Barlows bash up BakersJoJo (2)
BLG 3 v 2 Bakers
BLG arrived at John Orwell sports ground feeling rather panicked (or at least the stand in skipper did). Having started the day with a strong 14 man squad, several drop outs meant that BLG kicked off with only ten men, with no specialist goalkeeper. Despite this, BLG started extremely brightly, deploying a 4-3-1-1 formation and moving the ball nicely, enjoying plenty of possession despite their numerical disadvantage. Indeed when BM opened the scoring it was against the run of play, with Hooksy and Jojo already having threatened with early sighters. BM capitalised on their extra man in midfield as a runner was not tracked, and after a break down BM's right side it was said runner who was able to meet the low cross and sidefoot home from 12 yards.
To their credit, BLG heads did not drop and were on level terms in moments. Excellent work from Greeny down our right flank allowed space for a cut back from the by-line, and after a dummy from Craig at the near post that no-one expected Jojo arrived right on cue to calmly convert the equaliser.
BLG remained in control for the remainder of the first half, crafting several fine openings and looking solid at the back. The three debutants in particular looked assured, and it was a good work from midfield debutant Richardson that gave BLG their deserved half time lead. Craig and Greeny swapped passes in midfield to work Richardson into space on the right wing, and a superb deep cross could only be cleared into the path of Jojo. With the keeper having been lured out of position by the teasing cross, it was the simplest of finishes to a fine move.
Half time saw the arrival of Seale and despite the first half display BLG decided evening the teams up couldn't hurt. BM responded well after the half however and certainly enjoyed the territorial advantage in the spell that followed, although BLG's pace on the break and undoubted quality up front meant that more BLG goals always looked likely. When the third came however it was through determination rather than guile, as Craig pressed a somewhat uncomfortable BM defender into a clearance that fell into Greeny's path. Craig continued his run and received a perfectly weighted pass, and he converted with a right foot shot low into the far corner. The poorly constructed side netting, in combination with Craig's typically modest celebration, almost caused the goal to be ruled out. But fortunately the eagle-eyed linesman saw that the ball did in fact pass between the goalposts before escaping through the net.
BLG continued to look solid at the back and dangerous on the break, although were made to sweat for the last 15 minutes after BM pulled one back. Cox had swapped with Weeks between the sticks and was unable to keep out a well struck shot from the edge of the box after BLG missed a couple of tackles.
It was more than BM deserved however and BLG should have restored the 2 goal advantage with moments remaining. Another pacey break saw Greeny set Craig through down the left wing. After the most unorthodox of 1-2s with Hooksy Craig managed to expertly control the return pass with his face, and again benefited from the alert linesman who spotted the defender's definite pull. Grant (yes, Grant) managed to fight off competition from Hooksy and Seale to take the spot kick in his penultimate appearance for Barlows, but was unfortunate to see his penalty well saved.
Our next game is not until the 25th March, against relegation-threatened Simmonds - email to follow.
Team: Weeks (Cox); Conway, Smith, Cox (Weeks), Hogan; Craig, Gunnell, Richardson, Green; Hooks. [Seale half time arrival] Match report by Rich Craig