On a cold day we travelled to Champions elect Norsemen who were 15 points clear at the top. The mood was pretty sombre in the changing room before the game with a few players not seeming keen on playing in this weather against top of the league. We went out to play with the attitude of if we get anything out of the game, great but if not lets at least give them a good game and enjoy ourselves.
We started well, keeping the ball well against a well drilled and pressing Norsemen side. We got the ball in and around their box but couldn’t get a clear sight of goal. When Norsemen got the ball we were compact and limited them to shots from distance and attempted dribbles from out wide they were crowded out.
Murphy, Hudson and C. Smith were working well in midfield and linking up with some nice one two’s our pressure resulted in a few corners one of which was headed clear to C. Smith on the edge of the box who smashed a volley well over the bar. We were restricting Norsemen well and they were becoming frustrated. They were also forced in to a reshuffled when their skipper and big centre forward went off injured meaning their small, tricky winger moved in to the middle and gave Robinson, Wright and Hyde something different to content with. Unfortunately not too long after Norsemen took the lead when an AP attack broke down and they launched a ball forward, it looked like we had it under control until a slip from the mould wearing Hyde meant their forward was through to slot past a helpless Kelly. It was hard to take after a strong start but we bounced back well. Forbes was working the channel well and Dodimead was putting their defence under pressure. Rae and Bonello were getting space on the flanks and we were working the ball round the defence well and getting into good positions.
We got the goal our good play deserved not long before half time when another corner was floated in and headed clear to C. Smith. This time he smashed an unstoppable volley off the underside of the bar. It was a special goal and will take some beating for goal of the season. We were unlucky not to go in leading when Dodimead had a curling effort well saved by Farhad in the Norsemen goal and Hudson and Murphy combined but Hudson under pressure stabbed a shot wide.
At half time we were happy with how things were going but made a few changes with L. Smith coming on up top, Bowden coming on a centre back and Earle coming into centre midfield. We started the second half well and kept working the ball well but still couldn’t create any clear cut chances, the midfield, especially Murphy, were breaking up any Norsemen attack and they were becoming frustrated. The tackles started flying a bit more and it became a bit more of a battle, unfortunately Norsemen retook the lead when we lost the ball too easily and another through ball played their striker in. Robinson tried to force him wide and did so but only wide enough for him to round the oncoming Kelly and slot home their second. We went a bit flat for a few minutes but then rallied well, we kept pushing but Norsemen showed why they were champions and (finally and) deservedly going up.
The equaliser didn’t come and the game finished 2 – 1 but we left knowing that the same performance against any other team in the division would have resulted in a different result. With 6 games left we should be aiming to finish as high as possible but need to make sure these performances are regular and not saved for the best teams in the division.
MotM – Joe Murphy