AP reserves to focus on the league.
There was defeat for the reserves this week in the cup against regular recent foes Old Actonians.
Both the skipper and the manager were at pains to reassure the squad that this was an honourable defeat and it’s above my pay grade to disagree with them. We certainly gave it a good go and fell victim to a good counter-attack and an offside goal that nearly caused the Monkey to explode in righteous indignation.
There’s something lovely about Old Actonians’ ground – picturesque even. It also has that thing which raises a lucky few facilities in our league above the norm. Dugouts. But actually, the playing surface is paradoxically both sticky and slippery, making good football difficult. Added to that, three edges of the pitch are hemmed in by fences or buildings, which makes it an oppressive place to play, somehow.
Having come here and claimed a very good draw in the league a couple of weeks ago thanks to a sumptuous free-kick by Jay Hughes, we knew we’d have our work cut out. For once, despite (or maybe because of) a shorter warm-up, we started fairly brightly. We had the better of the play in the opening exchanges, as we did throughout the match, but went one down to an efficient break-away from an attacking corner which left them able to overwhelm us with a sweeping move down our right hand side and a simple finish for an arriving midfielder against an overstretched defence.
It wasn’t a great goal to concede, even if they deserved credit for launching and converting such a clinical blow. It’s never good to concede from an attacking corner.
Minutes later though, we were on terms as more excellent delivery from Dan Wilding (he must be racking up a lot of assists from right back) was met with a perfectly judged header which Mark guided back over the keeper, looping it neatly into the top corner. He’s in a purple patch of form and has added goals to his already mammoth contributions recently, it’s great to see.
The winner came halfway through the second period. And it really was very offside. The build-up included opportunities to clear it – as we’ve noted here before, this is our Achilles heel. A lucky bounce was also involved, as was an excellent (Bardget-style) save by Matt, but with everything landing at their feet and the ref missing a blatant offside, there was no stopping them bundling it home and advancing in the cup.
I’ll keep it brief this week, apart from that. No rambling essays on the checks and balances of fortune and spirit, but suffice it to say, no man in tangerine let down his teammates, and no team could have done more to try and force extra time. This is perhaps best illustrated by two outrageous acts by their centre back wearing the no 5. First, he got away with a massive push in the box which his teammates later admitted that they couldn’t believe wasn’t given as a penalty. Then later, after a delicious arced clip through from Mikey Hubbard left me the comparatively simple job of lifting over the onrushing goalkeeper, he appeared out of nowhere to acrobatically throw himself at the ball and hook a desperate, lunging boot to smash the ball from an impossible angle into the bar and away to safety. Sometimes it’s just not your day.
As mentioned above – each man in AP colours can hold their head high after this one, but honourable mentions must also go to Ozan for some classy passing and being the only one on the pitch capable of drag-backs on that surface, James Spencer for being electric when he came on and filling the oppo with dread and terror every time he got the ball, Monkey and Dave for leading a strong and hard-done by defensive display, and Ives and Lesly for causing problems all game. Final word goes to a man of the match performance from Sam filling in at left back. It’s almost impossible to imagine not really missing Fevzi, such has been his contribution this season, but Sam stepped in and showed that if you’ve got good touch and a football brain you can play anywhere. His was a faultless display of diligence, skill and hard work which typified the team ethic on Saturday – well done, mate.
Norsemen next week; this is a humdinger. We’re at home and must get something from the game if we are serious about a promotion push this year. They are the pacesetters in a tight league, but if we can take the points we could finish the weekend top of the table. They say luck evens itself out over a season; the rub of the green would be very welcome this weekend. I’m pretty confident that we’ll bring all of the other ingredients again, Dave and Keith have assembled a squad of substance here – let’s do them and the club proud.
No more cup distractions, lads. This year is all about maintaining that promotion push.