Going to play a strong Urmston Meadowside Devils team was always a challenge, it was made more difficult with both Thomas M and Ben being unavailable due to exams. So we had to make changes in personnel and positionally in the back three. We told the boys that the Devils always raise their game against us (School mates scenario) and we would need to be at our best to win the game.
From the first whistle the Devils were on the front foot, putting challenges in all over the pitch and our boys wanted an extra touch or two so we're giving the Devils some joy and encouragement. We were playing uphill in the first half and we're finding it difficult to get out of our half particularly in the opening 10mins. Our new back three of Josh G, Thomas Dy and Nathan were finding it hard to gel as a unit, and their indecision was effecting Daniel's usually composed sweeper keeper role. The midfield three of Thomas H, Henry and Ryan were spending too much time deep in our half so when we did get the ball forward our front two of Thomas Da and Flynn found it difficult to hold the ball up for us. So the Devils playing downhill certainly had the territorial advantage early in the game and Daniel made a couple of excellent saves to keep it 0-0. We started to get a foothold in the games as our midfield three started to play higher up the pitch and we opened up their defence on several occasions only for the front two to be called offside having made their runs too early. We should have been in the lead when the skipper, Thomas H, struck a ball from outside of the box that hit the underside of the bar and bounced down over the line but the referee wasn't in a position to give it so it remained goalless. Josh S then had a great opportunity when he was put through one on one but their keeper made an excellent save. From this point until half time we gave away two sloppy goals with firstly a poor clearance falling at the feet of a Devils player whose shot was saved by Daniel but the rebound was tucked away to make it 1-0. Things got worse for us when a long range shot bounced akwardly in front of Daniel and hit him in the face and their striker was more alert than our defence to tuck away the rebound to make the half time score 2-0.
The boys were read the riot act at half time with us stressing how we train and pass the ball and move, none of this was happening and more importantly we were second best in most areas of the pitch and it appeared that they wanted it more than us. The referee was letting a lot go and we told the boys they had to compete and be strong as the Devils obviously had put so much into the first half that they would tire and we will undoubtedly be on top if we do the right things plus we are playing downhill so need to be proactive and assertive in everything we do. We must get the next goal in the game to have any chance.
The second half started off a lot better than the first, the three boys at the back closed the gap and got tighter to their players which meant Daniel was far better positioned as sweeper keeper. This allowed Henry and in particular Thomas H and Ryan to press and dominate in midfield. The front two began to work hard individually and as a pair. This meant we spent most of the first 15mins in their half, except for long balls from their keeper which Daniel dealt with really well. We had a number of good chances which fell to Josh S, Thomas Da and Flynn but some excellent keeping and last ditch tackles meant we couldnt get that important goal. The game had become very competitive because as they began to tire and we were dominating they left a few tackles on our boys which the referee let go but when our boys started to win tackles and second balls they didnt like ie, disappointing really. We were now in total control Josh G, Thomas Dy and Nathan were now on the front foot and their distribution into midfield was at the right level for us to play, Henry and Thomas H were working hard out wide, Ryan was dominating the central area and the boys up front just needed to get us a goal. Finally it came with 12mins left when Ryan won the ball in midfield played it out to Thomas H who played it in to Flynn and he played a great ball to Ryan who had made a great run from midfield, he dummied to shoot with his right and dragged it onto his left before slotting past the keeper from just inside the box to make it 2-1. The boys knew they had it now and more importantly so did the Devils boys !! We camped out in their half for the remainder of the game except for the odd counter attack from which Daniel made a couple of good saves from distance. What was disappointing was that as the Devils tired any good strong tackle made by our boys, not punished by the referee, left their player lying on the floor and time wasting !! This stop and start interrupted our rhythm and time was running out. Henry, Flynn, Thomas Da, Josh S and Thomas Dy all had half chances but it loked like we had run out of time, but the boys were having none of it !!! In the last minute, Ryan again broke up play in midfield and played it out to the skipper, who showed a fabulous attitude to come back on after receiving a bad foot injury, who drove outside and then played a lovely weighted ball to Ryan, who had broke from midfield in the inside right channel, he took the ball in his stride and held off the defender to hit a wonderful strike across the keeper who made a fabulous save but could only parry it out and our goal poacher Flynn, who had been dealt some serious treatment by his scholmates, was on hand to tap in the equaliser. From the kick off the referee blew the full time whistle for a 2-2 draw. It was no more than the boys deserved for their second half performance.l
We told the boys how proud we were of their second half display and their never say die attitude. We need to take better care of the ball when in possession and when we dont have it we need to work smarter to win it back as a unit. Obviously we will have Thomas M and Ben back for next weeks rematch at home against the Devils. All the boys played well in the second half and contributed to a marvellous comeback, however, for his performance and workrate throughout and in particular his domination in midfield in the last 15mins together with his goal and assist for the equaliser Ryan was awarded the Man of the Match.
Our next game is Saturday 1st October against Urmston Meadowside Devils at home, Holy Family RC School, with 9.30am kick off.