After we beat this lot last time with a 4-2-3-1 I decided to use that formation again. Aiden made his debut in goal, I dropped back into defence due to a lack of defenders available which meant Tom Sommerville got a start up top.
We made a decent start and created a few half chances without troubling their keeper. We had a few free kicks and corners but nothing came from them. At the back we were organised and when CDH did manage to penetrate us with some slick passing we were a match for them with some good tackles being made.
Despite this, once we had our first goal kick it became apparent that Aiden was struggling with not getting much distance on them. This seemed to instil a bit of panic throughout the team and meant we were finding it very hard to move up the pitch away from our goal. It's not easy to take goal kicks off the floor, as I soon showed when trying one myself and barely getting it above head height! ??
CDH were growing into the game and we were having to stay alert at all times to deal with their threat, they're a good, young team and knock the ball about well so our concentration had to be spot on and for the most part it was. The best chance they had saw the ball bounce back off the inside of the post into Aiden's arms. They had another where their striker managed to get between George and I and was looking certain to at least test Aiden, when George made a miraculous last-ditch lunging challenge and did enough to make the ball spin wide of the post.
Tom was getting involved a fair bit but sometimes showed a lack of composure when receiving the ball, preferring to flick it on when maybe it would have helped us more by holding on and giving us a chance to move up the pitch. He got in behind a few times and was unlucky not to test the keeper - Our through-balls were nearly always ever-so-slightly overhit meaning we couldn't quite get on the end of them. Karl and Rob were linking up well down the right as were Luis and Adam. Adam was putting in a real shift, often having to deal with 2 players when Luis was forward and unable to help him out. He said to me before the game that he cannot head the ball but showed that he was more than capable of getting something on it when needed.
Johnny was full of running and made some excellent interceptions in midfield. He had a couple of half chances, one of which fizzed dangerously across the face of goal and another was a shot that just curved away from it. Supported by Rich and Josh who were tasked with holding our shape, we were looking solid in that department. Josh had to go off to be replaced by Daz after I slipped and fell into the back of his legs whilst attempting to attack a corner, the pitch was very loose and gave way under my change of direction, sorry mate!
At half-time I switched position with Tom, my thinking was I could try and hold the ball up a bit more to bring others into play, I knew Tom would be a capable centre back with his pace and aggression. It worked at first, a few times I found space and could turn with the ball at my feet to then lay it off to runners beyond me, one chance in particular saw Rob make a marauding run to get on the end of a lofted through ball, only for their keeper to bravely dive at his feet to smother it. That final ball had slightly too much on it again, it was to be the theme of our attacking play unfortunately.
Around the 60 minute mark I brought Aly on for Luis, hoping his fresh legs and trickery would give their right-back something new to cope with. He was involved in a few counter-attacks but unfortunately they didn't amount to anything, he looked short on confidence which unfortunately seems to be a big part of his playing style.
We started to fade a bit as the minutes ticked away and were now unable to create much at all going forward, our defence was still holding out but it looked like it would be our opponents that took the lead if anyone was going to. Lo and behold CDH got their goal after I was dispossessed near the centre circle after trying to dribble the ball out from a clearance off their corner. In my defence I didn't hear anyone shout 'man on' and I didn't have much of an option to pass to, only Aly was in front of me and he had two players on him. Regardless, I lost it too easily and they immediately launched a counter-attack, which after a few passes saw them cross to the back post over my head and their player was there to nod into the corner. It was a neat finish and truthfully it was deserved, they had been the better team for the majority of the game.
I switched things up a bit, putting Aly and Karl up top with a diamond midfield, hoping we'd have a bit more potency that way but it didn't really have a positive impact. We managed to carve out a chance where the ball was put across the face of the goal by Johnny and seemed destined to reach either of two of our players at the back post, only for their defender to get a very important touch on it to divert it away. Aly then picked it up and after a deflected pass it landed at my feet where I stood at the edge of the box, I had to take a touch to control it but that gave their defender the chance to put in a massive block tackle to send me flying and stop any shot from leaving my foot.
CDH had a second goal disallowed after some expert assistant-refereeing by Luis, I think we've found his best position ?? The game drew to a close and it was clear how much it meant to our opponents by the cheers they let out.
This wasn't a bad performance by any stretch of the imagination, we were quite solid and organised at the back and counter-attacked well as a unit at times. Our final ball was just lacking the quality needed, on another day we could easily have created some goal-scoring opportunities and won the game.
They are a good side and beating them in the first game of the season was arguably our best performance so far, it was always gonna be tough to emulate that especially with a few key players missing. We have another game this Sunday that we'll need to be at our best and certainly have a point to prove to East Brighton Eagles after the last time we played them, much like CDH had a point to prove to us.
My man of the match goes to Adam, at times he was doing the work of two players and made some excellent interceptions, especially in the first half when they got in behind him a couple of times. He was also involved in a lot of our attacking play and used the ball well with some calm decision making. Other notable performances came from George who made some big tackles despite needing a shit for the whole 90, and Johnny who showed some awe-inspiring determination to win the ball back at times as well as making a major contribution to pretty much all our attempts on goal. In general everyone performed well and put in the effort, and I can't ask for more than that.