Teddington Athletic Hurricanes 2 Ashridge Park 3
Ashridge Scorers: Jack Gillingham (19'), Tayseer Alam (30'), Reg Ryan (75')
Star Player: Joe Savory
Sponsor Performance Rating*: Tandoori Mixed Grill - many good moments but some indifferent ones too
(* in recognition of our shirt sponsors, the Sultan Balti Palace)
An early start this morning as we headed over to Teddington for a 9.30 kick off. The Hurricanes were new opponents for us having joined the league last year in Division 4, and like ourselves the previous season, had found that level tough going. They had made a good start this season though, winning their only fixture 9-1, so we weren't quite sure what to expect. Both sides were under-strength, with Teddington missing players due to a school match and only able to field ten, whilst we had injury issues with Jack C, Dan and Bertie all missing, and Jamie starting from the sidelines having hurt his hip the previous day.
After some early sparring, with both sides testing out the other, Ashridge began to get the upper hand in terms of territory. Jack G again provided the physical competitiveness we needed in central midfield, with Will also on hand to pick off the loose ball. Reg, Antonio and Tayseer provided energy and speed to try to test out the back line; with Alex and Dillon providing some good linking passes. Teddington remained compact at the back, but Ashridge missed a trick in these early stages, with the wide players getting drawn into the central areas making life simpler for the defence. Teddington's threat revolved primarily around one stand-out player, their no 27, who showed some nice touches and great balance; however he was anchoring the midfield, and Ashridge were often able to close down the threat on the second or third challenge before any attacks could develop. Their were few alarms at the back, although we were in danger of pushing too high up the field at times as had been the case on the opening day at Hurst; but Teddington didn't have quite the same pace to exploit it. Ashridge began to build pressure around the Teddington box, and got their reward just past the quarter hour mark, when play developed around the left edge of the box with Marcus and Tayseer, before Jack G picked up possession on the angle of the box, and launched a strike high to the far corner which the keeper was unable to keep out.
Teddington pushed forward in response, winning a couple of corners which the Ashridge defence managed to see off, before being presented with their best opportunity after a shove from Marcus just outside the box. A well-struck free-kick was tipped onto the bar by Joe, and he did well to retrieve the rebound under pressure from the Teddington forwards. Ashridge regained control and began to search for a second. Off-target efforts from Antonio and Tayseer followed, and Ashridge won a series of corners of their own, finally leading to the second goal - an ugly affair with a slighlty miscued corner from Alex bobbling through a couple of sets of legs before being turned goalwards by Tayseer, taking a deflection on its way, Reg tried to make sure but got nothing on it, but maybe did enough to distract the keeper, whose late dive was insufficient to keep it out. Little else to report for the last 10 minutes of the half as Ashridge remained in control without forcing any further clear opportinities. 2-0 at half-time.
If we expected the ten men of Teddington to tire in the second period, we were soon disabused of the idea. A tactical switch saw the number 27 move further forward, where he was able to cause us more problems. Their play also became more direct, seeking to find the space in behind the back three; and also more physical - aided to some degree by the referee allowing a number of fairly blatant shoves to pass. Joe was soon to be in the thick of the action; coming out to gather at the feet of the Teddington forward and taking a nasty blow to the face in the process - again no protection offered by the referee. It is to Joe's credit that he was soon out again to collect in similar circumstances and did not flinch from his task. Ashridge were mainly playing on the counter now, but failed to exploit the spaces that Teddington were leaving down the sides - Mason, Jamie and Marcus all a little guilty of not releasing the ball early enough. On the one occasion that we did find that space, Reg was unceremonioulsy taken out as he looked to break past the last defender; he took the resulting free-kick, clearing the wall but without the pace to seriously trouble the keeper down at his right post. Teddington's threat became reality some fifteen minutes into the half as they again found the right pass in behind the defence and this time the forward was able to collect on the left of the box and then square to allow a simple finish. Just past the half-way point they were to level things up when Ashridge failed to clear a corner, the first shot was headed off the line by Jamie, but it fell again to a Teddington player who stabbed home from eight yards.
Some reshuffling of the pack enabled Ashridge to steady things up, with Mason withdrawn and Antonio rejoining the fray. Antonio was to be involved in a moment of controversy, engaging in a 50-50 tangle with the last Teddington defender just inside the Teddington half, with both players ending up on the deck; as they got to their feet the defender turned and kicked Antonio, leaving him in a crumpled heap once more. Missed again by the referee, fortunately for the Teddington player. As Ashridge pushed forward, James Riley tried his luck from range, getting plenty on it but missing just to the left of the goal. Ashridge were to find the winner five mintues from time; this coming from some good work on the left by Tayseer, who worked his way past two players to the by-line before cutting it back; Alex looked well-placed to try his luck, but Reg was on it in a flash, used quick feet to move it to the side of the challenging defender, before firing a low shot past the keeper into the left side of the net from just inside the penalty area - a quality goal. The visitors stayed compact for the final minutes, and nearly grabbed another as Antonio broke clear in the right channel, but stabbed his effort wide of the near post.
Generally a good game with the sides quite evenly-matched, though some aspects of the home-side's play in the second half left a little to be desired, and needed stronger mangement by the official. For Ashridge there were some nice passages of play where the recent training work on keeping the ball seemed to be paying dividends, but we also lost a little focus in the second half, allowing our opponents back into the game. Jack G looked good again in centre midfield, indeed Teddington's renaissance in the match came when he was being rested; Tayseer also showed some good quality on the ball, and it was good to see both of our newcomers on the scoresheet. Reg's winner was his first of the season, and was a fine goal, and he backed this up with some hard work throughout, including dropping deeper to help us see out the game at the end. Star player recognition goes to Joe, whose handling was impeccable and whose save from the free-kick in the first half came at an important time. Keepers have to be a little mad, and it was great to see him recover from a nasty blow and still feel able to come out for the next ball!