With a trip to Eagles who had won all four games it was important we had a good squad. On paper this was the team of my wildest dreams…..how could we fail.
Unfortunately we did lack a keeper but new boy Max stepped into the breach on his first game. At the back it was Harry, Gary, Will and Fevzi as Andy had caught the last train to Clarksville (Greenford actually) and would be late. It then got better with Sly and some guy called Jed in the middle of the park. On the flanks were Ashley and Ben with Fraser reprising his role behind the skips. Jermaine warmed the bench. The pitch was immaculate so an entertaining game looked odds on.
What followed was a classic encounter between two excellent sides. Eagles came at us pretty strong from the off and it was easy to see how they had won their games. They had good movement and passing up front but were a little predictable with their tactic of up to the big man who looked for the runners to go beyond. After fifteen we had this sussed and Gary and Will were reading the game well. Gradually we settled into the game and played some excellent passing moves with Fraser and Ben at the heart of everything. We had a couple of shots off target as sighters. Ash and Fevzi were really beginning to dominate down their flank with continual pressure when Eagles had the ball and some lovely interplay when they had it. It was a tough half with some sharp tackling from both sides and total commitment all round. Eagle’s keeper looked a little suspect as he fumbled crosses and struggled to collect simple balls, but we must thank him for lending some gloves to Max. Max had little to do although he did make a fine smothering save and looked assured with his kicking and handling. Kurt was giving their defence problems with his strength and showed some neat touches. The game ebbed and flowed and as a spectacle was great. We continued our passing and created openings without really testing the keeper, although they cleared a header of the line. 0-0 at the half and the game was in the balance.
Second half and Fevzi came off with a slight knock and Jermaine came on. Fraser slipped to left back, Ben to centre and Jermaine on the right. We started the stronger and our passing looked even better with Ben really orchestrating the moves from the middle. Jed and Sly were relishing the midfield battle and had forced their midfield deeper. We pressed and created chances that should have been scored as their defence looked shaky under the pressure. Harry who had been excellent then took a nasty knock on the knee and we were thinking it may be a case of get the screens and call the vet, but we managed to drag him off the pitch instead. Mr versatile (Sly for those of you who are unaware) dropped to right back. Down to ten as Andy was still trying to visit every underground station on the map we seemed to up the tempo with Jed really getting stuck in. Chances fell to Kurt, Ash and a couple of other half chances were missed. Eagles looked rattled but were a constant threat on the break. Then Andy arrived went straight to left back to release Fraser again. He almost immediately produced a wonderful right foot cross which was begging to be put in but alas Kurt was inches short. This was probably our best chance and it was not long after that Eagles sprung out from defence produced the old one two for the runner who had a start on Gary. Gary did catch him just on the edge of the area but only to bring him down. Unfortunately the ref thought it was inside so gave a penalty…..uhh, and more predictably sent Gary off. Eagles scored the pen and celebrated like they had won the league, probably because they knew they had dodged the bullet for the last eighty mins. We threw Will up top and Jed played the lone centre half role. We continued to press and in the final minutes everyone was up for the last corner including Max. Their keeper flapped as expected and the resulting scramble saw Eagles hack it away. The final whistle and Eagles had completed a proper mugging.
Firstly everyone was superb. We played some of the best football I have seen from an AP side, especially considering the quality of Eagles. Nevertheless it is about results and we lost. I said at the end of last season that this year we would not be creating 20 chances a game and getting away with scoring 4. Instead we would be creating 10 but would need to score 2. This came back and haunted us on Sat as chance after chance was missed, so we need to relax and just be instinctive in front of goal. Defensively we were brilliant after the initial wobble and also considering the number of people who actually played in the back four on sat. Like to thank Max for his display in goal, and if he’s half as good outfield this week then we will be fine. Everyone else was awesome and the dejection post game was understandable especially when the oppo say you did not deserve to lose, talk about salt in the wound. We pick ourselves up now, go to Icarus FC and get this season going. We never ever give up.
Finally it was good to see that Sly’s anger management classes are working. After yet another miss he made some strange mumblings and sort of jigged on the spot like a deranged Morris man as opposed to going up the other end and throttling the offending striker.