Sunday 19th October 2008
President's Charity Cup
By Vince Wray
There’s always a ‘first time for everything’ as the saying goes, it was certainly a day for that cliché. Among the events that unfolded, that could be used for; playing at Crystal Palace National athletics stadium, a female referee, Webb, Poynter & co. turning up before 10am! playing against Napoli Soccer, oh, and the ref getting knocked out and leaving the field of play!
The starting line up had a more familiar look about it this week, with the exception of missing Chris Greenhough. We were looking to make up for the previous week’s ordinary display, Georgeson was back upfront with Webb and Belchamber back in midfield. Once again we took the lead early on with Belchamber’s fierce drive after being set up by Webb. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before complacency showed its face again and Napoli were taking control, our attacks seemed sporadic and disjointed, whereas Napoli swept forward as a team and in numbers. Both teams wasted scoring chances but Napoli seemed like they were gaining the upper hand, Burkett kept them at bay with a good save. But their pressure told when we were harshly penalised for a challenge by Skrine and were awarded a penalty – fortunately they missed the goal completely firing wide. We reached the half time turn around 1-0 to the good. Our midfield were complaining about being outnumbered but they were not playing any fancy formation and I put this situation down to a combination of lack of concentration and lack of willingness to do a bit of sheer hard work. Including the forwards.
The 2nd half got under way and it wasn’t long before Napoli got their reward, equalising and then a few minutes later taking the lead. We still hadn’t come to grips with their passing and movement. It could have been more but for some last ditch defending and smart keeping from Burkett. We managed to get back on level terms after a neat finish from Webb. Surely we were going to take advantage of the situation now, no we didn’t, we conceded again after a fierce drive from their right sided midfielder. Adams and Bridges were on for the injured Milner and Wray. We were looking dead and buried when lady luck smiled on us, the ref got a bullet clearance from one of their players straight in the head, she wobbled and blew her whistle. Was that full time? By my watch she was playing time added on at this point. Napoli thought it was all over and to be fair so did I, our players were complaining and all sorts. The ref then explained rather groggily that there was still 2 minutes to play added on time. Darren stepped up to take the whistle, Napoli agreed, (that was also a first by the way). The ball went forward and found Webb lurking on the left side of the box, he shot and finished from an acute angle 3-3, unbelievable !
They couldn’t believe it and were in shock as we started extra time, they were thinking the game had already been won, Belchamber fired us in front, 4-3 surely now this was it. No, they equalised this time. 4-4. 2nd half of et and the ref returned to the fray. There were no more goals and so penalties had to be taken to decide the winner.
They took the first pen and hit the post, Stevens stepped up for us but put it over the bar. Burkett saved their next one and Laurent scored for us to give us that important edge, 1-0 up after 2 pens each. They scored their remaining three pens, and so did we, via efforts from Belchamber, Hardway and Poynter who scored the winner. We won and they couldn’t believe it, they were just left shaking their heads.
We keep on coming up with the impossible which of course says something about the team spirit. We seem to be escaping from unlikely situations. So that is a good point, I always like to see a ‘never say die’ attitude. However, there are still some things that need addressing. It’s been said before and I’m sure Darren will be expressing his views again, but we need to be doing the chasing and tackling and closing down a lot sooner and a lot quicker than at the moment. And we need to be doing it in ALL POSITIONS. Instead of launching the ball up to our forwards constantly, we need to be building the play, which will give our defence time to get up the pitch AND get our full backs involved in the game. We look disjointed because of just that, the ball goes too long, and our forwards are on their own exposed, with no support because the support hasn’t had enough time to reach them, consequently we get outnumbered and possession lost. Additionally we need to put defences under more pressure when they are in possession so they have to play it long or make mistakes. We always look better when we get the ball down and play shorter passes. We are still learning and I’m sure we will improve as the season progresses.