Scorers: J.Spencer(2), Hubbard, Hughes, Gunyon
Club in turmoil. That’s what the tabloids were saying after a tumultuous first weekend of the season which saw the home side sucker punched three times by a largely 10-man Bank of England team. Who was to blame for such a disappointing start to the season? The media wanted answers. Polls were conducted which apportioned the blame between the gaffer, the players and the chairman. As Dave bisects this Venn diagram neatly, he manfully bore the brunt of the fallout. It would be pure speculation to suggest that this scrutiny may have led to our chairman being omitted from the starting line-up due to a “knee injury”. Perhaps venerable reserves gaffer Keith Nicholas decided to reach into Wenger’s managerial box of tricks to try and draw attention away from the fragile centre back. The upshot of this is that we found ourselves in Barnet with cultured striker Mike Hubbard filling in Dave’s considerable hole.
The game got under way in an all too similar fashion to last weekend with AP creating lots of chances and having nothing to show for the neat football they played in the first 20 minutes. The feeling of dejavu was all the more tangible as a fast break carved through our right side to force a good oneon- one save from Lloyd Edwards in goal.
The floodgates threatened to open somewhat at this point as the opposition managed to find space between our defence and midfield, and our misery was then compounded at around the half hour mark as Conor O’Leary’s afternoon was curtailed by a strong challenge (read common assault) in the box that went unpunished. Double hit.
Galvanised by the injustice of this event, the Tangerines managed to find a foothold in the game again and carve out more chances. It seemed though, that if we were ever to break our duck it would have to be courtesy of a chance which was impossible to miss. Thankfully EBOG duly supplied us one towards the end of the first half, as some persistent play by Tom Spencer left them stretched at the back. As the ball bobbled around the box it seemed as though this could end up another squandered opportunity until James Spencer intervened. With fresh legs, the goal at his mercy and a confidence untainted by the profligate affair the week before, he buried the ball decisively for the opener.
Half-time, and a deserved but slender lead to show for our efforts. With the game still in the balance McLoughlin greeted us with unprecedented praise, and the exhortation not to let our fine work in the first half slip.
Buoyed by Dave’s words and the revelation that we can actually score goals, the team seemed to move a little more incisively in the second half: AP Reserves’ new messiah, Fevzi Demir jinked up the field effortlessly to create space for James Spencer to cut into the box and lash home a second. Jay Hughes crumpled mysteriously in the middle of the field – presumably to create a diversion* – which Hubbard duly capitalised on, elegantly slotting home for three. The team were actually looking like a unit, and an already demoralised EBOG will have been even more panicked by the fact that Dan Wilding was finding his range, picking out cross-field passes for fun. Such was the dissatisfaction in our opponents, rather than trying to defend, they instead relied on raising their hands at any given opportunity and claiming offside: a tactic which was proving successful for the most part, until Jay Hughes managed to spring the trap with what had earlier been defined as “deceptive pace”. The Club’s European top goal-scorer raced through to nonchalantly round the keeper and slot the ball in for the fourth.
The remainder of the game is where the stolid defence came into its own. The combination of some Hollywood passing, a high line and a sympathetic referee meant the game was conducted in our half for the most part, as ebog tinkered with their formation in order to unlock that all important consolation goal.
I’ll admit I was the first to raise an eyebrow at the discovery of our dual holding midfield formation, especially for considerable swathes of the first half. But whatever kinks were in the system had been thoroughly ironed out by the second half and replaced with an efficient recycling programme that Germany would be proud of. It was a just reward when the rout was completed in the closing stages of the game, Tom Spencer once again managed to use his gangly frame to confound the defence and selflessly open an avenue for Dan Gunyon (who had been punishing the woodwork prior to this point) to cement the win.
Pats on the back all round then, most notably for Mike Hubbard who made it look like he’d been playing centre half all his life, AP 1/2/3/5 Midfielder/ Defender/Striker Leon Brown, whose neat distribution kept us ticking over, and James Spencer, who was a constant threat with his direct running.
The question the media are asking now? Which team will turn out against Polytechnic on Saturday?
* Video evidence has subsequently shown that Jay did indeed take one for the team in the build-up, which certainly typifies my experiences of playing with him.