Camberley Town Youth Renegades 2 Ashridge Park 1
Ashridge Scorer: Jack Clayton (63')
Star Player: James Riley
With all home games already cancelled due to the weather, it was with some trepidation that we headed over to Frimley Green to face Camberley Town for the first time since U10 level. Indeed, conditions were unpleasant, with fairly constant rain and the strong winds gusting straight down the pitch, meaning that one team was likely to be at a disadvantage. The pitch, though tacky and uneven in places, was holding up fairly well, however, meaning that there was no issue with the game going ahead. Like Ashridge, Camberley had only picked up one point to date, though all of their games had been reasonably competitive judging by the scorelines. Both teams were struggling for availability due to half term, with no substitutes on display - Will, Dillon and James Roberts missing for Ashridge as well as our two longer-term injury cases, Dan and Bertie. Ashridge switched to a new formation for this game - 4-2-3-1 - with Jack C as the lone striker supported by Felix, Harry and Antonio.
It was Ashridge who drew the short straw and found themselves playing into the wind in the first half. Nonetheless they made a reasonably bright start, with Jack G asserting himself in the holding midfield role, and Felix looking bright on the left. Felix won a free kick on the apex of the box, and Jack C's delivery into the centre of the box was headed just wide of the far post by Jack G. Camberley soon began to prosper, however, showing good pace down the right flank, which required James to provide some reinforcements to Tim to avert the danger. Alex, too was called into the action on the right of the Ashridge defence, clearing into touch to keep the marauding forwards at bay, whilst Joe was often in the action to gather some over-hit through balls. Camberley broke through on the ten-minute mark; benefiting from a moment of hesitation between Alex and Jamie after Ashridge appeared to have won back possession on their left; the ball was recycled to the central edge of the penalty area, from where it was drilled into the right-hand corner of the net. Ashridge could have levelled almost immediately after Antonio was impeded on the right apex of the penalty area; Jamie's floated free-kick found Antonio in space on the back post, but his side-foot volley skied well over the bar.
The remainder of the half followed a consistent and fairly scrappy pattern, with Camberley pressing forward and Ashridge battling to clear the ball. Despite the pressure, there were no clear-cut chances worthy of report as Ashridge kept a good shape and won the important battles around the edge of the box. Ashridge themselves had only one brief moment of threat as Jack G worked some space in the centre circle and slotted the ball through the centre for Jack C to run in on goal, but the ball held up on the surface and the defender was able to recover the ground and win the ball back. 1-0 at half time.
A minor switch at half time in the Ashridge line-up saw Jamie move up to the central attacking midfield role, with Harry dropping back to the holding role alongside Jack G. It was Camberley who were quicker out of the blocks however, and they almost caught Ashridge cold in the first minute of the half as they piled forward; a high ball to the right channel was taken on the bounce by the forward, and an excellent strike clipped the crossbar on its way to safety. They soon found as Ashridge had before that clearing the ball from the back was problematic in the wind, and for the first time Ashridge began to enjoy some sustained possession in the Camberley half; Ashridge in their turn began to find as Camberley had before that it was all too easy to overhit forward passes, and present the ball back to the opposition's defence. The visitors' first real glimpse of goal came when Antonio's well-delivered corner from the right was met on the half-volley by Jack G to the right of the penalty spot, the ball narrowly clearing the bar. As the wind began to subside, Camberley were able to offer more of a threat again on the counter-attack; showing good pace down the flanks, and really stretching the Ashridge defence. Just before the hour mark, they extended the lead when a jinking run from the no 7, who gave Alex a fairly torrid time in this part of the game, was followed by cross-come-shot from a narrow angle; Joe got hands on it, but it squirmed across to the far side and after a brief scramble was forced home from close range.
Ashridge took a few moments to re-gather, but with James Riley increasingly prominent, stepping out of defence and finding some searching passes into the Ashridge front men, they gradually began to assert themselves again. On 63 minutes, the visitors were back in it, the move developing down the left where Felix worked some space and delivered the ball into the box; Jamie helped it on its way to find Harry arriving in space on the right; Harry's shot was parried, but the clearance charged down by Jack C, the ball flying hight into the net from close range. With Ashridge taking more risks to try to get level, Camberley continued to exploit the spaces, and came close to another when the no 7 got the better of both Alex and Marcus, but his shot struck the outside of the near post and went behind. With time slipping away, Ashridge nearly worked an equaliser, Harry picking up possession just outside the right edge of the box, jinking inside, and then slipping a pass back into the right channel to find Jack C; the pass was just slightly overhit, forcing Jack wide, but he took it on and fizzed the ball across goal, just beating Antonio's slide at the back post before going out for a goal kick. That was to be the last action of note as time ran out, and another narrow defeat for the Ashridge boys.
No complaints about the result as overall Camberley played the better football and created more and better chances. No shortage of effort from Ashridge, and the defensive side of the game was sound; going forward we need to move the ball a little earlier and with greater accuracy, as well as have the confidence and instinct to make the right runs off the ball. Mentions today for Jack C, who was doing all of the right things as the lone striker, staying on the shoulder of the last defender and seeking to make runs into channels, and he continues his record of scoring in every game he's been able to play this season; also for Jack G who worked his socks off in the holding midfield role; and Tim who was rarely bested in an interesting contest on the left side of the Ashridge defence. James Riley gets the nod for star player this week: as well as his usual defensive contribution, winning his own battles and covering across to help others when needed, he was increasingly prominent in stepping up into midfield and prompting Ashridge forward, particularly at the stage of the game when there was a danger of heads going down. Hopefully we will be able to field a fuller squad in up-coming matches so we can use both him and Marcus in more attacking roles from time to time.