After a tough 2-2 draw last time out it was important that we returned to winning ways against a Broadheath Athletico team who had narrowly lost their opening two games of the Cup campaign. The pitch was in excellent condition considering the vast amount of rain, however, there was a strong breeze blowing straight down the pitch.
Playing against the wind in the opening 30mins Lazio were immediately on the front foot, winning tackles and second balls from the boys at the back and through midfield. Lazio had complete dominance of possession and territory with the opposition making it difficult by dropping to the edge of their box in numbers. It was proving difficult to create clear cut chances and as the half went on the boys began to become frustrated at having over 70% of the ball and struggling to score. Athletico boys started to struggle physically as we moved the ball around looking for that chance, we created a guiltedged opportunity after 16mins when Thomas Davenport found himself two yards from goal only to mishit his shot and the keeper made the save. We were now creating more opportunities with Ryan, Nathan and Thomas Higgins dominating the midfield and Thomas Davenport working hard upfront. On the rare times Athletico broke out of their half Thomas Mitchell, Thomas Dykes and Daniel were excellent in their defending and communication.
We made a couple of changes to try and get that all important first goal, but due to some excellent goalkeeping and fabulous last ditch defending we were unable to break the deadlock when we had chances through Pearse, Nathan, Thomas Dykes and Thomas Higgins, so we ended the first half 0-0. We told the boys just to keep playing as the opposition were beginning to tire from chasing the ball around and with us playing with the wind at our backs dont be afraid to shoot and be more ruthless in front of goal.
The second half began as the first had finished with our boys completely dominating but unable to score and as they tired, Athletico defended even deeper in numbers which frustrated our boys even more. We had several goalmouth scrambles which resulted in a poor finish or an excellent block or a wonderful save by their keeper. It looked like it was going to be one of those days were no matter how much we dominated we were not going to score. However, with under 15mins to go, Ryan won an excellent tackle some 20yds from goal and as it broke he screamed at his teammate "Shoot Nathan !", and shoot he did, the ball flew with the wind behind and hit the underside of the bar and bounced down over the line to give us that vital first goal. The boys celebrated deliriously as you could see it was a masssive relief.
The goal had broken the hearts of Athletico, but they still defended for their lives as we pressed to get that killer second goal. After we created and missed several opportunities, Flynn could have had a hat-trick, the second goal eventually came when a lovely through ball from Ryan found its way to Thomas Davenport who finished superbly past the outstanding Athletico keeper. This ensured a final scoreline of 2-0 which was a little more reflective of the game itself.
All the boys contributed to the victory, with the defence remaining strong and solid, the midfield dominant and creative and the frontline working tirelessly to ensure we remain top of the league. For his excellent workrate, deadball delivery and general creativity our captain Thomas Higgins was voted Man of the Match by his peers and the management. Our next Cup game is Altrincham Lions at home on the 27th February.