Scorers: Kenga, Bruce(2), og

So 2013 began with a nice easy trip to Norseman, whose changing rooms were hotter than my house has been all winter. Anything but a win was not really an option to keep us in touch with the pack chasing the second spot.

We were blessed with a glut of players fresh from their Christmas excesses, so we plumped for a starting line up of Steve in goal, back four of Ziggy, Will, Andy and Tom. Midfield three of Adam, Ant and new boy Aso. Up front were our mighty skipper, Ash and Elion. On the bench were Liam, Harry, Jermaine and Jed looking for a cameo. Gary very nobly agreed to sit the match out.

We knew this would be a tough game with Norseman sitting second in the league, and we were not to be disappointed. The compact pitch meant that our passing needed to be crisp and neat and making ourselves available for the pass was crucial. To be fair we started well and made good use of the ball with Elion especially having some nice touches. Ash’s pace was always a good outlet on the left. Norseman were mainly looking for the through ball up to their front men to chase. This was effective as they found some space between our centre halves and full backs as the backs pushed on in support, but we recovered each time.

For the first twenty mins we probably dominated the play and created a few half chances with Adam and Ant adding extra impetus to the attacks. Norseman struggled for pace in defence and looked uncomfortable when we packed the area at corners and free kicks. They were always dangerous on the break and this is how we conceded. Their guy picks the ball up in the centre circle and just runs through the centre past three defenders and slotted past the exposed Steve in goal. The lack of a challenge or the ability to run with the attacker and try and guide him into a dead end was significantly absent. It was not long before we equalised.

Ash was sent sprinting through and was outrunning the defender when he was blatantly pulled back twenty yards out with only the keeper to beat. Free kick….yes, sending off…no. I slipped into Fergie mode and berated the Ref until Will pointed out the futility of my crusade. The matter may have gone further if Elion had not delivered divine retribution by striking a beauty past their keeper. 1-1 and we needed to grab the game by the scruff of the neck. The game became a bit scrappy now but Norseman looked more menacing as we failed to improve our game. The remainder of the half saw us give to many weak passes, wayward passes and generally lost the team ethic. We were playing to many high balls when we could not win the first ball and failed to challenge for the second, although we seemed more solid in defence with Andy and Will getting to grips with their strikers and Ziggy a calming influence and ready outlet. Tom was improving but still looked like a man with more on his mind than football (best get a dish cloth Tom).

At the break it was 1-1 and Ant came off and Jed went on to stiffen up the midfield. We started with more drive and verve with these fresh legs. The skips was now out left with Ash up top. Our passing improved as did our backing up and overlapping which meant we were beginning to get more possession in the final third. Adam and Aso were linking the play really well now that Jed was dealing with things in the other direction. Jermaine came on for Kurt to give us fresh pace on the flank. We took the lead from one of several corners when their keeper could only manage to palm the ball into the net whilst under severe pressure. Now we began to kick on as the game became a bit more stretched, which suits us. Jermaine was giving their full back all sorts of problems and he eventually gave up trying to tackle him. Jermaine whipped in some lovely early crosses and even passed the ball….amazing.

‘Sick note’ Brade was stretching his legs at every opportunity and basically putting the fear of Allah into their defence. Meanwhile on the other flank Elion continued to keep the play ticking along with Tom even getting forward to some effect. The third came from a through ball that their keeper came out to kick clear, but he only succeeded in clearing the ball to Adam who was on the touchline probably 35yards from goal. He controlled the ball then lofted the ball into the far corner of the goal. Goal of the season? We were now all over Norseman, although they came close with a couple of corners and Steve did well to smother any through balls. Liam now came on for Aso to give even more pace to the attack. Elion slipped into midfield. Norseman brought on a new left back who within five minutes had been steamrollered flat by Ash and nutted under the chin by Liam, I actually felt sorry for him. The final goal was a work of art and possibly another contender for goal of the season. Jed laid the ball off to Elion who shifted the ball wide to Jermaine on the edge of the area, he slid a sharp pass to Ash who simply back heeled the ball into the path of Adam who slotted home from ten yards. 4-1 and another 3 points and well deserved to.

Everyone was excellent, with Aso having a great debut. Elion was as expected full of twists and turns but also put in a shift for the team. Ziggy seems to get better with every game and plays the game with minimum fuss. Will and Andy were solid, dealing well with the aerial threat from Norseman. Adam put in another top notch performance capped by two wonderful goals and he will be sorely missed over the coming weeks. Ash was a constant threat up front although he could do with releasing the ball a bit earlier sometimes when we are on the break, and someone please get him and the skips a watch. Tom had contrasting halves but improved with the game and hopefully his domestic cleanliness has now improved. Jermaine, Ant and Liam all contributed with plenty of desire, hard tackling and slick passing.

Finally Harry who had one of his best games of the season, and like Gary did not get on the pitch. Thank you both for sticking around and supporting the team, although you had no choice as I had the code for the changing room. In fact it was brilliant to have more support on the touchline than the home team. Always a bonus. Now we need to pick up the baton and run with it. We can march up this division if we show the same commitment for the remainder of the season. It was one of the few times this season where we matched the physicality of the opposition and then outplayed them. Well done all.

3rd Team / Match Reports