Scorers: Brade, O’Leary, Wood
And so the week after the week before and the windswept plains of New River on a moody November day seemed a suitably atmospheric location for the 3s to resurrect their stuttering form.
With a few late changes, we set up against our 2nd division oppo with a revised 4- 4-2. This included Lloyd in goal, Gary, Will, Richard and the returning prodigal son Ziggy across the back. Midfield was Connor, Jed, Ben and Ashley with Denzel and Kurt up top. Fabb and Jason Smith warmed the bench.
First impressions are important and when I saw the oppo finally come out I thought this could be a tough afternoon as Alleyn’s looked a powerful side. This though would be a suitable challenge to see if we are up for the fight.
We started with the slight wind advantage and pushed on hard against their defence who looked decidedly shaky when they tried to clear their lines. Denzel was working hard between the lines and picking up pieces with Kurt and Ash backing him up with similar effort. Ben was trying to pull the strings but to their credit Alleyn’s were being combative all over the pitch and they threatened when they broke forward with pace and strength. The guys at the back were dealing well with the threat with all of them being solid and robust in the tackle and reading when to stand off. This limited the oppo down to efforts from distance. We had some half chances but clear cut chances were hard to find at both ends. Finally we broke the deadlock when Ash calmly finished from a good run. He should have had another when he collected a lovely through ball from Ben and was clear through only for the Ref to give him offside even though his run was timed perfectly from 5 yards onside. Jason came on for Ben and instantly got stuck into doing what he does best, winning the ball. As ever Jed was assisting in doing similar work. Nevertheless our efforts in pressing were rewarded when Connor closed down their defence, intercepted the clearance and calmly lobbed the keeper, although it was close to hitting the post. Alleyn’s continued to press and made sure we could not relax at any time. We managed to stay solid till the break.
Half time turn around meant they had the wind so it was going to be a different set of tasks as they were bound to come at us with nothing to lose. Fabb came on for Connor to continue terrorising down the right. The game continued in similar vein with both sides battling hard for every ball with no quarter asked or given but never in a nasty way (oh how I miss playing Vamps). We found ourselves under increased pressure and eventually they scored when we failed to clear a corner and the second low cross was fired in low and hard and was poked in. With probably ten to play they scored again after what looked like a good Jed tackle was penalised. The resulting free kick ricocheted of Jason and sent Lloyd the wrong way. 2-2 and the thought of another 30 mins on the New River tundra was not very enticing. With the final minute approaching a wayward pass in their defence was intercepted by Ash who sped goal wards. As defenders closed round him in the area he laid a lovely pass across to the area into the path of Jed who had made a lung busting run to catch up. At this point a despairing tackle brought him down to concede a penalty…………….the main man stepped up and sealed the victory in the final minute.
Through to the next round, but it was tough and it showed we do have the character to grind it out. Alleyn were a better side than some we have played in our division so it makes our recent form even more ridiculous.
Collectively we looked a team this week with the whole defence performing well, and putting up their best showing of the season that I have seen. Ziggy and Gary were excellent whilst Richard and Will were reading the game well. Thanks to Jason who came along last minute and we wish him well with the arrival of his 3rd kiddie. Perhaps if he played more football he could avoid a 4th! Connor made a good return from a 5 week lay off and took his goal well. Ben just gave us a calming influence and a bit of guile when we needed it and should only get better as he returns to fitness. Denzel was everywhere working really hard to win the ball and run at the oppo when he could. Ashley and Kurt also did their shift along with Fabb. All three grafted to ensure the victory.
Finally Jed, who week in week out manages to drag the team along in his wake. How he covers so much pitch in 90 mins is a wonder. He really is the main man, top notch.
EBOGs this week and we must get a win to step away from the lower part of the table. If we show the same commitment, spirit and work rate as this week then all will be well.