FC Holyport Hawks 1 Ashridge Park 2
11 mins: 0-1 (Adam Williams)
21 mins 0-2 (Jamie Cole)
76 mins 1-2 (pen)
Star Player: Toni Baciu
I think many of us took one look out of the window in the morning and were hoping for a message to say "match postponed". Our garden looked like it had been the epicentre of a monsoon. The reason for that was that it had been the epicentre of a monsoon.
But the Holyport pitch is clearly made of sterner stuff and was perfectly playable. Fair play to the team and parents, as we had a squad of 15 and a great away following. As it happened, we needed it, because the home support and manager were very vocal. Tbh, I have a feeling that screaming instructions from the touchlines to 16/17 year olds on the pitch has the same effect as a manager in the PL. As near to zero as makes no difference. Thankfully, Graham is much calmer and more measured. And our parents were clearly dragged brought-up far too well.
Holyport are I think a league above us. Another physical, fast team, and once again they initially had us pinned down after the whistle. The defence held firm, however, and whilst we restricted them to only the odd chance, Joe handled the ball excellently when he had to, in testing conditions.
Then a free kick just inside the opposition half was launched in by James Riley and Adam’s powerful header made it 0-1 after 11 minutes. Great stuff.
Better was to follow. We had a corner on the right. It was pinged in and Jamie leapt high and thundered a header in. 0-2 on 21 minutes and at half time. Their manager was slightly quieter.
However he must have given his team a rocket at half time because they came out rejuvenated. They had 4 or 5 openings, but we dug deep to block efforts and protect the goal.
Then they had a penalty. It was disappointing, because it stemmed from a move where Dan was blatantly shoved over as he drove into the centre of their defence. No foul given. A few seconds later Holyport were in our area, I didn’t see it clearly, but I think it was one of those occasions where the pundits in the MoTD studio (delivering the bland and the obvious for £500k a year) might say “he was entitled to go down”. I really dislike that phrase, because by implication he could at the same time “have stayed on his feet”. Anyway, a penalty it was, and the Holyport player put it away very tidily. 1-2 with a quarter of an hour left.
In the final stages, it was backs to the wall, and a number of parents were on their phone to their cardiologists. Or maybe that was just me. They had a couple of free kicks, and if they had had more composure, they might have equalised. But they didn’t. At the other end Adam came close again with a header which forced a smart save low down from the keeper. 1-2 at the final whistle and we are in the hat for round 2.
Couple of final thoughts. We conceded possession at least 4 or 5 times from foul throws. Nail that and we will improve our chances. [GA - not just us but the opposition too. And the video evidence suggests most of them werent actually foul throws!]
And I don’t like criticising refs as a rule, because it’s harder than it looks, and in the professional game they face routine cheating and intimidation from players and managers. In fact, despite the criticism they often get in the media from the numpty pundits described above, the only surprising thing is how many decisions they get right. And I have seen refs at kids’ level get shameful abuse from the touchline (and worse). It makes you despair. However, this bloke was pedantic in the extreme, and not terribly keen on moving outside the centre circle. He yellow carded Dan for theatrically pacing out 10 yards at free kicks, and also Toni and Adam (time wasting, allegedly). In fact it looked like Graham was yellow carded at one point – it looked like the spat a few weeks back between Klopp and Lampard - but I am assured not.
However, let’s put that behind us. Because it was a magnificent performance, from front to back. Every single member of the team put in a shift, fought for each other, and put their bodies on the line. You could sense the togetherness at the final whistle. A credit to themselves, Graham, their parents and the club. The best game I have seen for a long time. Onward and upward!
I was really pleased with today's performance. Throughout the first half the boys really tried hard to improve on last week's failings in keeping possession - whilst I would still hope to see us keep the ball for longer, this week when it broke down it was because of inaccurate execution, not because we were making poor decsions, and that is a huge step forward. We thoroughly deserved the half-time lead; we were more dangerous going forward, having other near misses as well as the goals, and ruthlessly exploited our aerial superiority (couldnt have imagined being able to say that last season!). I never really felt that Holyport were seriously threatening to get back into it until the gift of the penalty award (in my view a collision away from the ball, caused by the Holyport player suddenly backing into the path of Marcus's run), and even after that their efforts on goal lacked accuracy or menace, barring one great covering tackle from Dan. A shame that a game played in a good, competitive spirit was slightly overshadowed by a bewildering performance from the referee, but as Max says we must put that to one side and focus on the many positives.
Star player award went to Toni today, for the second week in a row his energetic and speedy closing down of opposition defenders resulted in hurried passes and consequent turnover of possession in our favour and was a big factor in knocking Holyport off their stride; he also gets his third assist of the season with the corner for Jamie's decisive goal.