Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Juventus…Alexandra Park FC. Clubs with rich histories, legendary players and now a common kit supplier. Saturday 12th December 2020 saw APFC step out in their brand new all orange kit generously provided by Adidas. I don’t know what Elliott Brough wrote in his ‘Make A Wish’ plea to the sportswear giant but it clearly worked. I’ve not felt this sexy since I bought my first pair of Calvin Klein undies (TMI? Let’s move on)
Following a spirited display in the loss against Bank of England the previous week, the mood in the camp was one of optimism. There is no place like the Racecourse on a Saturday following 2-3 days of rain midweek and many teams do not relish visiting our hallowed ground in these conditions. It was mentioned before the game that the pitch will even up the sides and the victor will be decided by pure grit, determination and application. I’m proud to say that’s exactly how we started.
AP lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with instructions to get compact, get the oppos heads down and SWARM (Banks,Tim. 2020). Old Finchleians contained a few physically imposing players but that did not deter our hardworking midfield of Karavias, Lyons & Banks. Headed battles, crunching tackles and forced long balls set the tone for the opening 15 minutes as both sides got to grips with the muddy conditions. After some good work down the left hand side Steve Pilley came off worse from a very strong (and quite frankly unnecessary) studs up, over the ball challenge from the rotund Finchleians #10. Most referees would’ve given a booking, some even a red however their player got away with a talking to. The ref in general had a good game but this was the first of a few bizarre decisions. Pilley had to be substituted and we wish him a speedy recovery. It was nice to have Matt Browes back in the side who took up Steve’s position at left back.
Finchleians had the first real chance of the first half, a quick counter from an AP corner saw their right winger run onto a pass from the halfway line with only Micky Wells to beat however he couldn’t keep his shot down and clipped the bar as he missed. A few moments later, a quick interchange of passes saw Lanigan put Ronnie Adjekwei through with an overhead ball as the Finch defender missed his interception. A speculative effort from approx 30 yards out drew gasps and applause however it was a yard or two off target. Ade also forced a fine save from their keeper a few moments later after a forward burst of pace had Finch chasing shadows. A hard fought first half came to an end 0-0.
Encouraging words and reminders of duties were discussed at half time with AP well in the game. The second half started in a similar fashion to the first although Finchleians saw more of the ball and were growing in confidence. Their #10 pulled the strings and often looked for the Hollywood ball to find his teammates. A lesson for us for future games is to designate someone to sit on that type of player and nullify their influence. Good movement from Finchleians saw them find their front men and begin to carve out chances. It makes a real difference knowing you have a man in the sticks who you can rely on and Micky Wells was outstanding. Two one on ones saved with perfect positioning and remaining big kept Finchleians at bay and AP in the game. Chances weren’t coming AP’s way but a mix of resolute defending and support from the midfielders meant there was always the chance of a breakaway goal.
A tactical foul from Jed Wood drew a yellow card and a dangerous free kick on the edge of AP’s box. Finchleians had not made the most of any of their dead ball situations thus far but their #10 stepped up with confidence. What he didn’t know was that Micky was in no mood to concede. A flying save tipping the ball onto the bar and post prevented a well struck free kick from hitting the top corner. Finchleians were unable to capitalise from the rebound, skying the ball from 5 yards out. Another well worked move saw Finch through on goal however another fierce shot was saved by Micky who pounced on the rebound and took a whack to the elbow for his troubles. No-one was more relieved than me to see him get back on his feet after gulping some of Evian’s finest – swapping my pristine shirt for a top that was more mud than material was not appealing.
Entering the last ten minutes of the game, AP were making good forward progress however a dangerous attack broke down which Finch took advantage of hitting us on the counter. Unfortunately we had used all our credit and Micky was finally beaten. 0-1 Finchleians.
We’ve come up against stiff opposition this season and results have not gone our way however conceding seems to stir up a desire and urgency to get something out of a game and that’s exactly what happened again here. A throw in followed by two headed flicks saw the ball land at Sam Lyons feet. With a sharp turn and his head up he played an inch perfect ball to the back post where he found Gabriel Monaighan onside who calmly volleyed home with his side foot. 1-1.
A gut punch to the oppo whose game management tactics since scoring had only served to bite them back. The referee eventually blew for the final whistle and we got our just rewards for our efforts. A draw was certainly a fair result and was an example of how we can earn points when the effort and energy is applied throughout the team.
MOM: Micky Wells – a string of fine saves and solid goalkeeping kept us in the game and inspired a firm defensive performance. Honourable mention to Ed Bassetti for coming on at half time, slotting straight in and showing his defensive qualities with a solid two handed shove on a Finch forward who would’ve likely scored from 5 yards out.
Fun fact: I earned my first yellow card of my entire footballing career having battled with an oppo player for a loose ball. Nothing in it but the ref was being assessed and as normal in those circumstances totally exaggerated the decision. I look forward to receiving an additional email from Richard Gibbs this week.
Civil Service awaits next week possibly at their ground. A performance similar to this one and no doubt we’ll take something from the game. #COYAP