Ashridge Park 2 Caversham AFC Mustangs 3
1 min: 0-1
13 mins: 0-2
59 mins: 1-2 (Bertie Wilson)
77 mins: 1-3
78 mins: 2-3 (Dan Baker)
Star Player: Alex Ayton
Blimey what a couple of weeks. There was a hint of things to come as on the morning of the match, I got a call from my brother to say that the streets of my home town were full of nervous, panicky people scouring the near empty supermarket shelves for staples (aka alcohol and crisps). Life in Stoke was much as it normally is in fact. In the week leading up to this game I was self-isolating. That was nothing to do with C19 as it happens. Just the way my family prefers it.
Graham had a squad of 12, and with Joe still unable to wear the gloves, Felix and Alex did a half each in goal. Ashridge started like they’d been up all night partying – much like professional footballers used to do back in the day. In fact Graham’s advice from the previous week – to attack balls swung into the area – seemed to have gone unheard, and Caversham strolled down the right flank in the opening seconds and cross into the box was nodded in from close range. In truth we were under siege for the opening quarter and fair play to the defence, who protected the goal with spirit and tenacity. It was not enough to stop us falling further behind on 13 minutes as a corner from the left was half cleared, but we stood off the second ball allowing Caversham two bites at the cherry, and a slightly scuffed shot nestled in the corner of the net. 0-2. Finally we started to play some decent football, and one particularly sweet reverse ball from Jamie put Antonio through, whose effort was well-struck but off target. No addition to the score at half-time.
Caversham briefly re-took the initiative after the resumption, but never re-captured the energy of the first 20 minutes, and and gradually we began to give as good as we got. A lovely spin and run from Jamie on the right was capped with a ball curled invitingly into the box which was caught beautifully on the half volley by Bertie from close range. 1-2 on 59 minutes.
We forced a couple of corners and Felix swung one in viciously from the right which had the Caversham defence in knots – one of their back four getting the merest touch with his head to stop it going directly in, and instead crashing on to the post and out. At this point, Graham commented to the parents on the touchline our tendency to concede late goals. Oh dear. Sure enough, whilst Alex kept out a stinging shot with a fine reaction save, it fell directly to their striker who nodded it home. 1-3 after 77 minutes. All over? Not quite. Jack rather unexpectedly decided to smash a dipping drive from 35 yards that crashed against the bar, and Dan was onto the rebound in a flash to side-foot past the keeper. 2-3 after 78 minutes and that was the final score despite a great final effort.
Report by Max Galla (with additions from Graham Ayton)
Manager's Comments: A pity that we took so long to wake up, as for 60 minutes of this game we were well in contention, if not possibly the better side. Although in part that was due to Caversham who started really fast, but were unable to sustain that level. Dan put in a slightly longer cameo this week, and reminded us of what we've been missing all season, from the slightly over-exuberant challenges (one of which saw his opponent simply step to one side leaving Dan to collapse head first to the turf), to the attacking intent and quick reactions that brought about his goal. Jamie was again at the heart of most good things, whilst once they'd got their heads into the game, James Roberts and Marcus did a fine job in restricting the Caversham forward line, meaning that the loss of James Riley to injury was not as big a miss as might be expected. My thanks to Felix and Alex for stepping in with the gloves, and it is the latter who gets the nod for star player, as in the first half he was probably our most alert defender, and rarely let his man get by him; whilst he pulled off a couple of fine saves in the second, being most unfortunate to see the rebound fall unkindly for the deciding goal.