Alexandra Park 3 – Weirside Rangers 1

SAL Senior Div 2 | January 28, 2017

Scorers: Neill, Graves, Reader

Crucial game this week against a team below us but close enough that a negative result could have been damaging. With a couple of changes coming in the shape of Cadrot and Neill from the 3s we fielded a strong team. Unfortunately for Weirside they had to start the game with 9 men due to travel hold ups.

Almost with an air of “this should be straight forward” we started somewhat lethargic with our passing being a bit laboured and lacking a bit of urgency. This said The front three of White, Neill and Phillips looked threatening with Neill holding up the ball well and White using his explosive pace well. We improved over the first fifteen minutes with White, Wood and Neill getting half chances. We then broke the deadlock after breaking down the right before a cross was floated in for Neill to loop a header over their stand in keeper.

At this point we should have got a grip on the game as Wearside’s stragglers arrived to bring them up to full strength. Instead we sat back and were duly punished by a rasping drive from 25 yards that just had too much pace for Egan to keep out. From the remainder of the half it was pretty even although we possibly just shaded it. On the one occasion we were caught out by a runner Cadrot raced back and pulled of a superb interception in our own penalty area and calmly moved the ball on. Taylor and Brough were dealing well with their forwards although Brough was slightly agitated by some of our play. Taylor as always was laid back to the point of horizontal and enjoying the absence of the Man City moaner bending his ear this week, although Egan stepped into the breach on that point. Bailey deployed as holding mid this week was a bit of a revelation and gave Graves and Wood freedom to roam. As for Korek he could turn out to be the best RB in the club. We definitely improved as the half wore on and some of the pass and move play was excellent. Arowosafe came on towards the half to take over from Phillips. Both keepers were dealing well with half chances and through balls. The pitch was playing pretty well although by half time the middle was cutting up badly. So 0-0 at the half.

Second half we needed to up the pace and quicken the passing. And we got into our stride pretty quick. Graves coming back after a few weeks out was up to the speed of the game and with Wood they began to dominate the midfield. We were pushing higher and pressing the ball quicker. Arowosafe started to drive at the Weirside defence at every chance. Weirside always carried a threat on the break and we nearly paid the price when they sprung the offside. Their forward powered towards Egan for a 1 on 1. Egan stood his ground and made a fabulous save to push the ball away from his feet. Every week Egan makes at least one top class save and at crucial points in the game, when to concede would be a game changer. Also his communication and kicking were excellent this week. So a close call gave us a bit of a shakeup. Reader and T.Banks came on to try and inspire us further. Unfortunately, Tim’s impact was limited to 5 mins filled with tackles, tricks, dodgy shots and a theatrical dive followed by a tweaked hamstring! Reader on the other hand was chasing everything down and making life difficult for their defence. Who when put under pressure were struggling to clear their lines. The game dragged and chances came and went without being clear cut. Then a delightful free kick from Bailey picked out Graves who glanced a header into the far corner. 2-1 and we sensed blood and should have scored again when Arowosafe broke through and with Wood unmarked in the middle opted for the glory but was denied by the keeper. Strikers what are they like!

The third came after some great footwork from Graves on halfway. He then broke for a 1 on 1 with the keeper. Then Reader came steaming down in support, Graves probably with some relief slotted in Adam to put into the empty net. Now we should see the game out, but this is AP and to be fair Weirside went for it. We sat back and they forced a sharp save from Martin at his near post, from the resulting corner we kind of cleared it but from the edge of the area their guy lobbed it in off the post. Did he mean it? Maybe, maybe not but it made for an uncomfortable last few minutes. But we got the win and the points but full credit to Weirside who played well.

A good game played in the right spirit always brings the best out of both teams and this showed on Saturday. Martin week in week out is being superb in spite of his mid-season injury. Kurt did us a hell of a favour down at Carshalton. Stephen who has played most positions this season gave a masterclass at full back and was matched at left back by Julien. Both were excellent. Sam and Elliott are forming a formidable partnership until one of them disappears skiing. Bails was commanding at centre mid and allowed Mike and Jed freedom to roam and influence the game up field. Richard showed he is capable of making the step up from the 3s and will be pushing for next season. Jordan in this mood must be horrible to play against with his dynamic. Emmanuel, Adam and Dan were all excellent giving a threat to our attacks, especially when we reduced the tricks and became more direct with the ball. Tim was as ever entertaining.

With seven games to go, our final position in the league is in our hands. Every game is winnable and belief is key to the performances. When we play with a relaxed freedom we are at our best. It is down to the individuals to put their doubtless talent into something tangible on the pitch. I throw the gauntlet down to them to be the best they can be.

Squad: Egan, Arowosafe, E.Brough, Bailey, T.Banks, Cadrot, Graves, Korek, Neill, Phillips, Reader, Taylor, White, Wood

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