Scorers: Heath, Toby
This was not necessarily a must win game but it was pretty damned close and at 11am when we had 10 players things looked ominous.
BUT……..this is AP and if nothing else we rise to the occasion………sometimes. Anyway thanks to the efforts of our Chairman, Jed and Kurt we managed to get 13 players for KO, even if one had never played 11 a side before, another plucked from the reserves to make his club debut and one coming back from injury. But 13 it was and a fine bunch they turned out to be.
We started with Matt in goal, Fayaz the 11 a side virgin, Gary, newbie Olly and Ziggy in defence. Midfield was Kelvin on the right, Jed and Jay in the centre (yes that was Jay in the centre) and Chunk O’Leary on the wing. Tabs and Toby lead the line. Kurt was sub with the on route Jack.
The game started with Owens knowing they had to win to avoid relegation and they started with pace and good passing and although they didn’t overrun us in the early encounters they certainly stretched us. But the defence was solid with Gary and his new best mate Olly mopping up any danger. Ziggy and Fayaz worked well with the other two to snuff out most of the danger. After 10-15 mins we began to find some stability with Jed and Jay getting to grips in the centre. Kelvin and Connor worked really hard getting up and down the pitch. The first real chance of the game fell to Connor who raced onto a through ball with only the keeper to beat but skewed his shot wide. We definitely were creating more openings with Toby and Tabs coming more into the game. Connor was popping in some lovely corners which caused Owens problems. In fact the next chance fell to him when he went for goal from the left of the area and grazed the crossbar. Owens were always good on the break as they had pace across the pitch and they continued to threaten. And as in the return fixture we went behind to a scrappy goal from a corner that we probably should have cleared but was poked home by them instead. At this point my collies began to wobble, but not for very long. We responded well and with 5 to go before half time equalised from a corner which after a scramble Toby poked home. That was as crucial as any winner as it gave us some impetus to take into the second half.
Second half saw Kelvin move to right back for the subbed Fayaz and Jack came to right wing. The second half we controlled pretty well throughout with Jack and Kelvin offering us a bit more dynamism when in tandem. Tabs and Toby were stretching Owens defence wider and we had managed to quieten their defensive midfielder who was dictating their game. Jed and Jay were really on top in midfield, Connor became a bit quieter (some would say he was pacing himself, others, well lets not go there) but instead Ziggy was pinging some lovely long balls up field for Tabs and Toby. After some concerted pressure we took the lead from a corner by Connor and an arrow like header from Olly. This guy was having one hell of a debut, lots of talking, good on the ball and scoring goals…… aaaahhh reminded me of myself. Anyway Owens went for it and the game opened up although they did seem to tire a bit. We continued to look good on the break with Kurt coming on, to add some fresh aggression up front. The last ten saw Connor come back to life after his mid game nap and he should have scored with a rasping volley that was on its way but cannoned of the defender. But we saw the game out and assured ourselves of 1st division football next year.
After the stresses of actually getting a team out we performed really well against a spirited and determined oppo who only fell down with their passing in the final third.
Matt in goal was largely untroubled but did what was required well. Ziggy showed the sort of solid determined performance that was needed on a day such as this. Fayaz found out that 11 a side is a whole different ball game, but performed admirably as he was guided by Gary and Olly, both of whom were superb. Olly was calmness personified both in his reading of the game his tackling, while his passing improved throughout the game. And with Gary providing the graft and reliability of a pit pony alongside him they made a formidable pair. Jed was solid throughout covering more ground than even Ozil. As for Jay the new midfield maestro, he was immense playing out of his normal comfort zone and gave everything for the team. And has probably found his best position. Kelvin and Jack also both played out of their preferred position but gave all for the cause and they linked up really well in the second half. Connor was almost Man of the match, his passing and delivery of dead ball were excellent and he even showed a real turn of pace, I dread to think what speed he could get up to going downhill. Tabs, Toby and Kurt were great with all showing some sublime touches and second half a great attitude towards doing the hard graft.
Well done to all. Two games to go against the top teams, so we can now enjoy them but I still expect the same application to achieve a result as these are the games we need to improve in looking towards next season.