackles, and in the referee’s ear throughout the game. AP didn’t drop to that level and just got on with the game which made the difference in the end. Cup fixture next week where the main aim will be to play for 90minutes like they’ve shown they can.