NUFC Oilers 3 – Alexandra Park 1

SAL Senior Division 2 | October 4, 2014

Scorer: Kelly

Hanger Lane, Perivale, Greenford. We were in the land of made up tube for our top of the table clash at NUFC Oilers. As I was absent with aforementioned hamstring injury, it gave me a chance to really take in the game from a tactical viewpoint. Always a sobering realisation of the level that you play at.

Oilers came up from div 3 at a canter last year, possessing the ever dangerous attributes of youth and enthusiasm. Whilst AP will always have some of the latter, we are certainly lacking in the former. It shocked me to learn last week that our perennial designated ‘youngster’, Les Manu, is now actually 24.

Anyhow, we went 4-4-2, our front two of Matt & Kev possessing more than a touch of X-Factor, thrown together boyband about them. Our own Louis Walsh, John Morris, gave them ‘a license to kill’ in the pre-match team talk. Inspiring, possibly. Bizarre, undoubtedly. The conditions were ‘great for football’, I.e pretty disgusting for me on the side in my rain mack. I don’t know how Mickey Beard does it.

We started somewhat shakily but grew into it. After a bit of back and forth, Matt Kelly gave us the lead. After inconclusive reports of ‘giving the eyes’ last week, I can confirm for the goal, they were given with less subtlety than a Laurence Fernee leer. From a free kick where all expected him to cross, Matt whipped it inside the near post, leaving the goalkeeper motionless. A lovely hit.

We looked like we might extend the lead but a bit of a shocker drew them level. An AP move broke down on the oppo box, they broke well. We decided to go all kamikaze offside and even then Stu had a chocolate wrists moment from the eventual strike. It’s just banter Stu……back in your seat, tough conditions etc.

1-1 at the break and the game in the balance. My words of encouragement must have been absolutely abysmal because we went into a capitulation reminiscent of the English middle order (little cricket reference for you there). The game was as good as dead in the next 15 minutes.

There are black holes in deep space, smaller in stature than the hole in front of our back 4 for the opening of the centre half. We reverted to our tried and failed 4-6 formation and were dealt a couple of sucker punches. The first actually came from a set piece. A very tidy finish on the move by their centre half, but the marking. Oh the marking. Only one man should rightfully be allowed to sweep in a low near post cross in such a manner, and that is Teddy Sherringham. My eyes aren’t great, but I am 80% sure it wasn’t.

The third followed some after, we were stretched and caught about 20 yards to high. Their striker walked through, rounded Stu and tucked in. AP huffed and puffed, taking the Steven Gerrard approach to get back in the game, repeated, despairing, shots from range whilst off balance. That was however that. 3-1 it finished.

I once worked at a place that frequently asked me to summarise my ‘key learnings, or takeaways’ from any given situation. Needless to say I despised it. However, for I took a few ‘learnings’ from Saturday.

The most obvious is the 15 minute switch off that cost us the points. You might think you can have a breather and coast for little pockets of the game, but decent teams, like Oilers were, will punish you in that time. We got caught with a solid 7 men ahead of the ball far too often and have to take collective responsibility. It’s not necessarily a case of work rate, just a bit of tactical responsibility. Our default mindset appears to be Glen Johnson x 11 at the moment. You won’t win anything leaking 3 goals a game and we have already done in two.

Going forward, we are also somewhat individualistic at the moment. Very good players, playing totally independently of one another. I would take a Matt or a Kev of this world (as Andy Townsend might say) over their forwards, but they were strangely isolated for long periods.

Finally, I would really like to see SAL referees take a tougher stance towards persistent fouls. This comes from someone with a less than impressive disciplinary record. Kev is very talented but also no Diego Costa. He went through his 4th successive game getting the crap kicked out of him and needs a bit of help from officials. The oppo suss out he is a bit good and just proceed to foul every time he receives it. Justification of ‘this is is English football’ from the officials doesn’t really cut it (verbatim) he needs a bit of protection from out and out cynicism.

Anyway, I don’t want to stray into bitter territory. The result was a fair one and oilers deserved the win on the balance of play. Best side we have faced this season and tidy on the ball.

Onto next week and Poly. Again.

MOM: Matt Kelly

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