Another Saturday, another tricky looking away match. We had been drinking at the fountain on eternal luck when we managed to beat Shinfield 5-4 in our match at Crispins back in December. Shinfield had subsequently gone on a run of 6 victories and 2 draws since then.
It was even more ‘bare bones’ than last week, when we at least had a full complement of 11 players. This week, there was a mere 10, including none of our 3 first choice keepers.
After much head scratching among the coaching staff and spectators, it was decided to go with a 4-4-1 formation, with the returning Sid in goal, and the unusual sight of left footed Ben W as right back.
Ashridge started well attacking well down the right hand side, and Sid was looking good in goal, confidently catching the ball when required and kicking assertively to clear his lines.
The home team took the lead on 11 minutes somewhat against the run of play, with a shot into the bottom left of the goal. However, no heads dropped, and Alex equalised with a good run and shot, set up by Ben. It was a tough encounter, with Ashridge marginally on top, so it was no major surprise to see Alex double the lead converting beautifully after a good long pass by Ted.
The only change at half time was when Ted and Sid swapped. In energy sapping conditions, there is no shame in admitting it was in our interests to manage the flow of the game, through the careful management of set pieces, and by sticking rigidly to the tactical plan.
This resulted in few chances to the home team. Callum came close to increasing the lead with a shot from 18 years out which was deflected and parried by the keeper, and an onrushing Sid was unfortunate not to bundle the ball in.
The only major concern was on 80 minutes when Ashridge lost possession in the Shinfield half, and the shot after their counter-attack was save by Ted, who then excelled himself with a finger-tip save 2 minutes later.
After 4 minutes of added time the referee blew his whistle, and Ashridge were the deserved victors in an extremely demanding match against strong opponents. Given the circumstances, this was probably the best performance of the season.
Next up, a season defining visit to Laurel Park on 9 April.