Saturday 2nd April 2011
By Colin Brazier
It was back to league action for the Formidable Fourths today, with a home clash against familiar opposition in Latter Day Saints. Of course most of our opposition has become familiar over the course of the season - there are only two teams in our division we will have met less than three times. The two previous games with LDS, both away, had been close, bringing the Guild a 4-3 defeat and a goalless draw.
Team selection has been, er, strange, recently, to say the least. While the squad as a whole has been relatively consistent, we have not had the luxury of being able to select the same 11 or 12 in consecutive weeks, with injury and unavailability plaguing us. Organisation has continued to be poor as well which hasn’t helped. The problems this week stemmed from Jason’s injury keeping him out of the game, meaning we didn’t know who would go in goal until Alex arrived at the ground. With Des already in the clubhouse waiting for him, Neil and Steve left the pitch to get a keeper’s jersey and recruit emergency substitutes respectively. A hurried warm-up was completed with the remaining eight, under the gaze of an increasingly impatient referee.
Well in the end Alex arrived, Neil took the gloves, and Nick Barclay (to son Connor’s amusement) and Mick Hampson were conscripted as subs. In the prevailing chaos Tom slipped out and introduced himself to the ref for the toss, so we lined up thus:
Neil Barnes – GK
Jez Allen – RB
Steve Blanchard snr – CB
Mark Johnson – CB
Colin Brazier – LB
Luke Allen – RM
Alex King – CM
Tom Smart– CM (capt.)
Tommy Noad – LM
James Foyle – CF
Connor Barclay – CF
Subs: Nick Barclay, Mick Hampson
The way we started the game totally belied our preparation. Alert, quick passing were on show coupled with tenacity and work rate. LDS are a decent side with a bit of physicality about them, and are still hopeful of getting the runners up spot behind AFC Bromley, but we matched them blow for blow. Mark was showing what a good prospect he is, under the guidance of ‘Mr. Reliable’ Steve Blanchard. If only that team from the Emirates had such a good central defence eh Steve? On the flanks Jez was giving the tricky Carlos no change and Colin was containing the big physical threat posed by Warren. Neil was dealing comfortably with anything that did get through. Further up the pitch James and the in-form Connor were constant worries for the visitors’ defence and our midfield was contesting every ball.
With few clear cut chances it was becoming obvious that the first goal would be crucial, and it was LDS who made the breakthrough after about half an hour when we were caught square for the only time in the game and Neil couldn’t stop the two forwards combining to score, our rather hopeful appeals for offside being turned down by linesman and ref.
Shortly after this LDS broke through on their right, and appealed unsuccessfully for a penalty when Neil came out to clear both ball and man (in no particular order). Meanwhile James saw a good long distance hit go narrowly over the bar. Apart from that there were no further first half scares and we went to the interval fairly satisfied.
The second half saw changes made by LDS, with Jez relieved to see Carlos switch to our left and Colin equally pleased to see Warren withdrawn into a midfield role. Soon after the restart James again tried his luck from distance, the keeper was unworried though as he waved the shot past, only for it to smack the crossbar on its way over. Good judgement or luck?
The game continued to be an even affair but it was effectively settled after about 65 minutes, when the Guild cleared a corner only for the ball to be returned with interest from 35 yards, a hopeful shot catching Neil off his line and creeping in just under the bar for 2-0 LDS. We reacted well though, and continued to plug away. Connor had a shot blocked by a combo of body and arm and James was unable to keep a difficult shot down. With 90% of decisions seemingly going against us it wasn’t going to be our day, and 2-0 was the final score.
There are a lot of positives to take from today’s game. It was Nick, I think, who said we are becoming more consistent in our performances and that is certainly true. We just have a single league game left and a handful of Tom Cooper Trophy games, and with players coming back we should be able to see out the season in a satisfactory manner.
Man of the Match was Alex for a terrific all-round midfield display. Oh, and Alex: Vic and I have discovered you are NOT the Alex King regularly scoring for the Academy side so your cover is well and truly blown! My own vote went to Jez, who played impeccably at right back and must be wondering if he missed his vocation…
Many thanks to Nick and Mick for helping us out and once again to Ian Foyle for running the line.
Everyone can have the weekend off after such a good performance.
Man of the match: Alex King