Burnham Junior Panthers Yellow 3 Ashridge Park 3
Goals (click for highlights):
11 mins: 0-1 (Felix Galla-Taylor)
28 mins 1-1
30 mins 2-1
31 mins 2-2 IToni Baciu)
51 mins 3-2
80 mins 3-3 (Adam Williams)
Star Players: Alex Ayton & Dan Baker
One of the most depressing phrases in the English language is “Bus Replacement Service”. Followed closely by “M4 closed between junctions 8/9 and 7”. To be fair that is very much a first world problem, and the outcome was nothing more serious than one or two late arrivals, but we started with a squad of 13 or 14. Very nice pitch, which looked like a snooker table, and a grassy knoll which serves as a makeshift terrace.
One of the no-shows was the ref who we found out later had had a brush with the constabulary, so the Burnham manager stood in. Actually I thought he did OK (I did it a couple of times a few years back and tended to give the opposition the benefit of the doubt, to avoid being accused of bias).
Burnham are a good, fast, physical side and we were very much on the back foot in the opening exchanges. They were first to the ball, aggressive in the challenge and always had options to find teammates in space. However, our defence and in particular Alex standing in for Joe in goal kept them out. When you stay in the game, you always have a chance and we gradually started to create a chance or two. Adam found a yard near the right corner flag, crossed accurately and Felix, who had drifted in at the far post, buried the header. 0-1 on 11 minutes.
This sparked Burnham into life, and after some more heroics from Alex kept them at bay for a while, a couple of defensive lapses and loss of shape and concentration meant we paid the price with two goals in as many minutes - 2-1 on the half-hour. How quickly fortunes can change. Just like life, really.
But another lesson was illustrated by Toni a minute later. Pace always frightens an opposition defence, and Toni chased down a pass across the back four. The defender panicked and booted the ball into Toni as he rushed in – and it rebounded straight into the net past the stranded keeper. 2-2 on 31 minutes. Fantastic response. And that was half time.
The effort and determination continued after the break. But a smart, sharp passing move broke us down. 3-2 after 51 minutes.
I reckon last year we might have crumbled, but not today. We dug in and gradually began to dominate, with Dan beginning to take control of the central areas. A ball was cleared from their penalty box right into Jack G’s path. He absolutely leathered it on the volley and it smashed into the post from fully 25 yards. Then Toni nearly repeated his heroics from the first half and charged down a defender's clearance, taking the ball on into the area. This time the shot went wide to the right, however.
However an accurate long ball over the top from Ice was chased down by Adam. It bounced in the penalty area and Adam’s glancing header beat the keeper’s despairing grasp and nestled in the back of the net. 3-3 with ten minutes to go.
In the final minutes both sides had chances, but we were definitely on top and I think would have nicked it if the game had gone on a little longer; Adam going close with a couple of efforts. Alex, too, had one more intervention to make, diving to his left to push a deflected shot round the post. However 3-3 the final score was fair, and a much improved performance from last week.
Completely agree with Graham’s pick for MoTM. Alex and Dan were terrific.
A really enjoyable game with some good football played on both sides. Burnham were very good with the ball on the deck, playing a slick passing style of the kind I am encouraging the boys to play themselves (it probably helps to play on that surface every other week!). In the first half we turned the ball over too regularly, and were hanging on by our fingernails (or Alex's toenails more accurately!), but the resilience and determination were evident, and we lasted the pace better as Burnham faded badly in the latter stages. Adam did a fine job as a target man, great cross for Felix's goal, and got his own reward with the equalizer; Toni's energy was a massive element too in unsettling the Burnham defence. But there were two key factors in securing the result today: Alex kept us in it in the times when Burnham were cutting loose (his style may be unconventional, using his legs more than his hands, but it was most effective); whilst winning control of the midfield was central to us getting back into it in the second half, and Dan was absolutely pivotal there, controlled aggression to win the ball, dynamic running to push us into their territory. As such they both deserve a share of the star player recognition this week.