Berks County Jaguars 6 Ashridge Park 1
25 mins: 0-1 (Antonio Baciu, pen)
36 mins: 1-1
43 mins: 2-1
48 mins: 3-1
55 mins: 4-1
68 mins: 5-1 (pen)
77 mins: 6-1
Star Player: James Riley & Jamie Cole (shared)
Often when a professional footballer makes a late tackle, the comment is “he got there as quick as he could”. There have been plenty at Stoke City over the years. Sadly not only is the match report woefully late this week, I only just made kick-off last weekend, having put the wrong postcode into the Satnav. In fairness, however, there are worse ways of spending a spare 30 minutes on a Saturday morning than the trip up the M4 to the outskirts of Reading and back. I say there are worse ways. But none springs immediately to mind, admittedly.
Graham had a squad of 12 on Jaguars’ synthetic pitch, and particularly welcome was the return of Dan after his long injury. Joe – nursing a hand injury - was replaced in goal by Felix. We started with the brisk wind more or less behind us, and the opening exchanges were promising. Excellent high press and smart passing launched an attack on the right and Jamie’s shot looked goal-bound, but whistled just past the far post with the keeper beaten. Unsurprisingly, as they play week in week out on the artificial pitch, Jaguars coped better with the pace of the ball off the surface and put together several decent breaks which our defence coped with pretty well.
I thought we were marginally the better side at in the first 30 minutes or so, and created several further chances without really working their keeper. However, we took a deserved lead prior to the half hour. Another raid in their area and their defenders had a couple of swipes at Jack’s legs and then the ball struck a defender’s hand. Fair play to the ref who played advantage, but when the ball was cleared he rightly gave a penalty. The first rule of penalty club is to hit the target. So is the second. Antonio did just that and the ball crept in low past the Jaguars’ keeper. 0-1. Dan came on for the last 10 minutes of the half and looked lively, creative and with a physical presence. In fact it looked like we would hold out until half time, but just before the break, we were caught on the counter down our left flank, and a ball played in low from the right was prodded in from 6 yards. 1-1 at half time.
It’s slightly inappropriate to ear-wig the half time team talk but I couldn’t help hearing Graham tell the boys that they were doing well and if they kept up the effort and application, the rewards would follow. However, with the wind now in their favour, Jaguars began to dominate the midfield and with one or two pacey players up front, started to cause us problems,quickly opening up a 3-1 lead. They continued to force the pace, winning several corners which were swung in at pace and only luck kept the ball out. Unfortunately the luck didn’t last and Jaguars attacked the ball in the area extended the lead with a free header on 55 minutes. 4-1. Then their striker went down in the box under a challenge from Marcus and a penalty awarded. The ball was buried in the corner of the net. 5-1.
We didn’t give up, though, and at the other end the ball pinged around the Jaguars’ area and struck a hand. This time Joe (who scored from the spot in the feisty cup game earlier in the season) stepped up. Firmly struck, but narrowly wide of the post. Heads dropped a bit and Jaguars added insult to injury with another late goal. 6-1 the final score.
Cannot argue with Graham’s choice of MoTM. James - and in particular Jamie, who had a blinder. Well done Felix in goal, who made 3 or 4 good saves and kept the score down. Cannot argue either with Graham’s post-match analysis. A first half of real promise was undone in the second. The boys need to make sure they are more assertive and aggressive on the second ball and attack crosses into the box in particular. If they do, we will see positive results and especially with a slightly expanded squad.
Years ago, the great Peter Sellers was in a film - Only Two Can Play - in which he was a drama critic on a provincial evening paper. He was asked to review Hamlet at the local theatre, but chose the spend the evening with a "friend" instead. Of course, he'd seen the play (and reviewed it) many times - so what could possibly go wrong? He duly submitted his piece, which was printed, only to find that half way through the production, the theatre had burned down. The next time I find myself driving the wrong way up the motorway and miss a game, I might try doing a blind match report. After all, that’s what it seems many professional sports journalists do.
Report by Max Galla
Not much to add to Max's report, ultimately we suffered from a lack of match fitness, with Dan playing his first 20 minutes of the season (and coming close to scoring twice in the first 5 of them), and Joe having a rare game outfield; whilst the home side managed the wind and the surface better than we did. A big thank you to Felix for stepping in between the sticks; his handling was very solid, and he pulled off some good saves; he just needs a bit more experience to get his positioning right at times. More practice needed on defending set pieces; we were all at sea both technically and mentally in this area once more, having improved in some recent games. The star player recognition went jointly to the two players who ran and ran from start to finish; Jamie was certainly at the heart of many of our most threatening moves, whilst James Riley easily covered the most ground of any player on the pitch - a great effort from both!