Saturday 7th April 2007
By Shaun Keddle
Squad: 1. St John; 2. Small; 3. Cleaver, L; 4. Davis; 5. Judge; 6. Clark; 7. Williams, J; 8. Perkins; 9. Harrigan; 10. Head (12. Martin); 11. Cleaver, B
Subs Not Used: 14. Connelly; 15. Nott, 16. Benningfield 19. Keddlinihio
A point well earned in a difficult away fixture.
Eltham Palace are a big strong side with plenty of height and physical presence. The first half was pretty even and although I thought that Eltham had more of the ball in the second half, neither side created enough opportunities to claim all three points. Neither keeper was overworked and it was not the greatest game to watch.
In games like these the physical presence of Wright, Pragnell and Williams, L was always going to be missed, so it was important that we got the ball down and used our superior pace. Palace had a tall back line and were powerful through the centre, so it was important to get the ball out wide. After twenty minutes of play from a breakaway we did just that with Cleaver, L stroking a nice ball out to Williams, J who used his pace knocking the ball out of his feet and using his great speed to ease past the chasing Palace defenders. A 60 yard run saw him bear down on goal and the back-pedalling keeper got his angles all wrong and Williams, J finished easily past him to go one up.
Another ten minutes past when Head went through into the box and was bought down for a blatant penalty which was somehow not given. Decisions don’t come much easier than that and the referee waved on play. I obviously am not an advocate of foreign tactics but sometimes honesty is not the best policy.
The half finished 1-0 up but neither side had really got to grips with this game. At the half we spoke about getting the ball down and playing around Palace as an aerial approach was not a wise one and the times we did get the ball out wide and isolate Williams and Cleaver, B is where our main successes were.
In the second half Palace came at us looking for an equaliser pumping long balls forward and looking to use their size and height. Our back four stood firm for 20 minutes until a good Eltham move into the area was finished well by the centre forward giving St John in goal no chance. A deserved equaliser for Palace whose pressure reaped its reward. The remainder of the game appeared to be played out in a very end-of-season feel to it although Palace had most of the pressure and the ball. Given the good defensive credentials of both sides, the scoreline was no surprise but I did think that both sides were surprisingly quiet on the attacking front, given that both sides are still in with a shout of promotion.
A very ‘second gear’ performance and we never really got going. When we utilised our strengths against their weaknesses we looked promising and that’s where our goal came from. We did not get the ball out wide enough and there were large parts of this game where neither flanks were used often enough. However our back line was superb and barely put a foot wrong, ably marshalled by the inspiring Judge who picked up the players'' vote for man of the match. St John had a good, clean game in goal and it was good to see a vast improvement in both kicking and general distribution. Perkins had his work cut out in midfield and was competitive throughout, picking up the manager’s vote.
Over the Easter period I would be happy with 4 points. This was one of them which meant that we had to go to Erith on Monday and win to stay in contention.