Another week, another win for AP 8s.
But although 4-2 over a decent Vamps team (with one stand-out player) was a good result, but there was more to this than the straight-forward wins of recent match days.
Crucially, the recently consistent spine of the team was missing some of its stalwarts, including our top scorers Adam Jenkins (to work) and Reece Kendall (to the 7s). In their place were new call-ups from training and club members returning from long-term absences, all of which added up to a team with an unfamiliar look to it. The skipper’s apprehension was obvious.
We kicked off in our familiar 4-2-3-1 formation, although with wingers being encouraged to track back to keep it tight early, it was more like 4-4-1-1. The opening exchanges were fairly even, with AP trying to establish dominance in the middle of the park, and Vamps seemingly happy to leave it to us and lump it back over our heads. After around 10 minutes a corner was won, swung in from the right, knocked down and Matt Wilson was on hand to tuck it away for 1-0 to AP.
We grew in confidence and started playing some decent football. The battle for central midfield was won thanks to some hard work and simple passing and we took advantage, playing wingers in between the full backs and centre halves at will. The second was only a matter of time and it eventually came from a through ball picked up by Lawrie, who rounded the keeper and tucked it away for 2-0, only then to pull up and be subbed off with a tight hamstring. Special mention should go to Joe Perera, who showed admirable maturity in leaving the pass for its intended destination when he could easily have stretched to intercept.
Vamps – seemingly playing the ‘law of averages’ strategy – then got lucky with one of their dozens of hit and hope long balls, which found their tricky No. 8, who beat the offside trap and a defender and tucked it past Gustavo for 2-1. Half time.
We came out a bit sluggish after the break and conceded a carbon-copy of Vamps’ first goal for 2-2. We didn’t stop playing though, and soon after a spell of determined pressing and excellent shape reaped rewards; Harry scrapped for and won the ball on the right wing, came inside to Alek in the hole (insert Sid James cackle here) who smashed it in the far top corner. 3-2.
At this point Vamps decided that whinging at us, the ref and anyone who strayed within 50 yards of the pitch was going to be their best means of winning the game. In a not-entirely-unconnected event, the ref then awarded AP a pen for handball, the ball bouncing up off a poor pitch and hitting the defender’s hand from a yard away. Harsh, but we’ve all seen them given. Particularly when the oppo are having a go at the ref at every available opportunity. Mike, however, was undeterred – stepping up with an assassin’s smile and smashing the pen in the bottom corner for 4-2.
We then sat back and soaked up what little pressure Vamps could muster and saw out what was a deserved – but tight – win over some remarkably gobby opponents.
Man of the match was a tough call, as we had good performances all over the pitch, but Che Guevar…. sorry, Gustavo nicks it for 3 very high-quality saves: one tip over in the first half that was destined for the top corner, and two outstanding stops from their best/only good player, rushing out, making himself big and getting hands on the ball.
Viva la revolucion.