A first outing at Coundon Park since November matched Affinity against a BEC side who were having a strong league season as well as being through to the semi-final of the cup.
Both sides started strongly with early indications that this would be a good even contest. On the back of three defeats Affinity weren’t lacking confidence and were prepared to play the ball across the field in defence and midfield creating space for forays down both flanks. BEC showed why their season had been strong with a powerful tall back four dealing fairly easily with most aerial assaults and a mobile front two who would be a handful all game.
The first chance of the game came Affinity’s way with Gary working his way into an advanced position and stretching to reach a ball from the left with his shot a foot wide of the keeper’s right upright.
Encouraged by this Affinity soon took the lead about 20 minutes in from a penalty after Henry had been clumsily grounded as he moved powerfully to the goal line on the left. Mike A cooly passed the penalty to the keeper’s left as he showed his hand too early. The lead was as much as Affinity deserved and they held onto it for ten minutes until BEC themselves were awarded a penalty when Gilly was adjudged to have fouled a BEC striker as they battled for a ball in the penalty area. It was a decision that looked harsh from the sideline. An ageing Affinity net was unable to hold a powerfully struck penalty.
Affinity’s response was positive with the emphasis on trying to utilise the width they were finding on the wings. Affinity retook the lead with the goal of the game. Jake’s pass down the line to Mike P found him in a little space. Beating two BEC players Mike passed to his namesake on the right edge of the box and he shaped to shoot as he moved towards the goal but cooly pulled the ball back across the box finding Fra whose quick thinking got him to the ball first to finish powerfully into the roof of the net.
With time running down to half time Affinity again contributed to BEC’s second equaliser by losing the ball too cheaply in the midfield with BEC capitalising and moving the ball quickly to the edge of the area where a shot was driven into the corner of the net. The last few minutes of the half saw BEC trying to steal what would have been a totally undeserved advantage going into the break but Affinity kept their advances at bay.
The second half was as open as the first with both sides looking for the opportunity to get forward. As players tired mistakes looked like they could make an impact on the result. Affinity had given away more free kicks than they would have liked in areas where it put BEC in potential goalscoring opportunities. It was from one of these free kicks that BEC took the lead for the first time with a BEC runner meeting the free kick first and sliding it just inside Aron’s left upright.
With BEC now firmly on the front foot Affinity battled hard to get back in the game trying to use the wing route to break down the BEC defence. A number of crosses from Jake from the right found Affinity players with BEC defenders throwing themselves in front of the ball to prevent goals. A third Affinity goal came with about 20 minutes remaining. Chris played the ball to Henry who cut in from the wing and drilled his shot across the keeper into the right corner of the net.
Both teams now looking for a fourth goal that might prove to be the winner pushed men forward with a number of half chances resulting. It was BEC who retook the lead with some quick thinking from a throw in down the Affinity right. Two midfielders with more energy than their Affinity counterparts were able to lead a two on one attack and a cool finish broke Affinity hearts.
With five minutes remaining Affinity pushed forward moving Josh P into midfield and the extra Affinity presence forced a number of attacks that couldn’t quite fashion a clear cut chance. With the clock ticking Affinity had confident shouts for penalties for challenges on both Chris and Mike P, the latter evoking a reaction from Affinity players towards the ref for not blowing his whistle.
A relieved BEC team were happy to hear the final whistle with Affinity gutted at not getting anything out of a game that they contributed so much to. That’s football I guess.
Man of the match goes to Henry for an all action performance winning the penalty and scoring his first Affinity goal to pull the game back to 3-3 at the time. No-one had a poor game and there was lots to be pleased about. Special mention also to Mike A, Fra and Ian for their involvement in the goals.