With two last minute drop-outs we had a squad of 12 to face bottom of the league stragglers Queens Park Reserves. I continued with the 4-3-3 / 4-1-4-1 formation we've recently been using, Luis shifted to right back in place of the absent Rob and Adam came back in at left back. I came in up top with Lee and Karl either side, with Rich pushing into a more advanced midfield role and Barnesy playing the holding role.
We got off to a slow start again, with the pitch being a major contributing factor in this. It was sloppy and heavy, meaning we found it hard to produce much flowing football in our usually strongest area. At times the ball was getting stuck under our feet and it certainly wasn't pretty.
I had an early chance when Rich played a delicate chip over the top for me to run onto and hit it first time, only managing to direct my low drive at the keepers legs. My blushes were saved by an offside flag that I think was wrong, I was looking along the line and was a yard or so on.
Lee managed to break free a few times down the left but his crosses weren't quite making it into the danger areas, we did have a lack of bodies for him to aim for at times and seemed to be struggling to transition from having lots of us in the swampy areas in the middle to getting numbers in the box.
Karl was often drifting too far into the centre meaning we didn't really have much width on that side of the pitch. Luis and Craig were often forced to play the ball over the top into the channel, and this actually proved to be fruitful on a couple of occasions. Unfortunately our final ball was found lacking more often than not and we couldn't carve any real goalscoring chances out.
Queens Park were competing surprisingly well and got in behind us on a few occasions only to be halted by the defence before they could eke out any solid threats on our goal. I think the state of the pitch was working in their favour as much as it was working against us.
We did finally make the breakthrough after around 25 minutes, Johnny received the ball from Lee inside their box after a bit of a scramble and found himself with a few yards out and applied a simple finish past the keeper to take the lead. He does have a real knack of getting into those positions very frequently, I think nearly all of his goals so far have been taken from a similar position.
I removed myself from proceedings just before the half hour mark, bringing Aly on to play on the left and pushing Lee into centre forward. I hadn't had the best start and it wasn't really working with me up top on my own in this game, we weren't able to control the game from the middle enough for me to offer any hold up play, and with my lack of pace I couldn't stretch their back line as much as a more able-bodied man might have been able to. Mainly though, I wanted to have a look at our shape and assess the proceedings from the sideline so I could try and see where we could improve.
Aly was involved a fair bit as soon as he came on and had a couple of chances to score, the first of which he put high and wide with his wrong foot and with the second he failed to beat the keeper from close range.
We went in at half time only winning by the one goal and I was a little disappointed in this but not because of the lack of effort or attitude. It seemed obvious to me and I think to everyone else that we should be concentrating more of our play to the wide areas, but also try and avoid playing too much in the middle where it was so boggy. With that in mind I switched to a 4-4-2, putting Johnny and Lee up top and myself and Rich in the middle, with Barnes having a break as linesman. There was no need to have 3 midfielders patrolling the centre, it was very congested in there and at times we were crowding our own players out. With that extra man removed and put up top we'd be able to impose our superiority on their defence and hopefully get some pace in behind and get a few more goals.
Not long after the second half started Rich did as we'd discussed and played a measured through ball over the top of their back line to put Johnny through, and he made no mistake after carrying the ball into the box and neatly slotting past the keeper into the far side-netting to score.
We seemed to have stepped up a gear now and we were absolutely dominant in possession. Queens Park did have a couple of decent players and looked to play out from the back and counter attack when the regained possession of the ball. Our organisation was generally pretty good, although Rich and I were caught slightly out of position and outnumbered in the middle a couple of times. Luckily the back line timed their interceptions well and we were able to avoid any goalscoring attempts from materialising.
Lee soon added a third from a Luis assist, I can't remember what happened for this one, sorry lads, I'm sure it was a fantastic goal though. The fourth and fifth goals were both bagged by Johnny, which now puts him top of the goal scorer chart. They were both inside-the-box specials, and I have been told Barnes assisted both after being brought back on to ply his trade up top.
There were plenty more efforts on goal, I dragged one wide with my left, Aly had a couple of attempts that he should perhaps have done better with and Barnes absolutely poleaxed their centre back when going up for a headed chance. At least he timed this one better than the one in the first half where he managed to get his head on it just before his feet landed on the floor again!
I have to mention the amount of foul-throws our opponents were committing. The ref only gave a couple but I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say about 90% of them should have been. Shocking stuff.
The final goal was perhaps the best finish of the lot, a rocket of a volley off their centre back's knee that the keeper couldn't keep out, as it crawled over the line despite getting his body in the way. I'm claiming the assist for that, sorry Will.
Full-time came and we'd managed to turn this into a decent result after a mediocre first half. Everyone had a decent game and I was pleased that the effort remained high for the duration of the game, even though we were comfortably in front and clearly going to win. I'd mentioned that goal difference could be vital at the end of the season and to score 6 without reply certainly helped us in that department. We all saw the huge defeats that this lot were suffering at the start of the season, but when speaking to their manager before the game he informed me they had only formed a week before the season started and had no pre-season at all. So their first 5 games where they got demolished would have been their pre-season. It's a shame we didn't get to play them in that period as those goals could prove important.
Man of the match can only be one man, Johnny Buggy. He kept an excellent run of form going and notched 4 times, demonstrating his excellent sense of timing to get into positions where he only needed to apply a relatively simple finish. Credit also goes to those who laid on the chances for him, whether they were intentional or not doesn't matter...
I'd like to praise our defenders, we've conceded 3 goals in our last 5 games, and only 1 in our last 4. We may have been playing against teams in the lower half of the league recently but the organisation, positioning, timing of tackles and determination has largely been spot on, very well done to all those who've contributed.
The games are going to get that little bit tougher over the next few weeks so we've got to be ready and willing to step our game up again to the level we were at against East Brighton Eagles and higher. I'm confident we can continue this winning run for the foreseeable future, we have a very talented squad and seem to have gelled on and off the pitch recently which is very pleasing to see and be a part of.