Goals: N’Gola, Pope
January is always a difficult month for our pitches and this year is no exception. The first game of the year had been postponed due to heavy rain and we were hoping this wasn’t going to be the same, so when I got the call Saturday morning that it was called off again I wasn’t pleased. I was itching to put our pre-Christmas poor run of form behind us and start a fresh for 2015. So it was a mixture of relief and concern when I got a second call saying Finchleans were now offering to host the game. Concern because I had already told all the players it was off and I know our lads social calendars seem to be busier than Russell Brand’s. So I was ready expecting to get a load of… “But I’ve organised to go see the Lion King at the theatre with the Mrs”. But to their credit everyone pulled through for the team and weren’t put off by the last minute change of location or the fact it was pissing with rain and blowing a gale. Fair play, maybe it was the lure of a quarter final of the cup or maybe they had just seen quite enough of their loved ones for one Christmas! That said, Andy did give us a bit of a scare, deputising in goal for the 6s there was still no sign of him when the ref signalled for the toss. Jack had been compliant even confident when I asked him to don the keepers gloves for the warm up, but when the ref blew his whistle I could see panic setting in “seriously, isn’t there anyone else better?!” Just as we were resigning to the fact there wasn’t, Andy came jogging up and there were a few relived faces (none more so than Jack).
Andy was certainly given some chances to warm up in the first half, I had decided to play uphill against the wind with at times icy rain lashing our faces. It made it extremely difficult to clear our lines and play any sort of decent football, with Tris and Dan up top barely seeing the ball. Still the defence held off several waves of attacks, with Andy making one great save with his legs. Still the inevitable happened, the Finchleans player picked up the ball outside the box and before anyone could close him down he curled an unstoppable wind assisted shot wide of Andy and into the top corner, putting them 1-0 in front. For the rest of the first half we battled to limit the damage, Sam and Jack did a decent job shutting everything down and carrying it forward and Terry came in to sure us up in the middle. Then when it seemed we were clinging on a run up the right by (?) Robin and a decent cross found Tris in space in the middle, he fired home and we had an equaliser, 1-1. For me this was the turning point, with only minutes to half time Finchleans knew they had lost the advantage the weather and the pitch had afforded them, and now the tables would turn. We went into half time in a positive frame of mind.
The second half we switched to a more offensive formation bringing Banny in to partner Tris a sit was all AP. Now Ditmar and Robin could bomb forward and we put them under pressure. It was still hard with the wind and the but, but we carved out several good chances and it felt like it was only a matter of time. Sam was controlling the game from midfield and their keeper was kept busy. Tris had the best of the chances, when he went clean through with almost too much time, the keeper made a save but it rebounded back to Tris who again couldn’t put it away. Fortunately the deadlock was broken by Banny, I can’t remember much about it, meaning it was probably one of his trademark scramble home from 2 yards job, though he will almost certainly say it was a quality piece of skill. Still we celebrated going 2-1 up, knowing it would be tough for them to come back against the elements. In the latter stages we could and should have had more. Dan had at least two good efforts on goal, one where he went through on the keeper only for him to pull off one of the best saves I’ve seen this season, it was Gordon Banks like (for the younger readers, England’s World Cup winning keeper) and judging by the age of him it could have been him! AP closed the game out well with everyone battling to the end and restricting them to a few half-chances. So it was a good win and nice way to start 2015. We march on to the semi-finals where we will likely face tougher opposition. Still lets hope this is our year.
Man of the match goes to Sam Boggis-Rolfe, for his tireless work in the middle of the park, both breaking up the oppositions attack and starting a good few of our own with good distribution he brought some quality to proceedings.