Nothing about this game was going to be civil. Both teams had a point to prove off the back of frustrating losses to Crouch End Vampires. No major team news to note with a practically full strength side. The unavailability includes Dan Hawke, Ed Bassetti and Mike Graves, whilst Harrison and Tim
both survived late fitness testes for a shoulder injury and possible concussion respectively.
The game started physical in nature, suiting midfield duo Jed & Dillon like a pair of gloves. Big man up top, JJ, also relished a battle more befitting to his skillset. The pitch was very wide though so it was impossible for either team to keep the game too compact and Duncan’s Orange Playmakers got the ball down where possible to string a few passes together, which gave the balance for Luke and Lanigan to get into the game.
Both teams struggled to ‘work’ the ball up the pitch however. Whilst AP played happily deep in their half, we quickly sought our three forwards into the channels. Some tasty counter attacks looked lively but came unstuck with the final ball. Civil Services outlet of choice was a long ball direct into
their centre forward, who after the game we found was hench as sliced bread, but personally I wouldn’t like to stick my meat in the middle. They used him to bring wide players into the game where possible.
A moment of misfortune left a taste more sour in my mouth than the Haribo Tangfastics that were ingested as part of the pre-game journey snackathon. A hopelessly optimistic ball was played into the corner by Civil Service and Hillsy keenly chased to ensure the ball was shepherded out, without compromise. But the striker was not leaving it lightly. A tangle of legs materialized and Hillsy ended up on the deck clutching at his shoulder. It was the end of the game for him as he was expedited to A&E. Not good news either as it looks like something was torn. Hopefully not his love of the game.
It looked as if their striker had come off worse though, because although Hillsy tore his shoulder muscle, their strikers whole body was completely ripped.
On comes Tom Carter and Jed slips back into centre back for the third time in five games. It was an immediate impact too from the big lad as a long ball was played up to JJ. He had to battle with not one, not two but three Civil Service defenders who all went up for the same header. How many Civil
Service defenders does it take to win a header? More than three by the looks of things as the ball drops to Tom Carter. JJ Has found himself gaping through the middle after the aerial battle and Tom slips him through slightly to the right. Surely offside? The referee is adamant that it isn’t but I
haven’t the foggiest who was playing him on. JJ cooly dummies the keeper, who showed him so much of the near post that he could have built a barn in the space. JJ slots it into the canyon at the front post to take the lead.
AP get on the ball a lot more towards the end of the first half but again all in deep lying areas. The wingers sit on the shoulder for more counter attacks as they struggle to retain possession in any decent areas of the pitch.
Towards the end of the first half Civil Service have their first real chance as they get down their right hand side on a counter attack situation and fizz a low ball across the box. It looks a certain tap in but an AP defender (probably Jed but I couldn’t see) does enough to put off the striker, although it does look like he clatters him in the process. It looks a very good penalty claim which is denied by the referee and we go in at half time 1-0 to the good.
The second half was more difficult to watch as each team lofted the ball forward quickly in their attempt to be the best Lump-a-saurus Rex. Tidy passing moves were few and far between.
A breakthrough finally came for Civil Service to level the score and get their own back for some referee decisions. AP clear the ball following a free kick situation but it is quickly lofted back in the box. A confident offside shout from Brough as the striker, who was stood three yards behind him, cushioned the ball. But the referee was having none of it once again. Brough and Jed recovered as the striker lays off to their supporting midfielder who gets a shot away. Pat goes the right way but it hits Jed on the way through and ricochets into the other side of the goal. Unfortunate, unlucky and unlikely but always a risk in the unpredictable game.
AP had some really great counter attacking situations from Slava, Dillon and Harrison as the game became even more stretched but their sweeper keeper came off best every time. Closer even was when Harrison got through to the byline and crossed for JJ in the centre. He attempts a back heel flick finish but doesn’t connect well enough. It would have been super tricky.
The best late chance actually came from one of our best passing spells on the left hand side as Luke and Browes linked up eventually finding Tom Carter in the box relatively free 8 yards out on the left hand side. The ball is bouncing and he connects a sweet volley but the defender closes down and
forces the corner. No time for it though as the referee blows the whistle for full time. 1-1.
All in all I think a draw was a fair result. Whilst AP had the better chances to win the match, they didn’t dominate possession in the opponents half at any point and mostly had their backs against the wall whilst counter attacking. The pitch was very big and an end to end game made it a very
tiring affair. Both teams pressed well enough defensively, ensuring retaining possession was not going to be easy, but most of all it was the lack of options on the ball which killed the game. Enough players were not busting a gut to get into ball playing positions as their guts were already busted from the constant changeover of possession on the wide pitch. Whilst the issues we had in the game are completely understandable and a draw away Civil Service is usually considered a good result, the points were there for us if our title ambitious side wishes to get what they want out of this season.
Man of the match goes to JJ for his constant outlet up top and a goal opening up his tally for the season. May he bring many more.