Old Parkonians 3 – 1 Alexandra Park

Senior Division 1 | October 26, 2013

Goal: Kelly

A return for the skipper and therefore, a return for the first team match report. Availability was a problem once more for the first team, and whilst we did have a slightly weakened squad some perspective is required. The last time I had travelled to Parks we were rock bottom of Div 2, playing 4-1-4-1 that saw Lee Carlin deployed as a midfield enforcer and Ellion as a back to goal target man to hold up the ball. Whilst I am a fan of the work of both of these gentlemen, it is fair to say, they were being played a little out of their comfort zone. Weakened though we were, it was nowhere near the stage many years back at which we would require the ginger Vieira.

With the central line out of action, I was expecting some arrival casualties, however, it actually came in the form of the Pennycook/Brown car pool that went awry. Whilst Columbus could navigate the new world using a compass and wind power, in 2013 Andy Brown and Stu Cook ended up half way to Norfolk due to the absence of a sat nav. Still, we were all good and present for kick off, lining up 4-2-3-1. Unbelievably, due to mandatory linesmen and the game of the pitch next to us being cancelled, we ended up with a 4th official. The young lad wasn’t even forced to earn his money by John Morris, who should have at least given him the opportunity to send him to the stands.

Parks are one of the best footballing sides in the SAL, they play good stuff and are all relatively comfortable on the ball. In the first 20, we struggled to get a kick and couldn’t quite get to grips with their movement. Playing with one striker, who drifts into wide areas is somewhat unsportsmanlike in the amateur game, all a bit confusing. As a centre half, I appreciate playing against a good solid 4-4-2, ‘you take the big one, I will have the quick one’. Alas, Parks had quite a few tidy players interchanging positions every few minutes….whatever has happened to the English game.

All of this said, it was a good old fashioned wallop that gave us the lead against the run of play. Matt Kelly was excellent throughout on Saturday and fashioned some space about 25 yards from goal. Parks backed off and with the wind, he smashed one in over the motionless keeper. The lack of a reaction or dive made us think the ball had possibly got caught in the net behind the goal, leading some hesitant and slightly embarrassing celebrations. The Parks number 1 didn’t cover himself in glory, but it was a sweet hit by any standard.

5 minutes later, it was all square. We have been massively susceptible to the ball in between centre half and full back (see Poly) and it undid us again, the winger raced onto it and weighted one across goal for their striker to convert. The game levelled off a little bit between then and it looked like it would peter out until the break. Not so, says Chris ‘the entertainer’ Nicholau ploughing through the back of a wideman heading away from goal. You could tell it was a ‘stonewaller’ by the muted AP appeals as opposed to expletives. I always fancy Stu from the spot (oooh err) and he pulled off an excellent save to turn the resulting spot kick away, albeit at a ‘nice height for the keeper’ as any solid pundit may observe.

Half time and all to play for. Laurence was introduced as a ball playing full back due to an injury to chocolate ankles Hillier and we did start the half ok. Parks gave us a lot of time on the ball at the back, which initially spooked Egan and I (slashing more hurried and erratic 60 yarders than ever). However, we did actually move the ball quite nicely in the second half, just falling down at the final moment. ‘Phil G here’ had a volley just wide, Chris Nicholau couldn’t get a shot off when in on and goal. Chris also deserves a mention for the least threatening 30 yard effort ever against the wind that had the velocity of a hot air balloon. We looked relatively assured at the back and the game was there to be one.

Unfortunately, it was Parks who seized the initiative. Another occasion this season where we have just not grasped the nettle at the key moment. Their fullback embarked on a mazy dribble, beating three AP players through a mix of skill, luck and weak defending. The last of which was myself as his attempted flick, bounced off both my ankles and through the other side. It was a simple cutback and finish from there, a really frustrating one to concede.

We gave it what we had and were excellent for 20 minutes, but just lacked the quality when it came to the final pass or effort. A fair bit of 18 yard box pinball, the skipper had one off the line but we just couldn’t break through. After a desperate late scramble, Parks broke nicely and finished the game off tidily. 3-1 it was, and whilst we can have no complaints about the scoreline it is one that probably does not reflect how tight the game was for 85 minutes. That said, Parks were the more incisive team in the final third and were certainly the more clinical.

Quite a few things to reflect upon really. I can’t fault the effort from the boys, bar the opening 20 minutes, the performance was a decent one. Unfortunately, it is a lack of quality and cohesion that is the difference. In the final third, we have been too reliant on Ronnie to score goals and his absence has really highlighted this. One thing I have noticed is that other teams have caused us all sorts of problems with runners from midfield and it is just not something we seem to do. People need to take responsibility to get in goalscoring areas and chipping in. At the back, we need to re-kindle the formula that made us so successful. We defend as an 11, not as a back 5-6. All of this has been underlined by injury, availability and to be honest, a lack of fitness. We need to improve.

MOM : Kelly/Pennycook. Excellent for different reasons. As you would expect between a GK and a number 10.

1st Team / Match Reports