After last weeks demolition of Sale Utd Phoenix we faced their first team Storm in the last of the 'Development' games before the Cup competition commences after the half term break. They had started the season brightly so it was going to be a tough encounter and our boys knew that before kick off. We started with a 3-3-2 formation and from the kick off Storm started well, they got the ball forward early and we struggled to deal with both the first and second balls as they had a hunger and enthusiasm about their play. There wasnt much quality about the play as players struggled with their touch on a greasy surface and passes were overhit with the ball skidding on. Both keepers played the sweeper keeper role really well and the game was stalemate as both defences shut down the attackers on both teams. We started to dominate the territory as the half wore on but this helped Storm as they wanted to counter attack and had players who could exploit this situation so we had to be switched on at the back. Our boys were getting frustrated as our teamwork, anticipation, movement and quality wasnt at the level we set ourselves. From out of nowhere Nathan gave us the lead with a fantastic 25 yard strike which gave their keeper no chance. This seemed to settle us down and we had a couple of other chances through Ben with a shot that was well saved by their keeper and Ryan with a header from a corner that just went wide. We again conceded a soft goal when a lack of communication left the ball at the feet of their right winger whose cross somehow found itself going in off the far post giving Daniel no chance whatsoever. Daniel made a fantastic save just before half time when faced with a one-on-one situation to keep the scoreline 1-1 at the break.
The boys were told in no uncertain terms that the first half wasnt good enough in most aspects and that they had set standards for themselves as individuals and as a team. Competing, working, talking, commiting and moving are essentials and every players must have them for our team to be successful. Our quality will always come through as long as we do the essentials. We expected a massive improvement in the second half. We began the half quickly with the boys showing more urgency in their play and showing more quality when in possession of the ball, from such a move Ryan played a wonnderful through ball for Josh S to beat the offside trap and show his pace and a cool head as he beat the advancing keeper with a cool finish to put us 2-1 up. We started to dominate both the possession and territory at this point, however, our decision making in certain areas could hasve been better and we still needed to be aware of their pacey forwards from counter attacks. We needed to get the next goal to kill the game off and we had chances through Thomas Da, Flynn, Thomas H, Henry and Ben but last ditch defending and excellent goalkeeping meant we didnt get that important next goal. Unfortunately we paid the ultimate price when after a long punt from their defence was passed back by Thomas Dy to Daniel only for it to take a bobble as he cleared it and it fell to their striker who was brought down as he raced into the box by a combination of Thomas M and Thomas Dy trying to win the ball. The penalty was well taken giving Daniel no chance to level the scores at 2-2.
With only 10mins left we went 2-4-2 to try and break the deadlock and the boys responded with Thomas M, Thomas Dy and Josh G strong and decisive at the back, Thomas H and Ryan totally dominant of the central area, Henry, Nathan and Ben exploiting the wide areas with Flynn, Josh S and Thomas Da hungry for opportunities up front. Storm didnt know what to do against this and our boys adapted so quickly to it and our decision making was first class and it was only a matter of time before we regained the lead when Thomas M was decisive to win a ball in the centre circle and he played it to Ryan on the move who went past a couple of players then showed great awareness to play in the leagues leading goalscorer Flynn who finished with ease to put us 3-2 up. The boys now had the bit between their teeth and we totally dominated the remainder of the game and could have added a couple more goals before Josh S got his second and our fourth with another neat finish from a swift and decisive team move to make the final score 4-2.
The boys had certainly redeemed themselves with their second half performance, however, against the very best of opposition we might be out of the game by half time if we dont improve our first 30mins effort. Weve predominantly played a 3-3-2 formation however with the quality and number of players we have in midfield/forwards 2-4-2 is certainly an option for the boys going forward as long as we do the essentials of our team ethics. All the boys played a part particularly in the second half but for the second week running Josh S was Man of the Match for his two goals and his constant tireless workrate.
Our next game is the opening Cup game against the same opposition Sale United Storm at home on the 5th November with a 9.30am kick off.