Saturday 9th September 2006
By Shaun Keddle
The ‘Meridian Miracle’ worked again as we dropped two points, but again managed another clean sheet.
We travelled to Woolwich for our first away game of the season. The facilities over at Meridian Sports have improved vastly of late, with better changing rooms and the pitch was looking excellent. Only two changes were made in a side that had played so well in the previous week, one forced change due to an injury to Williams, L and one rotational change in the middle as Ives came in for Hardy. The back five remained exactly the same to try and replicate the clean sheet achieved the previous week. Hardy, the returning Connor and debutant Head took to the bench.
The match kicked off and right from word one, we dominated proceedings and kept the ball really well. Throughout the half we had chance after chance but good goalkeeping from the Meridian No 1 (who had a storming match in goal), bad finishing and incorrect final ball options prevented us from opening the scoring. The best chances fell to Perkins who shot narrowly wide, Cleaver who hit the post and Davis who was denied by exceptional goalkeeping. We went into the half amazed how we were not at least two or three goals ahead, but still confident that we could score plenty of goals, if a bit of luck fell our way.
The second half started the way it left off and Meridian started to tire as the half progressed. We grew stronger and stronger. Right from the whistle Small had a fine attempt and with the keeper stranded, just grazed the right hand post. We piled on the pressure and it was all us. The keeper pulled off a couple more stunning saves before two further attempts saw us hit the crossbar twice more. Time and time again we got behind there back three but opportunities were either missed or the final ball was not good enough. With about 20 mins remaining we removed the sweeper, Connelly, and went with three upfront to further push our advantage and try and get three points. With about 10 mins to go, Davis found himself in some space following a Williams free kick. His shot was again well saved by the Meridian keeper, but the rebound fell kindly for Davis, who coolly netted. The referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot, the majority of Meridian players accepted the decision and the ball was placed on the centre circle and both sides lined up for the restart. Then the referee disallowed the goal. I have not seen a decision like it ever in football in all my long years. It was an absolute HOWLER of a decision by the referee who had officiated quite well all afternoon. A key decision at a key moment in time cost us the match. With only a few minutes left a Meridian player broke through the Farnborough defence after indecisive defending and saw Meridian’s only attempt on goal, flash wide. Further attempts at the Meridian goal were squandered as we continued to play around 10 minutes of over time. Somehow the Meridian Miracle had worked again and it ended 0-0. Meridian could not believe their luck (and neither could we).
We again played exceptionally well in this fixture, the back five (including GK) were again very solid, with only the very odd mistake here and there. I have been very impressed with the way we have defended in the opening two games of the season and will look to start the same back five next week. The best current asset of the defence is the ability to listen and take responsibility. Everyone works for each other with Small, Pragnell, Davis and Connelly blending very well together. The midfield were again dominant with Judgey in the middle covering every blade of grass, ably supported by Ives. Williams down the right was always an outlet and Cleaver was neat and tidy down the left. Up front Perkins was always a menace with his pace and close control and stand-in striker Carpenter played very well in a position that is not natural to him. Dan Head impressed when thrown into the fray and harassed the defence with his busy style and work rate. Hardy further added to our attacking play when he grabbed the last 15 mins.
If we continue to play the way we have we will be a lot for other sides to live with. Everyone is playing well and spirits are high – we need to maintain this. Our work rate and attitude towards games and training has been excellent. I really have been genuinely pleased with our start.
This week, we have a tougher test – Fleetdown in the cup. This will be a true test of how good we are, so we all need to be up for this one and on our game. All I ask is for repeat performances of the last two weeks. Selections will again be difficult with a big squad and return of Clark and Williams. Harrigan is a couple of weeks away from fitness and Crouch is sniffing for a game. In the reserves there are still a number of players like Wright, Ford, Benningfield, Dunford, Head, Nott and Nolan pushing for a places, so my options are endless.
Keep up the good work and let’s continue our form into this week’s cup game.