I've played on some pretty bad pitches in my time but this was certainly up there as the worst. No pitch markings with wonky cones and poles used instead, small plastic goals, on a hill with 3 blades of grass in total, and to top it all off there was a nicely laid dog shit right in the middle.
Still, we must make do with what we have and despite not being the most luxurious of settings we still took part in a sometimes decent game of footie.
Our opponents had a big squad, we had 14, so it was always going to be a bit harder for us energy-wise, but that has the bonus of pushing us that bit harder to reach match fitness, which is what it's all about at the moment.
I started with a 4-4-2, partly to try out a two-pronged strike force and partly to see how we defended with a bit more of a solid shape. Unfortunately the defending in the first period of the game wasn't great, with players moving out of position when we had the ball (good!) but then not making the effort to move back into position when we lost the ball (bad!). I mentioned this at half time and it was argued that we kept losing the ball too quickly and this meant we were out of shape when being counter-attacked by our opponents. I agree with this, our ball retention was poor and when we've committed men forward but then failed to utilise our numerical advantage it certainly leaves us exposed if the ball gets turned over, however, my main grievance was the lack of effort shown to get back and help out the overwhelmed defence.
It was very hot and we are largely shy of match fitness currently so I'm not reading too much into it, but I want to see everyone busting a gut to do their job defensively for 90 minutes! If you haven't got the energy to do it then the only way you will have in the future is by pushing yourself. If you're really blowing out of your arse then there are always subs ready to fill in while you take a breather. For me, one of, if not the most important attributes you can have as a footballer is that determination to give everything you have got to help your team defensively. Put that effort in and I guarantee you will be a hero amongst your teammates and highly regarded by your manager...
We went a goal down after they broke down our left in acres of space, with the ball ending up outside a packed box and an unsighted Tom (who was filling in in goal) beaten down low.
I was making changes every 15 minutes or so and we seemed to be a bit better at defending from the front once Fin came onto the pitch, he was prepared to relentlessly close down their defence when they had the ball to give them a lot less time to pick a pass. Again, it was very hot and you cannot keep that work rate up for long without exhaustion but it helped to turn the tide in our favour once others began to join in the pressing and make life a lot more difficult for them.
We had a few chances but nothing particularly clear until I had an audacious left-footed volley saved by the keeper after being teed up expertly by Johnny who was operating from a brief cameo at right back. I caught it sweetly but sadly it was almost straight at him.
We equalised in the second third of the game, with Barnes meeting a well-driven corner by Will with a glancing header giving the keeper no chance. I unfortunately missed it but I'm sure it was really great, Andrew.
That goal came just before we went off for a break at 60 minutes. When we came back out we put them under relentless pressure for pretty much the whole of the last period. We were defending from the front with excellent pressing and when they did manage to get out they didn't have the numbers to do anything with it. They were going uphill and so it was understandable that it would be tougher for them, but nonetheless I think we had finally settled into the conditions and pace of the game by this point and I think we'd have bagged a few more had the game gone on longer than it did.
Johnny, who by now was back in the middle of the pitch, got the winner with a nicely taken solo goal, weaving his way through the defence before calmly slotting into the opposite corner. He was finding more and more space to drive into as the game wore on and had another chance to score when running clean through, only to hesitate at the last minute and instead looked for Barnesy who had given his all to get there in support, but sadly he didn't quite have enough left to apply the finish.
The game finished 1-2, not the greatest occasion but the main positives to take from it are that we were pushed physically in testing conditions and bounced back from a goal down to claim the victory.
I had a bit of a touchline falling out with Craig who didn't take kindly to me telling him to push up level with George. There were strong words exchanged but thankfully we cleared it up at the break. They have their system on how they like to defend I was unintentionally interfering with that, fair enough. As manager I do have to be able to voice an opinion or instruction sometimes, if you disagree with it for whatever reason then that is absolutely fine, tell me why not, but please do so in a constructive manner ??