Wednesday 18th April 2007
By Shaun Keddle
After Saturday we needed a Phoenix-type performance to lift us from the flames of disappointment into the business end of the season. What I got, was far more than I asked for but nothing less than what was deserved. In the past we have dominated sides, won games but never really scored an obscene amount of goals – until last night.
Eltham Palace are a good team, a big, strong team and a very difficult team to play against. However, what they lacked we had in abundance – pace. Just a few weeks earlier we played out a one-all draw in which they looked the better team, but we are a learning side and we learnt form the errors that we made. We needed to get the ball on the deck, use our pace, use the wide pitch and do it all with tempo and purpose.
We kicked off with a number of changes made. Clark, Judge and both Williams boys were unavailable. Pragnell returned from a foot injury to take the armband in the absence of Clark and Judge and was clearly up for the task, lining up with Perkins in the middle. Jay started on the right pushing Cleaver across to his more accustomed role on the left. Both of them were ably supported by the ever consistent Small and Cleaver, L. Head was replaced by Dawson upfront alongside Harrigan, Wright replaced Judge at the rear alongside Davis and St John took up his usual post between the sticks. Head and Connelly took to the bench.
Within a minute we were one up and I did not really see the goal but Harrigan finished from close range after good work from Dawson and Perkins. Within five minutes we scored again when the Palace defence got caught napping and they were no match for Harrigan’s pace as scorer turned provider and left Perkins with an easy finish following good work from Jay. It looked like one way traffic but Palace settled down into a passage of play and dragged themselves back into the fixture when a short corner was eventually played into the front post and bad marking left a Palace forward free at the front stick who finished well. Palace were back in it and had a sustained period of pressure for around 20 minutes, but with no real goal threat. A third was added against the run of play when Dawson cannoned in a fierce shot that rebounded off the unfortunate keeper and into the net. The turning point in the match was provided a few minutes later by Perkins who finished a fabulous effort into the top corner from 25 yards after a great run and ably assisted by some unselfish off-the-ball running by Harrigan and Dawson. 4-1 at the half.
A fantastic scoreline at the half where we spoke about the importance of the next goal. If we conceded early it would put Palace back in it and give them hope. Our two-touch policy was working well and our pace and movement was causing havoc amongst the Palace back line.
Palace started the half well, wanting to make amendments for a terrible first period but we soaked up the pressure well with St John in goal showing safe hands from crosses and reducing the aerial threat of Palace on set pieces. Davis and Wright at the back really had the centre forwards wrapped up and they were both decisive and strong. Wright was dominant in the air on everything and Davis’ cool, calm play and wand-like left foot was working some magic picking out some wonderful passes and finding feet every time. Small and Cleaver were tucking in when they had to and supporting the play going forward when need be, really exposing the space out wide and giving Jay and Cleaver, B the necessary ammunition out wide. The height, legs and competitiveness of Pragnell and Perkins in the middle was most impressive. It was a good return for Pragnell who revelled in this tough fixture despite being absent for a month. Pragnell allowed Perkins to roam through the middle providing the penetrative force through midfield, who is really starting to show a decent goal return and a renewed eagerness to further his tally. Jay on the right was outstanding throughout - playing the ball out of trouble and penetrative when going forward. Cleaver, B on the left hand side was amongst all the good play, clever and economic with the ball. Dawson and Harrigan up front were simply undefendable.
A fifth and killer goal was added by Dawson 20 minutes into the half when he coolly rounded the keeper and passed the ball in to the empty net. Not to be outdone Harrigan got his brace and our sixth when he showed magnificent fleet-of-foot and finished calmly into the inside netting. 6-1 up and three players on braces. Usually, the blatant-jug-avoiding-bugitis kicks in, but that nasty virus was soon out of the equation when Dawson finished past the helpless keeper after good work from Harrigan. Dawson was promptly substituted for showing off in front of his bird and Head entered the fray. Connelly replaced Cleaver, B with 15 minutes to go. With a couple of minutes on the clock, a horrible incident which marred a good spirited match resulted in an Eltham player being dismissed from the field of play. The referee who was excellent throughout this encounter who communicated well and was decisive throughout – was left with little choice and Palace were left a man short. Play restarted and within minutes Harrigan matched the feats of Dawson and grabbed his first hat trick of the season when he added our eighth from close range after good work from Jay. It finished 8-1.
We were simply outstanding in this fixture and we performed to a very high standard. Palace had a poor night overall, but let''s not take anything away from our performance as we did make a decent, strong side with many good results look very ordinary. Harrigan walked away with both Manager’s and Player’s MOM’s picking up 6 of the 14 votes. Cleaver L, Jay and Small picked up 2 votes apiece. Everyone played well in this fixture and we had strength all over the Park.
As a manager I was both proud and impressed by the response to Saturday’s loss and it was important that we bounced back quickly and with style. We did just that. We coped well with the losses of both Captain and Vice Captain along with our two top goal scorers. We proved that we have depth to our squad and are capable of scoring goals from other sources. We must maintain our rich vein of form and continue to string victories together and see what comes out of the mixer at the end of the season. There are still a lot of games to play and points to be had. Let''s keep winning and you never know your luck.
Congrats all around.