Scorers: Fullerton, Brown, Packham
Another game against table topping Eagles, but in the cup this time. After our last encounter this promised to be a good game.
After a few cry offs we started with Andy Sievewright in goal, Will, Ziggy, Michael Graves and Tom at the back. Midfield was Anthony Shaw, Leon and Adam. Front three were Ash, Kurt and Harry. Rob Blade, Jermaine and Karl were on the bench.
The early exchanges were pretty even with both sides using the full size of the New River pitch. Ash and Kurt were proving a handful for their defence as they interchanged position. The midfield was a good old scrap on the worst part of the pitch with Ant, Leon and Adam battling hard although they did seem to get outnumbered on occasion. At the back it was always going to be a tough game as Eagles are certainly one of the best attacking teams we have played in the last couple of years. Michael and Will were dealing well with the threat with Andy picking up any through balls. Clear chances were hard to come by although both sides came close to creating openings. Harry popped over a couple of early balls for the guys to chase and Ash was driving at their defence on every occasion. This led to the opening goal when Ash forced his way into the corner of the area and hit a low drive which the keeper spilled for Kurt to tap in from a yard. Eagles now stepped up their game and began to create better chances and Andy was forced into some excellent saves one of which mirrored Gordon Banks save from Pele. Even the oppo on the sideline were amazed at the save. Unfortunately we could not hold out till the break, and they equalised when a cross was sent in and their winger turned Tom with a shimmy and slight push and then fired in from twelve yards. Anthony and Adam were trying to get forward as much as possible and made so great driving runs. Even so we scrapped through to half time.
One change at the break, Tom went off for Rob. The game continued in a similar vein with both sides having a go, although the deteriorating pitch conditions made it difficult for any real quality football. We probably started slightly better than Eagles with Ash and Kurt really putting in a shift. Harry went off and Jermaine came on as we tried to force the game. The game became more stretched as players struggled to find firm footings, and this allowed Kurt to have another driving run that burst into the area at which point he was brought down by Eagles skipper. A sending off and penalty ensued. Leon stepped up and slotted home. Now we should have been able to this game out against, but a combination of a super fit and determined Eagles side and our seeming inability to see out games came back and haunted us. Within the last twenty minutes we had chances to finish the game but failed to do so. And as usual we let them score near the end, although to be fair it was a great header that gave Andy no chance. Karl came on for Kurt. There was one final twist when their keeper brought down someone from our team (no idea who). Alas the resulting penalty was missed and we headed into extra time.
Extra time saw more of the same with both sides creating half chances. We managed to take the lead after some excellent work by Jermaine who set up Karl to score. Surely now we could see the game out. Eagles pushed on and only a stunning tackle from Ziggy stopped an equaliser, but even these heroics failed to stop Eagles scoring from a scrambled corner in the last minute. So to penalties, let’s just say we did not win.
Everyone put in the effort on Sat and we really should have won, but this Eagles side just wouldn’t lie down. The only criticism is that we do not communicate enough, meaning that the man on the ball is isolated and invariably loses the ball as the options are not available to him. The knock on effect is that individual decision making is wrong. It is this that has cost us dearly over the weeks. The way we play needs to be dictated by the team effort and not by the individual. Regardless of this we are a good side and with all cups out the way we need to crack on in the league and try and get the gap closed to the top. I have complete faith that this is a truly attainable goal for the season and trust all to pull together in the pursuit of this.
Individually the stand out performances on Sat were from Andy (or should I say Gordon), Michael, Will, Ziggy, Leon, Ashley and believe it or not Kurt.
Think of it this way, you only have 14 Saturdays left to play, or 1260 minutes (same amount of time that Kurt spends ringing me each week, well that’s what it feels like) so there is no reason why you cannot turn in your best games for those weeks. I will miss the next two games due to a whiskey tasting trip to Edinburgh, I just hope I can remember the best ones by the end of the week! So to all that I do not see or speak to have a great Christmas and lets make sure we have twelve points for the start of the new year.