It was a new look AP 8s that took the field against Old Parkonians 8s on Saturday. With a number of new recruits brought in following last week’s game against the 9s the intention was to halt the slide of poor results that saw the 8s firmly wedged at the bottom of the table.
There was a positive atmosphere amongst the squad prior to the match, and a genuine confidence in our ability to get something out of the match. As a result, we started strongly – putting the oppo under pressure when they had the ball, and moving it quickly and effectively when in attack. Eric was working hard up front, chasing everything down and holding the ball up. Tim was finding plenty of room between their defence and midfield and creating no end of problems, Seb and Emlyn were implacable at the back (with the exception of a wholly dodgy penalty decision in our favour) and we were comfortably holding our own.
It was therefore a shock when we conceded the first goal. A free kick was floated in from just inside our half, it was flicked on and their best player (the 8) snuck in around the back and nicked it past the keeper off his head. In fairness it was a good finish, if frustrating to concede, and we went in at half time buoyed by the fact that we had conceded very little in terms of real chances and were still very much in the match.
The second half was much the same as the first. Their only real threat was the talented 8 who was finding space in the hole and being a nuisance; we were pressing well as a team and working hard to carve out opportunities. And eventually the pressure told. A terrific free kick from Eric was flicked on towards the back post and I – gambling on exactly that – touched the ball in for 1-1. We were buzzing now and pressed hard for the winner. A few half-chances came our way and we rode our luck a touch at the back but at the death controversy struck – a penalty came our way courtesy of a highly debatable decision and the oppo had a man sent off in the ensuing melee.
Tim bravely stepped up to a bog of a penalty spot and placed the ball perfectly in the corner, only for the keeper to guess right and make a fabulous save. Justice done, to be fair, but a shame nonetheless.
Eric asked me to pick out a few players who stood out from Saturday’s game but the honest truth is that this was truly a team performance. Each player put his hand up when needed – tackles flew in, tracking back was the norm not the exception and we fully deserved the point we came away with. Something to build on, at last, for the 8s.