Scorers: Kelly(2), Hubbard, Gunes, Hughes
After a forgettable outing in the cup last weekend, AP Reserves looked to get back to winning ways in a league campaign that has seen us go five games unbeaten in recent weeks. This would ostensibly be no easy feat as we welcomed a Norsemen side who had been running rampant through the lower order of the league this season. Thankfully we were able to boast arguably the strongest lineup we’ve seen all season in order to put the screws to their title credentials. In this period of Christmas parties it’s incredible to still be boasting 13 quality players whilst our opposition struggled to field 11 – not that our commitment has outshone our desire to get drunk, as Mike Graves would testify: The G Man was found lying on the pavement by the chairman after some alcohol fueled Christmas party antics. He managed to get in a quick forty winks before kickoff on the way to our surrogate ground in Wembley, and looked none-the-worse for his exploits, even galloping up for a wayward scissor kick as the fulltime whistle approached.
In the words of my Tolstoy-esque understudy, we are cultivating a 2nd XI squad that is thriving on adversity this season; whether that means clawing back goals or seeing out games with ten men. Of course we get a lot of practice chasing games courtesy of our generally dire starts, so imagine the surprise and downright luxury we found ourselves in as we took the lead within the first ten minutes. You evidently have to be switched on for the full 90 to get anything out of games for the first team; a fact that Matt Kelly was quick to illustrate by lashing home after some tidy work by Ives to get to the by-line and cut the ball back. He quickly doubled his tally and the lead at around the 15 minute mark when slid through by Tom Spencer. I was actually competing with Andy Sievewright’s daughter to see who could chuck a ball the highest at the time, so here’s a quick description brought to you by Mr Spencer in association with the otherwise redundant Google Hangouts:
i slotted him in, he got between the centre backs
And i dropped a weighted ball that brought the keeper off his line –
Matt won the foot race, touched it past the GK ran around the other side and slotted home was a great goal.
His movement was excellent.
So with a 2-0 lead against shell-shocked opposition – who clearly weren’t used to this sort of pressure – we set about trying to increase the deficit, and would have gone further ahead if not for a stolid display from their goalkeeper. It took them a good half hour to get into the game, and even then it seemed to come solely from an inspired performance by their trequartista number 7. The AP Reserves are getting used to dealing with advanced playmakers now though: Ozan Gunes keeps a set of clamps especially for this sort of occasion. With the no 7 well smothered by Oz’s industry, it seemed as though there would be no way the miserly AP defence would be permeated in open play. So when Norsemen finally did get off the mark it inevitably came from a set piece. A short corner routine allowed the wily number 7 to gain a yard of space, which he used to punch the ball into the far post.
2-1 at half time. A chance for a certain young socialite to clear his lungs of the detritus that had been acquired whilst sampling the vices on offer throughout the evening prior. A chance for the rest of us to indulge in the embarrassment of riches we have up front, as Jay Hughes replaced Tom Spencer in a straight swap.
More of the same in the second half as Norsemen distilled their tactics to long balls down the flanks which Lee Carlin and Sam Bolger would comfortably recycle with some very composed distribution. The only real chance that they managed to create came from an error at the back which was quickly atoned for with a heroic recovering block by Dave McLoughlin. The hiccup did highlight the perilous nature of the scoreline though, so it came as quite a relief when Mike Hubbard supplied us with a bit of breathing space a quarter of an hour into the half. The Reserves utility man was having a fine game in centre midfield and capped the performance with something of a collectors item, stooping to head us into a commanding lead.
With the two goal cushion restored we began to relax into the game a little more. The classy attacking line was doing a good job of retaining the pressure in their final third, and it was only a matter of time before something gave. That something was Jay as a clumsy “kick in the ass” upended the cultured striker. The goalkeeper did his best to pile on the pressure by making the referee measure out the distance to the penalty spot, but Ozan is unflappable from 12 yards and made a strong case to be first choice in the hotly contested penalty pecking order.
With the Norsemen well and truly beaten it was time to turn up the entertainment. The team boasts two wingers with more tricks than Dick and Dom. Ah, Dick Advocaat and Dominic Van Kinkle, now those boys knew how to entertain at Roda JC. Although they’re no Van Kinkles, Les and Ives are ruddy good in their own right: They were giving the fullbacks a torrid time with their quick feet and electric pace. Ives was in especially prolific form: Having already supplied Matt with an assist earlier he turned provider once again, racing to the byline to square the ball for Jay Hughes to put the nail in the coffin. Les was making no less of a physical impact on the game too as a rare errant touch led him to bury a knee into the goalkeeper’s tooth. The collision resulted in the luckless keeper being forced off, and with no subs Norsemen were reduced to 10 for the remainder of the game. With that in mind they were quite happy to see out the rest of the game in damage limitation mode.
So with our closest competitors dispatched, all that remained was to head to the clubhouse and cap a fine day for AP Reserves with triumph in the Christmas Quiz. Could our intellectual superiority be the basis to this seasons success so far? I can’t say for sure but it is hard to imagine that knowing the location of the Cresta Run doesn’t give us at least a little tactical edge