Binfield Bullets 2 Ashridge Park 1
Ashridge Scorer: Antonio Baciu (36')
Star Player: James Riley
February 1 2020 – a day for celebration - the ushering in of a new and brighter dawn. After what seems an eternity of darkness and confusion, we can finally look forward with clarity and optimism. Yes – Dry January really is finally over.
And I am sure everyone was hoping the boys would start where they left off last week – an absolutely thrilling game against high flying Rotherfield United, and as Graham noted, the entire team were immense. Despite the narrowest of defeats (3-4), a credit to themselves, parents and indeed the club. I cannot recall when I enjoyed a match so much. When I say I can’t remember, what I really mean Is I can remember. It was when Stoke beat Bolton 5-0 in the cup semi-final in 2011. But last week came very close.
Binfield have an excellent home ground, with a perimeter fence and a very decent café. However, and despite the very welcome and bright sunshine (ordered specifically to mark the brave new world), it is a bit exposed to the elements and the chilly wind seemed to be coming in direct from the Urals.
With the luxury of a squad of 13, we kicked off the first half with the breeze behind us, and started as brightly as the weather. We suddenly look a threat and are beginning to press higher up the pitch, putting doubt in the minds of the defence and creating chances out of nothing. Playing a passing game wasn’t easy in the conditions, but credit to the boys, they tried. Several opportunities were created, but with no killer touch. Meanwhile Binfield were fast and lively, but our defence and Joe mopped up any threat.
Just past the half hour, a ball was swung over from the right into the Binfield area and struck the hand of a defender. I have to say that I do not like the new rule where handball is given even if there is no intent. This looked a pure accident to me, and the player gained zero advantage – but a penalty it was. Antonio’s effort was clean and true but clipped the bar and went over. As it happens, it was just a sighter, because seconds later Binfield presented the ball back to Antonio on the edge of the box and he placed an absolute gem in the top corner via the underside of the same bar. Half time 0-1.
By the time the second half started the wind had increased and Ashridge were quickly on the back foot. Our goal led a charmed life as several crosses pinged across the area. The boys dug in, but finally, midway through the half, the pressure told and Binfield equalised following a scramble from a corner. 1-1.
I honestly don’t like criticising refs, because in my view the only surprising thing about their performance in the professional game is that they get so many decisions right – in the face of systematic cheating and intimidation from players and managers. Plus, I would not want to do the job myself. However, the incident around the winning goal in the 77th minute seems to have been missed by only two people – the ref and me. A corner from the right, and the general view was that the ball was safely in Joe’s hands, only to be knocked out by a retreating Binfield player. The ball was recycled to the edge of the box and placed into the top right hand corner, just evading Joe's parry. Cue lots of complaints from the boys, but the goal stood. 2-1.
Then the game ended slightly chaotically. The ref got whacked by a ball driven across the middle of the field. Complete accident. But as he passed the ref, Marcus remarked to him that he had it coming, and was duly sin-binned. Even this was chaotic as it turned out that the ref didn't have any cards, so no one initially knew what had happened. Now, some people would say that the ref overreacted to what was actually quite a funny and harmless comment. Of course I am not one of them. And nor are any of the Ashridge parents. Quite the contrary – we all know that the ref was completely right. I guess the lesson is that giving lip to refs these days generally ends in tears.
2-1 the final score, and you could see how gutted the boys were. However they should not be too downhearted. It was a battling performance in difficult circumstances. On another day we would have ground out a draw at least, and the spirit we have seen in the last two weeks will surely pay dividends for the rest of the season.
On to the next game and here’s hoping it’s a bit warmer. Mind you, the snowdrops and crocuses are out, the days are certainly getting longer, and Easter eggs are all over the supermarket shelves. There can be little doubt, it’s that time of year – when wives start planning Summer holidays…
Report by Max Galla (with minor additions from Graham Ayton)
Manager's Comments: Whilst we didn't quite hit the heights of last week, it was nonetheless a good all round effort, and really gutting to lose another game in the dying minutes, particularly with the fashion of Binfield's winner. I'm really pleased that the boys are continuing to try to move the ball around, even if the execution wasn't quite so on point this week - the conditions didn't help. We are at last creating a decent number of chances, and Jack G is starting to make a big difference for us up front (indeed he could have nicked the game for us on a couple of occasions late on); whilst Antonio has come to life in the last couple of games and looks a real threat. Both goals conceded today came from corners, and the main lesson from this game has to be to avoid conceding corners carelessly as they are a gift to bigger more physical opponents. Today's star player award went to James Riley; our best periods in the game came in the two spells he had in central midfield where he was able to combat the stronger players in the Binfield line-up and give us a platform from which to move forward.