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Match Report

Saturday 11th November 2006

Barry Bundock West Kent Challenge Shield
2nd round

First XI
Matt Pragnell, Dave Harrigan
2 - 0
Phoenix Sports

By Shaun Keddle

Squad: 1. St John, J; 2. Pragnell, M; 3. Cleaver, L; 4. Davis, R; 5. Judge, C; 6. Clark, D©; 7. Williams, J; 8. Perkins, R; 9. Harrigan, D; 10. Williams, L (Cleaver, B); 11. Martin, D.

Subs not used: Connelly, N; Mace, D, Keddlinihio, S

A fantastic win and inspiring performance to send us through to the quarter finals of the West Kent Challenge Shield.

Our Jekyll and Hyde performances continued on Saturday, but this time is was the doctor who came out to play as we successfully operated to our full capabilities and delivered a clinical performance at a key time in our season – exactly what the doctor ordered.

Phoenix is a good team, who over the last few seasons play the kind of football that every football lover likes to see. The ball is played on the deck, the ball is moved quickly and there is support all over the park. We knew we were in for a tough ride, but looking at recent results, Phoenix tend to be a bit Jekyll and Hyde themselves, so if we played well we were always in with a shout. Playing at home is a massive advantage for us and we have only lost once this season at home to a decent Tudor Sports side.

This week it was back to basics and a straight 4-4-2 formation saw us line up with St John in goal, Pragnell, Judge, Cleaver and Davis making up the back four; Clark, Williams (J), Perkins and debutant Martin making up the middle leaving Williams (L) and Harrigan up front. Cleaver, Connelly, Mace and the tricky Keddlinihio took to the bench.

The match started well for us and we clearly were up for it. The side had a sense of ‘normality’ and balance to it with everyone playing in natural positions. We knew where our battles were and we knew that we had to hassle, close down and work hard. We knew we had to attack the centre of the park to stop the service out wide as that’s where the damage would stem from. We also knew that both their tricky forwards would have to be well marked as we knew they always nick goals against us causing problems with their pace and movement. Our side had natural width to the midfield and knew that our aerial threat and pace would be a problem for them.

The first half, like the whole game, was played at a very high tempo pace, which definitely suited us. We hunted in packs when we did not have the ball and won a hell of a lot of challenges and second balls, something we have not tended to do in the past. We got amongst them and hit some big tackles early, notably Clark in the centre after just a couple of minutes. I thought the pace of the game would slow up a bit, but it didn’t tend to. Neither keeper had a great deal to do in the first half, but there was some good football played by both sides. At the half the game was level but I did sense a vein of frustration within the Phoenix side, who were maybe feeling the pressure of an expected victory, given they were the clear favourite for this fixture.

At the half we spoke about still breaking them down and it was vital that we kept the tempo of the game going as that would decide the result. The second half started well for us as a cross in from Williams on the right met the head of Harrigan whose bullet header was narrowly wide. We now started to dominate this fixture. St John in goal was confident and assured; Pragnell was winning his challenges and using the easy option with the ball. Judge and Davis seemed to have everything under control at the back and Cleaver was having his performance of the season against a very good right midfielder who has caused us loads of problems in the past. Across the middle the pairing of Clark and Perkins were stretching the Phoenix centre two, so much so that both were subbed relatively early in the second half. Down the right Williams was a constant threat and a fantastic option to have. On the left hand side Martin was doing well down the flank, staying naturally wide and delivering crosses when required. Up front Harrigan was playing that vital role holding onto the ball linking the play between forwards and the midfield. Strike partner Williams was working hard up front and causing problems with his pace and no-nonsense directness.

The first goal came on 65 minutes after a fantastic curled ball to the far post from Davis was met by the rising Pragnell whose bullet header was too hot for the Phoenix keeper and it crossed the line. This really seemed to inspire us and deflate Phoenix and we clearly wanted this. A couple of half chances from Phoenix were dealt with and there are always going to be panicky moments with the score so close. However with around 10 mins to go it was the home side who carved out a fantastic opportunity after Davis hassled, harried and stood up on the half way line winning the ball with a clever toe poke. There was an exchange of passes before the space opened up for Williams J on the right who was found perfectly by Williams L. With Williams away down the right Harrigan lost the tight control of his marker and headed for the front post to perfectly meet Williams’ low cross and fire into the roof of the net. 2-0 and on our way to the quarter finals. The final 10 mins were played out with Cleaver (B) replacing Williams (L) and we looked good for our win.

A worthy mention for the referee who was outstanding throughout this fixture, made easier by two sides who wanted to play football.

There were many MOM performances to be had. It was one of those games where you want to award it to everyone; however, I thought Richard Davis had a barnstorming performance at centre half. He had a couple of real tricky customers to deal with, kept a clean sheet, delivered a perfect ball for the first goal and won the challenge on the half way line to set up the second and killer goal. This was his best performance of the season so far – keep doing the business Richard; you have set yourself a standard.

For those who have read my reports across the years, you will know how highly I rate Phoenix and still do. They are one of the best footballing sides in the league. It also goes to prove that on our day we are more than capable of dealing with and beating higher placed opposition. What we need is what every team seeks – consistency. We need to shrug off Mr Hyde and now go on an unbeaten run and really need to concentrate on getting points and winning prizes away from home. Our away record has been abysmal over the last 3 seasons and we need to improve it if we want to progress. We have Tudor Sports in the next round, so it will be a tough encounter and we need to be up for it.

Of recent weeks I have been very cutting with my reports and rightly so. However, days like this everyone deserves a pat on the back – well done, I went home a for a well deserved pot noodle and a !

Next week we have no game. There will not be any training either. If possible, please make yourself available for other teams at the club if required. I would prefer if players Like Liam and Colin concentrated on resting their injuries rather than playing. Please contact Vic for details.