Goals: N’Gola (2), Rutherford
The AP North Circular appreciation XI rolled into Wembley this week, looking to get stuck back into the league campaign with a tricky tie against Finchleians. Among the familiar faces we welcomed back fan favourites Terry and Banny and gave a debut to Tris Pope, who had been in fine form for the 8th XI. With Mike Myers totally ‘Per Mertesackered’ by a nasty bug, Nick also came back in to provide some defensive cover.
We began well, if a little sloppily in possession. The defence was comfortable, Terry and Scants were winning the midfield battle and Tris and Crofty both brought smart saves from the OFs keeper. The goal we scored after around twenty minutes was another exhibition of our useful strength at set-pieces, with Terry sending one in, Crofty rising above the keeper to flick on and Sam towering above the marker jostling around his knees to head home.
Shortly after this Old Finchleians carved out their first real chance and Lloyd made a great save. Matt and Banny came on for Elvis and Crofty to give us renewed impetus and Scants sent some great balls over for Banny to chase, but we couldn’t add the second we probably deserved before half time.
We started the second half looking to kick it up a gear and almost did when Robin flashed the ball across the goal, but no-one was there to finish and it was then called offside anyway (it felt like more of a chance than it sounds when written down).
To their credit though Finchleians then came into the game. They had switched to a more attacking formation and the AP defence suddenly had a lot more to do. They repeatedly looked to turn us with balls in behind, which we dealt with fairly comfortably, and also looked to run at the defenders; but fortunately even if they made it past one someone else, usually Oli or Sam, was there to cover.
However the pressure took its toll when a corner was cleared and the OF’s player speculatively lofted it back in – it sailed past everyone and under the crossbar. It was an unlucky, sickening blow, but they were now very much back in the game and came at us even harder. At 1-1 we were having to play so deep we couldn’t really get the ball to the strikers and we could do little more than ride it out.
Lesser teams might have capitulated at this point, but AP 6s is a side that looks adversity right in the eyes and then gives it a painful nipple twist and a wedgie. Having successfully stopped OFs from creating any chances of note we finally got up the other end and the rampaging right-back controlled a ball into the box and gently dispatched a half volley which the keeper tipped onto the post/a puddle. Banny was onto it faster than the dance floor in Yates and we were 2-1 up, which we celebrated in modest fashion.
With the game still very much in the balance we made more changes, Crofty coming on in centre midfield to control possession in much the way Man Utd used Scholes in the latter part of his career. The three man platform looked more solid and with fifteen to go Nick also came on and got stuck in.
There were some nervy moments, mainly from free kicks given around the box, but we were able to make the game safe with a third. Banny tried to ‘Welbeck’ a cross from the right, Elvis unselfishly shunned a tap in to cross it back across the open goal and Banny bundled it in. This triggered a mix of relief (half the team), pleasure (the crowd), jubilation (the other half of the team), pandemonium (Banny) and anger (Finchleians). By the time the ref got things back under control it was nearly dark and it was game over and three more points in the bag.
Finally, with a third of the league season now gone a brief word on our performance so far. The blistering start we’ve had has been fantastic and everyone who has donned a 6’s shirt deserves to feel very proud of it. Indeed, the fact that this side only came together in pre-season makes it even more impressive and I think if we keep working hard we can get even better in the second half of the season. This is a great bunch of lads with talent, commitment and belief throughout the squad so let’s keep racking up these wins.
MoM: As usual plenty of candidates, but giving it to Terry as a cumulative award for consistently great work in both halves of the pitch, whatever position he is deployed in.
Team: Edwards, Piner, Pugh, Rutherford, Krefting, Law, Scantlebury, Hodges, Semaj, Croft, Pope, Wilson, N’Gola, Lee