Saturday 15th October 2011
By Colin Brazier
So, another season is well underway and rather than wait for us to have a win to write a report I thought I’d do one anyway. Actually a few people have been wanting me to “do one” for a while (especially after today’s display) so hopefully this will satisfy them.
With the Silver Fox still on gardening leave we were in the capable hands of Nick Barclay again on Saturday for the trip to Goals Eltham (a.k.a. Baldon Sports) to play Lee Athletic. We met Lee for the first time last season in one of the cups, played abysmally, lost 5-1 in the less than exotic surrounds of Flamingo Park and were given a fair old rub down on their Facebook page. Needless to say I had been scrutinising said page all week leading up to this fixture hoping for them to write our team talk for us but to be fair to them it was all sweetness and light. Damn!
You might say our extensive pre-season preparation and large squad have not as yet produced the results we had hoped for. How’s that for Wenger-speak? We have a row of Ls on our results list interspersed with a couple of lonely Ds. Alas, Not a W in sight as yet. Performances haven’t been that bad to be honest. We have put together spells of good football in each game, including the Lord Hood home game which was the first time “concerns had to be voiced” since this squad came together at the start of last season. The trouble is, these spells have not been long enough and opposition teams have been able to come back at us when our levels dropped off.
So with this background Nick shuffled the pack a bit. A few players found themselves in unfamiliar positions. The side selected was:
Jez Allen – GK
Scott Barnes – RB
James Pyne – CB
Luke Allen – CB
Colin Brazier – LB
James Foyle – RM
Neil Barnes – CM (capt.)
Connor Barclay – CM
Tommy Noad – LM
Tom Smart – CF
Steve Blanchard jnr– CF
Subs: Steve Blanchard snr, George Jardine, Rhyse Elliott.
Unfortunately due to a communications breakdown at management level, Jamie Evans was left as 16th man and could not participate. Our apologies to you mate, your chance will come soon enough.
Conditions were warmish (wow – no spell check for that? “Facebook” got one!) and the surface was level and firm but a bit bobbly. We started well enough, forcing a corner in the first minute and kept the home side pinned back for the opening exchanges, but Lee soon found their feet (literally) with good passing football and began to give us problems picking their movement up and tracking their runners. To be honest I don’t remember much about their first goal but I know it came after they had missed a couple of “half chances” (OK, sitters!) and we couldn’t complain about going behind.
We stuck at it though and this week’s good spell came in the 20 minutes before half time. This produced a good chance (OK, sitter!) of our own before a good move down the right produced dividends. From Luke’s throw-in the ball was quickly shifted between Tom, Steve and James and ended with Tom getting behind the defence. His low cross to the near post was met by Connor sniffing out the chance from his midfield role to score the equaliser. This was a really well worked goal, and I think surprised the home side more than a little. Lee did threaten again, notably with a fast breakaway from a Guild corner, but as half time approached our defence was holding firm, well marshalled by Jez. We would have been well pleased to go in level at the interval, but a stoppage time corner for Lee was put right on the head of a home player who thundered the ball home. Defending corners has been a problem for us since losing Todd and Alex, but we must learn to cope with them better than we have done. If it’s any comfort, it’s all the more difficult for the pro’s to stomach conceding like that, as QPR suffered a similar fate on Saturday much to Neil Warnock’s regret.
In front again then, Lee went on to produce “Some of the best football they have played since their formation” (I had another look at their Facebook page). To our credit we kept competing and had another golden chance to level the scores before Lee gave themselves a two goal cushion. All three subs came on for tiring legs (I speak for myself there) and young Steve earned himself the man of the match award by setting a great example and giving it everything up front.
Another defeat then, but not one without positives (oh oh, Wenger again). We were up against a good side today and came up short, but we showed we can create chances against anyone in this division. Since last season we have all grown a year older, which in most cases is a good thing (ahem!) but we are playing sides in their early to mid twenties who train together regularly so progress may not be so obvious. We must continue to do the things we have talked about and the results will come I’m sure.
To finish on a rather spooky note (as Halloween fast approaches): before today we had scored three competitive goals this season, by Connor, Tom (set piece) and James, in that order; exactly what happened in the cup final; and I’d hoped not to mention “that game” in this report! And as Connor scored today, it must be Tom’s turn next…
Man of the match: Steve Blanchard jnr