Spartans put a huge dent in Club Albion’s title ambitions with a well-deserved draw at a rain sodden HKFC. With a few pull outs and no shows on the day, Flabbo was relieved to get Rick Man and Hermod into the squad at the last minute for this important game. Technical Director Hoy (taking a leaf out of Roy Hodgson’s managerial prowess) experimented with the double diamond formation, playing with a 4 player defensive diamond of Briggs, Ben, Bertie and Stef with wing backs Andy B and Jens. The offense diamond included Rick Man, Rob, Hermod and Jeff. The HKFC surface was extremely quick due to the heavy rain and this was going to be a huge test for the defense and H in goals. The first 5 mins we looked rather disorganized, as we tried to adapt to the new formation.
Albion started with intent (buoyed with the 5-0 thrashing the last time around) with their strikers getting the best of the opening exchanges. Chances were few and far between, but Albion almost broke the deadlock with a long range effort which crashed into the upright with H beaten. This seemed to get us more fired up and we started to play the formation with more conviction. Rob and Rick Man were starting to get more possession and the defense was able to match any Albion advances. We did get the odd opportunity to score. Rob coming close and Stef’s glancing header was easily saved by the Albion keeper. However, the formation worked perfectly and we were able to hold out to half time. HT: 0-0.
We were forced to make a change at half time, as Ben’s back was giving him problems. So we reverted back to the traditional 4-4-2. With Lionel going right midfield and Jens left midfield. Hermod joined Jeff up front. Again Albion started off the better team for the start of the second half and although they pressed us, we were able to deal with all their threats. Lionel was fired up and worked well down the right side. We were starting to look the better side as the half progressed, with Jens favoring the more attacking position.
However, it was Albion who took the lead. Albion were awarded a free kick on the left side of the penalty box. The free kick was struck nicely, but unfortunately it was deflected in past the diving H. 1-0. In previous matches this would have been the queue for Spartans capitulation, but we dug in bravely and went in search of an equalizer. Rick Man had run his socks off in midfield, but having not played for a couple of months fitness took its toll, so with 20 mins to play he was replaced by Nana, who partnered Jeff up front and Hermod slotted into midfield. We looked the stronger of the teams as the half wore on, but could not get break down a stubborn Albion defense. With 10 mins to go we pushed Stef into midfield and moved Jens up front with a three man attacking option. With 5 mins remaining we were given a lifeline. Hermod made threatening run into the box and was “clipped” by the on rushing goalkeeper….penalty. After a long delay due to Albion’s protests, Jeff then calmly slotted the ball into the net. 1-1. We reverted back to 4-4-2 to see out the game and although the referee decided 4 mins of extra time was needed we held out. FT 1-1.
This was the most satisfying result we’ve had for some time. Getting a draw against a very strong Albion outfit was no mean feat. Everyone played fantastically well, the first half formation (although experimental) was a critical factor in this result (well done to TD Hoy). It was extremely difficult to pick out my MoM, although everyone deserves a mention. H was superb in goals, clearing his lines with unerring confidence (whilst also taking some unfavorable chants from the watching Wanderers team in the second half). However, for his pivotal role in double diamond.