We had the unusual situation of playing the same team twice in 7 days with a home fixture against Urmston Meadowside Devils. We were at full strength with the return of Thomas M and Ben. The boys were fully aware of what was required as we had done superbly to come from 2-0 down to draw last week. We emphasised that we needed to start quickly and be combative all over the pitch. Plus when we had the ball it is the movement of the player that makes the pass.
We could and should have taken the lead in the first minute when Flynn intercepted a back pass but surprisingly for him he shot wide. This seemed to affect our boys and wake the Devils up. They showed better energy, urgency and aggression in certain areas of the pitch which meant they played a lot of territory in our final third. Their keeper acted as a sweeper keeper and had an outstanding kick both from the ground and from his hands, and after the first minute all they did was kick it long and we had a problem dealing with it. Our back four of Daniel, Josh G, Thomas Dy and to a lesser extent Thomas M were too quiet, hesitant, reactive instead of anticipative and needed to show more quality when in possession. With them playing a 2-4-2 system our three boys in midfield had a problem, particularly when Ryan was dropping off, due to our hesitancy, to head their keepers kicks back into an area were they had extra players. Again Nathan, Ryan and the captain, Thomas H were too quiet and although they competed individually they need4d to work as a unit and with urgency and anticipation to overcome their 4 v 3 game situation. The front two of Flynn and Thomas Da were man marked but they had no cover, except the sweeper keeper so we should have shown our quality. However, when we did get the ball and played three or four quality through balls they found themselves offside, something we need them to work on particularly when 2 v 2. Devils were putting tremendous energy into the game and not giving our boys an inch of space, so we had to match that and play on the front foot, this wasnt happening in enough areas. We had couple of chances, Ryan with a header from a Thomas H corner, Flynn and Nathan with shots that were all well saved by their keeper.
We made changes with Josh S, Ben and Henry coming on for Flynn, Thomas Da and Nathan respectively, we also changed to a 3-3-1-1 system with Ben trying to sit and occupy their '4th' midfield player. This gave us another option and we started to get a little more joy with Josh S having too much pace for their defenders. On several occasions a through ball was slightly too heavy as their keeper just beat Josh S to it with his excellent positioning. When we looked to be getting on top we conceded a poor goal when from their keepers kick we hesitated and didnt attack the ball allowing it to bounce over our defence and their boy raced onto it to fire an unstoppable shot from the right edge of the box past Daniel to give them a 1-0 lead. For the remainder of the half it was quite even with both teams having chances, Daniel making a couple of saves from long range, however, the best chance fell to Josh S when he showed his pace to go one-on-one but unfortunately he missed the target. The score remained 1-0 at half time.
We told the boys in n uncertain terms that the first half performance wasnt good enough and certainly not at the standards we have set ourselves. The back four who set our tempo were hesitant, reactive not anticipating and extremely quiet, this needed to change for us to have any chance. The midfield three were up against four and it was difficult even when we changed the system slightly, we needed the boys to impose themselves on their opponents and win more second balls when the Devils launch it forward and let the back three win the first balls.. Our front two need to be more ruthless and clinical when we get the opportunities, stay onside by timing their runs and dont always run away, look for the ball to feet to help the midfield players and set up the combination play.
We started the second half brightly as the back four started on the front foot winning headers from the keepers kicks and the midfield winning second balls. Some lovely balls were put through for our front two who again had run offside, the openings were there we just needed to be less eager and a bit smarter with our movement. Nathan, Henry and Ryan were starting to impose themselves and play 2 and 3 touch football as Devils pace of play eased. We created two great chances for Josh S who was put through from a central position and he outstripped their defence only to shoot wide when one-on-one. The signs were good, we just needed a goal. Unfortunately, we again paid the price for some hesitant and sloppy defending whioh resulted in them going 2-0 up with a shot that went under Daniel and into the net. This was certainly against the run of play but we told the boys we had plenty of time we just needed the next goal. Within a minute we had a great chance when Ryan released Flynn on the left and his first time ball was met by a fantastic run by Henry who just couldnt organise his feet from 4 yards to slot in an empty net and the chance was gone. Josh S showed his pace and strength again when put through as we started to dominate in midfield only for the keeper to make two excellent saves when confronted one-on-one. Flynn also had a great opportunity to reduce the deficit and Thomas H hit a free kick which just went over the bar. Unfortunately we again paid for a defensive lapse when the Devils went 3-0 up with a shot from long distance out on their left. Our boys continued to battle to at least get on the scoresheet and they did in the last minute when from another through ball Flynn did what he does best which is finish in a one-on-one situation to make the final score 3-1 to the Devils.
We told the boys look at the Devils celebrations and that as Champions everybody wants to beat you and will up their game when they play you. We asked them how they felt after losing for the first time in as long while and it was time to go another 9 months without losing. As a group the second half was better than the first, defensively we are not at the level we need to be and we need to work on this quickly. The midfield need to understand that this is the key area of the pitch and we need to play 60mins like we did the second half. The front two need to be more aggressive, ruthless and clinical if we are to have any chance in matches. We appreciate their keeper had a fantastic game but we had 8 one-on-one opportunities scoring just one, that ratio needs to be at least 50%..and then we would have won the game. As far as the Man of the Match goes but for this young man Devils could have been 3 or 4 up in the first half, he was aggressive in the tackle, his anticipation was excellent and his covering was superb so well done Thomas M.
We are at home again next Saturday 8th October 9.30am kick off against Sale Utd Phoenix who we played away on the first day of the season winning 6-1.