Ashridge Park 2 Windsor Youth Harriers Gladiators 5
Goals (click for highlights):
4 mins: 0-1
7 mins: 1-1 (Toni Baciu)
21 mins: 2-1 (Toni Baciu, pen)
36 mins: 2-2
43 mins: 2-3
50 mins: 2-4
70 mins: 2-5
Star Player: Toni Baciu
I’m not convinced you actually need to watch a game to be able to do a match report. In fact we have all read pieces from professional journalists (not restricted by any means to football or even sport) where you wonder: “Are they making this stuff up?”. 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 instead to spend the evening with his brother’s wife. Of course, he'd seen the play (and reviewed it) many times - so what could possibly go wrong? He submitted his review, which was duly printed, only to find that half way through the production, the theatre had burned down.
The reason I mention that is because doing the running WhatsApp commentary means taking my eye off the ball even more than normal. So if this sounds like fiction you’ll know why.
We were back at St Crispin’s after a string of away games. Injuries and half term meant Graham was restricted to a squad of 13, on the back of a great winning streak, but against a team that (I think) was unbeaten.
It was immediately obvious that Windsor were sharp and quick. A ball played high into our half was met first by their striker, whose glancing header found space behind our back line. Their left winger sprinted on to it and the ball was swept low and true into the corner of the net. 0-1 on 4 minutes and things looked ominous.
But we are definitely more resilient than last season, and this was illustrated in the next 15 minutes or so. First of all Tony sprinted on to a ball played deep into the Windsor half, headed it bravely beyond the hesitant defender, who was left flat footed, and as their keeper advanced, lobbed it high over the advancing keeper. It was one of those that sometimes bounce in the area and over the bar, but this was placed to perfection. Stunning goal. 1-1 on 7 minutes.
Then Felix weaved into the left of their area and was felled by a reckless tackle from behind. Yellow card definitely in the professional game, and a stonewall penalty. Tony buried it. 2-1 after 21 mins.
However Windsor are a handy side and continued to threaten. A chance from close in and the striker couldn’t miss. But he did, hitting the post. Then Tony nearly finished a terrific passing move, and Bertie’s thunderous volley from just outside the area went just wide.
Could we hold out until half time? Afraid not. A great finish from 18 yards gave Joe no chance. 2-2 on 36 mins. Even getting to the break on level terms would be positive.
However, their left winger then drifted into the box and a after a quick interchange of passes the forward tried unsuccessfully to hurdle James and Will's joint challenge and was brought crashing to earth. Penalty, which Joe initially blocked but the follow up was converted. 2-3 on 43 mins and that was the HT score.
Again it would be important to focus from the whistle. But we fell further behind almost immediately. In fairness it was an absolute screamer from distance into the top left corner – unstoppable. I doubt Pope would have saved it. (Possibly even beyond the reach of Pope John-Paul II, who was I think a very decent keeper). 2-4 after 50 mins.
We could and possibly should have had a second penalty for a tackle on Dan, but you needed VAR to spot that the challenge took the man just before the ball - not given At the other end, a cross from the left was missed by everyone before falling to their striker. He couldn’t miss, and this time he didn’t. 2-5 on 70 mins.
Again credit to our tenacity and spirit because we didn’t give up, and played right to the full time whistle without conceding further and creating our own chances at the other end. 2-5 the final score.
Absolutely no disgrace, in fact an excellent effort against a very good team who will (and in fact already have) put many sides to the sword this season.
One final thought, and it’s a spoiler alert for any Shakespeare fans. The baddy in Hamlet turns out to be the bloke who chose to spend the evening with his brother’s wife. As the stand-up Jason Manford observed: “Sometimes this **** just writes itself”.
Fair to say that as much as we have improved since last season, so have Windsor. Whilst they seem to be very reliant on one player for their goals (he got 4 today and mostly of the very highest quality), he is scoring plenty, and the rest of the side have few weaknesses that I could discern. We struggled with the bumpy pitch today after the luxury of playing on some decent surfaces recently, and our passing moves broke down rapidly. More effort needed off the ball - the moment that summed it up for me today was when Sachin turned two or three times on the ball looking for a pass, then held his hands out wide in frustration before resorting to a hopeful long pass, which inevitably Windsor retrieved. Dan and Sachin tried their hearts out today, but without the usual backup from the bench, they were eventually over-run in midfield. Star player goes to Toni who also worked hard, but produced the one real highlight in our game today with his superb equaliser.