Having played on an extremely difficult surface last week we again faced a challenging game against the current Champions, Altrincham Lions, on a pitch that was heavy and tacky plus the grass was very long. Again we told the boys that our usual game of free flowing passing football was going to be difficult and we had to match our opposition in terms of workrate, passion, determination and desire.
Kicking down the hill in the first half we couldnt have made a worse start when going behind inside 5mins when a mix up at the back led to Altrincham taking the lead. This seemed to put our defence on the back foot and we played extremely nervy for the next 5mins or so, fortunately the 3 boys in midfield started to stamp their authority on the game, and it was a credit to both teams that challenges were hard but fair. Nathan, Ryan and Thomas Higgins started to dominate their opposition and they passed the ball with authority and Flynn was working hard to create space and ultimately opportunities for himself. We had several chances before eventually drawing level through a wonderful finish by Flynn. At this point we where completely in the ascendency and Nathan was unlucky with a great effort, then Ryan skimmed the bar with a bullet header from a corner and Thomas Higgins pulled a short wide when through on goal after he showed excellent drive and determination.
We deserved to be in front and we got the crucial goal when from a corner Thomas Mitchell was alive and alert to chest home when the ball was bobbling in the box. We pressed hard during the remainder of the first half to grab our third goal, but some excellent goalkeeping, in particular, a fabulous save from a Thomas Davenport effort after a wonderful move we ended the half 2-1 up, this could have been worse when after a rare attack, just before the break, Altrincham hit the crossbar from a dubious free kick award, that would certainly have been an injustice.
Playing up the hill in the second half was going to be tough and we had to continue to match our opponents and win our individual battles. We made a couple of changes and the balance of the game certainly changed towards Altrincham, they started to win first and second balls, as we seemed not to be able to cope with the intensity of their play. Our work rate became an issue, as the Altrincham players showed the inclination to do the 'dirty side' of football by tracking back then breaking forward particularly in wide areas which caused us a problem. Daniel made a couple of fine saves to keep our lead intact, but it was getting more difficult to get back in the ascendency and the pitch was now even more challenging.
We made a couple more changes which certainly helped us stem the tide and we slowly but surely got a grip of the game and started to create a few chances of our own. Flynn had a couple of great chances which were thwarted by excellent goalkeeping and on one occasion after Ryan had broken up play and carried on his run Flynn had the opportunity to put him in one-on-one, but as a striker should, he decided to shoot, which again was superbly saved, on another day he might have passed it.
At this stage with under 15mins to go, we looked the team that was going to get the vital next goal. Unfortunately the referee awarded a dubious free kick to Altrincham 18yds out after what was a superb tackle by Nathan. To compound his error the referee made the wall retreat 10yds when the rule states 5yds !! A shot was blocked near the line but bobbled up for them to score with a header. At 2-2 they came on strong and our boys had to work extremely hard as a unit and for one another to keep us in the game. Our midfield 3 yet again showed their abilities extend beyond playing when we have the ball. their desire and work ethic was outstanding. We could have won it late on with efforts from Flynn and Thomas Dykes from a corner, but the game ended in as 2-2 draw.
The boys realised after the game what is needed to come out victorious against a team like Altrincham, they are Champions not just because of what they do when they have the ball, its also what they do when they dont have it. This is something we need to learn, and learn quickly in certain areas of the pitch. Its a credit to the boys how far they have come when they are disappointed with a draw against the Champions on their own pitch.
Again the boys voted for the Man of the Match and it was clear from their performances that the main two contenders were Ryan who was pipped in the vote by another superb display from our Captain, Thomas Higgins. Next week we are at home to Fletcher Moss with an 11am kick off.