The SAL Minor Division 4 fixture list doesn’t include an away trip to Stoke on a wet and windy Tuesday night but, for the Alexandra Park 6th XI, this game came pretty close.
The previous week had seen us play champagne football but right from the off it was obvious that it was going to be difficult to replicate that performance in these conditions. The pitch was rubbish, the crowd was abusive, the ref was lenient and the opposition were physical, aggressive and led by a forward who was demented.
Fortunately we were up for the fight and once again proved our ability and intelligence in adapting our game to the situation. We are determined not to concede goals at the moment and that attitude runs through the whole team. In the first half our shape and discipline was excellent. The back 4 squeezed the play, denying the Vamp’s width and in the middle we crowded them out; they were reduced to shots from distance, long throws and long balls to try and find a way through, but they found us competing hard all the way.
Further up it was tough work for Robin and Crofty who were being forced to feed on scraps, but we were still creating half chances, with Crofty drawing one particular save from the keeper from out wide.
When the goal came though it wasn’t even a half chance – it was probably a 1/25th chance at best. Nick found Terry, who lofted a delightful cross in from the right and their keeper flapped at it, it hit Matt ‘right time, right place’ Wilson in the back/neck, spun into the air, and nestled in the corner. “You gamble in the box and you make your own luck” is how I’m summarising Matt’s debut goal.
We saw out the half and re-grouped, before starting the second at a blistering pace. Pete Milligan, Terry and Crofty were using the ball intelligently, with Robin finding plenty of space on the left, and we created around 30 chances in the first 3 minutes. From the touchline it looked like we were once again going to up it a gear and kill off the game, as we’ve done a few times this season – in fact I was so confident I was getting ready to get on the phone and order fourteen ‘mind the gap’ t-shirts to give to the sevens. Unfortunately though a few good saves and some wayward finishing kept the match in the balance.
After this Vamps started to apply more pressure and we dropped deeper. Derek epitomised the team’s performances and after doing the ‘pretty stuff’ beautifully last week, this time he was working hard, winning headers and tackles, breaking up play and keeping us organised. The back 5 was absolutely quality and although there were a few hairy moments, including Vamps hitting the bar, the belief was always there that we could see it out. Jamie, Scants and the skipper all came back on for the last ten to batten down the hatches and there was also time for one particularly crucial intervention by a certain Welshman.
Another really pleasing win and confidence is deservedly high. A friendly then a cup games now, so we can really play with the handbrake off and keep showing what we can do.
Mom: The Welsh lad did ok
Team: Edwards, Piner, Law, Scantlebury, Hodges, Crofts, Graham, Scudamore, Pugh, Rutherford, Myers, Lee, Wilson, Milligan