Scorers: Keyes, Raffell, Meyrick
AP 4s made the short trip to Winchmore Hill for the N21-N22 derby, determined to right the wrongs following their humiliation at Old Parms.
The 4s had responded well to the manager’s cries. There was a bumper turnout at training on Tuesday and the WhatsApp group was awash with positivity.
The pre-match team talk was simple: be tough, disciplined and make it hard for the opposition. Nothing silly. The game got underway on one of the smaller of Winchmore’s bowling green pitches. AP kept their shape, two banks of four, with AP’s number ten role keeping WH’s deep-lying playmaker quiet. WH grew frustrated by AP’s disciplined, rigid line-up and began to resort to long balls, which centre-backs Ben and Andy were happy to gobble up. Then, as goalkeeper Will collected an aimless hoof forward, he rolled the ball to Ben, who lost possession on the edge of his box after a breakdown in communication led him to believe he had more time on the ball than he did. WH pinched the ball and then rolled the ball wide of the post. This was to be their sliding doors moment…
Mid-way through the first-half, AP’s patience paid off. As WH played the ball round harmlessly in their own half, a loose ball was pounced upon by Shane Keyes who saw the WH keeper out of position and sent a high, curling shot over the hapless stopper. This is the third consecutive game away at WH where the junior Keyes brother has scored from 40 yards (or further). He must wish he could play there every week…
Keyes Jr then turned provider as he won the ball back (read: bundled the WH defender over) high up the pitch and nudged the ball to Reuben, who again spotted the marauding goalkeeper off his line and curled in from distance. Some brilliant combination play down the right wing from Myles and Sean led to Sean delivering a beautiful cross which Robin rose to head towards goal. The keeper redeemed himself with a good stop. 2-0 at half-time but the job was far from done.
Following some ‘shenanigans’ and some incredibly liberal enforcing of the rules by the referee, WH had managed to add two extra players to their team sheet at half-time. These included a new goalkeeper (who wasn’t very good) and one outfield player (who was very good). Management complaints fell on deaf ears as the referee warned AP “stop complaining… you’re winning comfortably”. A 2-0 scoreline in amateur football is never comfortable. 2-0 soon turned to 3-0 as Sean raced onto a ball from Anton that looked slightly overhit. It was the fullback’s ball, all day long. Sean hassled and harried him, nicked the ball and put in a teasing cross which Adam M headed in at the back post. 3-0 – also a dangerous scoreline in amateur football.
AP then wasted chances to put the game beyond all doubt as Aiden blazed over from ten yards and Sean missed a sitter from even closer, somehow hitting it wide after the WH keeper played it straight to him. Then with about 15 minutes to go, WH got their opening as they cut AP open through the middle, the old one-two undoing a solid defence. Then a few minutes later they made it 3-2 with a similar goal – their half-time substitute dropping into areas between AP’s midfield and defence where it was hard to pick him up. He was causing AP lots of issues… and then he got subbed off.
But the game had shifted – AP were in total control and WH were bickering among each other. Now, it was the other way round. AP continued to be defiant in the face of some long balls being pumped into the box – not helped by giving away silly fouls in dangerous areas. With time running out, Ben clumsily bundled over a WH forward. The WH forward, on the floor, kicked up towards Ben’s ‘groin’. Even WH players didn’t stand up for their teammate in the ensuing kerfuffle. Somehow, the offending player was not given his marching orders. The free kick led to a corner, which led to the mother of all goalmouth scrambles. Kick, block, kick, block, players on the floor, hands flying around… it was finally booted to safety and the whistle went. AP 4s had taken the three points but had made tough work of it with a shaky final ten minutes.
A really strong performance, and glasses were raised in the bar afterwards “to redemption”.