Our first ever match as AFC Romans Thirds went well, especially considering most of us have never played together before. It was a hot and sweaty day but with a surprisingly good surface to play on we were able to produce some attractive short-passing football at times.
B&H buses started the brighter of the two teams but didn't really look threatening. After 10 minutes Romans started to settle into the game and everyone began to acclimatise to their positions and the heat.
The game came to life after Romans forced a corner which was expertly taken by Josh who curled it towards the back post where I'd lost my man and was waiting to power it in with my head. Somehow I landed on my arse and now have a bruised coccyx to show for it.
Romans had the better of the play from then on, with any B&H attacks easily snuffed out. There was some good interplay between defence and midfield, although at times the ball wasn't moved quickly enough which put undue pressure on when our opponents closed us down. This was evident for the equaliser, Alex gave the ball from his hands short to Ryan in our box with B&H forwards sniffing around. Ryan then tried to play a calm ball back to Alex to clear but it was short and the opposing striker managed to get there first and slide in for an easy tap in. A bit more communication was needed and the old saying 'if in doubt kick it out' came to mind! Mistakes like that are fine and to be expected from a new team, that's what friendlies are for.
The teams went in level at half time, with Romans looking the stronger of the two teams although the performance had dipped and the pitch became quiet at around the 40 minute mark. This was likely down to fatigue in the beating sun and dehydration setting in. I posited that maybe we were trying a bit too hard to find killer through balls and that we shouldn't need to force a pass that isn't on. This could be solved by the team making a bit more effort to find space and make the easy pass a foregone conclusion.
Kieran from the reserves turned up and was brought on at centre back to give me some time to recuperate. Subs were made constantly throughout the game to give everyone a good run and recharge when they came off, it worked well to keep everyone fresh but with detriment to the fluidity of the football played at times. Some players had to play in a position that wasn't their preferred but no one looked out of place. Dean only got about 10 minutes up front and when asked if he was ok with that, he replied "I'm just happy to be playing". That's the kind of attitude we want, nice one Dean!
The second half saw Romans really begin to exert their superiority and we created a lot of chances. Will was pulling the strings in the middle with some lovely ball control to move away from his marker, at one point he left three opponents in his dust. He scored a fine goal with around 10 minutes of the second half gone with a neat finish from close range that went under the sprawling keeper. He then turned supplier soon after with a nice through ball to Fin, who used his rugby player physicality to send his marker the wrong way with a neat turn, then beat a man and slotted home from close range after the keeper saved his first effort.
Romans continued to deal with every attack they faced with reasonable comfort. The back line was a bit unorganised at times and the midfield sometimes failed to track back when B&H counter attacked leaving us outnumbered. Luckily they didn't have much killer instinct and wasted any chances they had.
The ball was being passed around well, with Rick and Ali producing some flair and trickery to beat their men. Romans had quite a few chances to increase their lead and Luis did so towards the end of the game with a neat finish from close range. Rob was tireless in his support of attacks from full back and put in a calm and measured performance with excellent communication. Karl filled in at right back in the second half and did much the same, putting in some gut busting runs. It was clear Ryan and George have played together before as they calmly played their way out from the back on many occasions with some neat and simple passing.
The game began to fade towards the end with both teams looking tired and the result looked to be decided barring a miracle/disaster. Romans continued to play in the right way; with heads up, building from the back and looking for quick balls to players in space. Considering this is a new team, we have to be happy with our link up play, attitude and organisation.
Man of the match is split between Will for his constant impressive close control and ability to start attacks from nothing, and Rob for his tireless, assured performance and essential communication across the back line.