Ashridge Park 0 Taplow United Youth 1
64 mins: 0-1
Star Player: Josh Palmer
Blimey, what a year. Stuck inside for weeks on end. Bingeing on Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and Fargo. Living exclusively off Doritos Roulette and alcohol. People crossing Crowthorne High Street when I did venture out.
And then to make matters worse, along came Coronavirus.
Actually I see new local restrictions may about to be imposed in Stoke. People won’t be able to leave the city without good reason. Number one on the list of reasons is: “It’s Stoke”. One of things I have missed most is football. And I don’t mean the professional game. Because watching Stoke in the last 4 or 5 years has been grim. Much like most teams in fact. No, I mean Ashridge. So what a great return to normality to have Saturday mornings back.
Not only that, but various new things. A bigger squad, with new faces, enabling Graham to rotate – we routinely came up against teams last year with match-day squads of 14 and 15, so that we ran out of legs in the second half. Matches recorded on video – although so far as I know that doesn’t mean that Graham has binned his Subbuteo pitch as a tactical aid. And, unsurprisingly, as the age group moves on, more physicality and lip on the pitch.
As for match reports. I simply hang my head in shame. Whether I get round to them or not…
This was possibly the last proper weekend of the summer. I could tell that without looking at the weather forecast, or even leaving the front door. No – the easy way to tell was that the supermarkets had begun to stock mince pies, big round boxes of Celebrations and Quality Street, and advent calendars.
Kick off was delayed by at least an hour, as a poor lad from the previous game waited in the pitch, with what I think was a dislocated knee, for the ambulance to turn up. Which it did, finally.
A bone dry pitch made it tricky to put moves together, but the approach was encouraging against a physical, pacey side. 0-0 at half time, although I would say Taplow had the upper hand.
We bucked up in the second half and created a few chances: Marcus with a drive over the top after a corner was cleared; and Sachin going closest with a shot from the right edge of the box which skimmed the angle of post and crossbar. But midway through the half a speculative effort squirmed under Joe’s dive – unsurprisingly on such a bobbly surface. 0-1 on 64 minutes, and that was the final score.
My moment of the match was when Dan was cynically scythed down as he pressed into the opposition half. The ball broke for Ashridge - and Dan, lying injured on the pitch, rather than milking the opportunity, yelled “play advantage” to the ref, as we continued to attack through the middle. Excellent attitude, which I suspect you would almost never see in the professional game.
A switch from our adventurous 3-4-3 formation last week to 4-2-3-1 gave us a really good shape, and enabled us to cope better with the rigours of a 90 minute game. Discipline was excellent against a new side to the League who I suspect are a division or two too low and will probably trouble most teams. We did struggle to make chances though, partly a limit of the formation, and partly the difficulty of controlling the ball cleanly on a very bumpy surface. Overall Taplow edged it and were worth the points, but they will certainly know they've been in a contest here. Josh takes the man of the match award for a calm and collected display at the centre of defence; always in the right place to deal with the threats; excellent covering in behind his fellow defenders, and a sureness of touch when clearing the danger.