After so much anticipation in the off season trying various formations and squads our first game of the season was an extremely tense and thrilling game which was not reflected in the 0 – 0 scoreline.
We were dealt a blow in the run up to the game as Rob Dixon and Scott pulled out with injury which was fair enough as we knew both were carrying knocks. Also Miles and Joe "no showed" which is completely unacceptable and indicated their lack of commitment to the rest of the squad and to the gaffer in what was our first game.
In any case we had a solid squad and it was the right decision to go with larger numbers on an extremely hot day. We started with the following line up:
Leandro in goal, Andy B, Stef, Bertie, Dan, Adam, Rory, Jay, Tom, Matt and Forlan in a 4 – 4 – 1 – 1 formation. One the bench we had Michael, Olivier, Nav, Willie, and Sanju.
I was extremely impressed by our level or organization. Everyone was very disciplined and worked unbelievably hard for each other. The first half was tense with both teams a bit wary of each other although we looked the better team. We passed the ball well and defended resolutely. All our back for were outstanding winning every header and 50/50 tackle. We looked very intimidating and you could see that Young Guns didn’t fancy the battle with our strong back four. Jay and Tom were outstanding in the middle. Tom dominating in the air and running all over them which was a counter foil to Jay’s clever passes and touches. Both of them put in some meaty challenges as well. Adam worked hard after his comeback from injury and Rory was his usual bustling self on the right. Matt made a nuisance of himself and Forlan had a few moments up front and showed why he is one of the best strikers around. We carved out a few opportunities and had some dangerous moments. All our subs apart from Sanju came on in the first half and did well. Willie who was signed by Stef on Friday night looked an absolutely quality player with lots of pace and brilliant skills and vision. He can receive the ball in any tight situation and not lose it. Michael also looked a threat up front with his power, touch and pace. Finally Leandro made an outstanding interception just before half time to keep it 0 – 0.
At half time everyone is feeling pretty confident but the second half had more drama and action in 35 minutes than you will get in any episode of Game of Thrones.
Young Guns really press hard and they show what a fit team they are. They carve out 2 – 3 gilt edge chances including a volley from two yards that goes wide. We ride our luck as Sanju who replaced Leandro uses his hands outside the area to give them a free kick and is lucky to only get a yellow. The resulting free kick pulverizes Andy who goes down holding his head. He sees stars but gets up to soldier on like Sly in the Rocky 4. We then also get some chances from Forlan and Michael including a mazy run from Forlan who unfortunately hits a weak shot after going past 3 players like a Chinese Messi. Willie then makes a brilliant run and crosses a ball to Forlan who only had to tap in but misses his shot. Forlan was unlucky not to get a hatrick in front of his Dad and I am sure will score lots of goals this season. Willie also plays a brilliant crossfield ball to Nav who just doesn’t have the legs to get on the end of it. In the last ten minutes Adam towers in a thundering header and some of our lads are celebrating. Play is waved on by the ref and they hit us on the break have shot past Sanju who is off his line. Dan leaps like LBJ and pulls off a brilliant save. Straight Red card and off he goes. The gaffer thinks this is the end. Sanju does a bit of gamesmanship but putting off the penalty taker and making him reset the ball. Everything goes quiet, the penalty is hit well low to Sanju’s left it travels in slow motion it seems. Sanju tips it round for a corner… Pandemonium, hugs and pats on the back all round for our eccentric goalkeeper, we then clear the corner and play five minutes with ten men. 0 – 0 fair result Sanju gets a burger and chips off the gaffer for his efforts at the Brew House.
To sum up it was a great team performance with everyone working very hard for each other. I am proud of you all. This is some thing we can build on.
Man of the match:
Willie, Forlan, Jay, Tom, Entire back 4 all played very well. However, we have got to give it to our Bollywood Hero Sanju!
Other highlights of the match:
Tom seeing the red mist, Andy B taking hits for the team, Jay shaking the ref’s hand to avoid a yellow card