Having met the Devils twice so far this season in development games with a 2-2 draw and a 1-3 loss we knew it was going to be a tough encounter. We welcomed Ben Stagg into our squad, a strong and dependable defender from Ashton On Mersey who will give us options across the backline. Daniel had been given the honour of captaining the team going forward, taking over from Thomas H who had done a superb job. Flynn was named vice captain taking over from Thomas Dy who also had done some sterling work. A milnutes silence was held impeccably by all to pay respect to the Brazilian football team, Chapecoense, who had tragically lost 70+ members when their plane crashed last week.
The game started with us kicking up the hill and both teams playing a 3-4-1 system which meant severe congestion in the middle third of the pitch. Unlike the previous two encounters were we played 3-3-2 and struggled at times, this time we dominated all the second balls in this area, in particular Ryan was positive in everything he did and anticipated superbly, Nathan, Henry and Thomas H won their indiividual battles and the back four of Daniel, Thomas Dy, Josh G and in particular Thomas M were dominant and on their front foot to nullify any opportunities on the counter attack they created. Josh S was a constant threat with his pace and his running off the shoulder of the last defender.
Chances were sparse for both teams, although we created several excellent positional opportunities which were wasted with either a poor decision or poor pass in the final third. When we did create a couple of good chances Josh S, Nathan and Thomas H were either off target or their defenders made excellent blocks. We had to be aware of their counter attacks and they had very few opportunities and resorted to long punts downfield which we dealt with really well both in the first phase and more so with the second balls were Ryan was totally dominant in the centre of the midfield. Playing up the hill we had been the better side throughout the half and we introduced Flynn, Thomas Da and Ben G just past the halfway mark and they continued were the other boys had left off. We were unlucky to be called offside on a couple of occasions when we would have been clean through. The half ended 0-0.
Boys on both sides said that the match ball was too hard which would explain the lack of distance and quality of some of our passing. The referee asked for some air to be taken out after testing it !!! We told the boys that they had done a superb job in what was a tight hard fought first half and as both teams tire in the second half our quality will shine through and we must take the one or two chances we create as its going to be tight throughout. Our concentration and dominance need to be maintained as its imperative we keep a clean sheet. Ben S came on for Josh G to make his debut on the right side of our back three. The second half started and they were quick out of the blocks and indeed inside the first minute they had what turned out to be their best chance of the entire game when from a cross their forward connected beautifulky with a header that Daniel was alert to and saved superbly. This sparked our boys into life and Ben G, Flynn and Ryan played some neat two touch football only for their defence to cut out superbly a ball meant for Thomas Da. Thomas H was more on the front foot and he was linking up well with Thomas Da and Ben S on his debut. Urmston started to tire and played a lot deeper which allowed us to play territory and we had a couple of excellent chances through Josh S and Thomas Da which their keeper saved well.
We made a couple more changes with Henry replacing Thomas H in the midfield, Nathan came on for Ben G and Josh G came on for Ben S who had shown his qualities during his 20mins debut. Thomas M was leading the boys at the back, Ryan was still dominant in midfield and was driving the boys on to get the winner. It appeared with 5mins left that we'd created the best opportunity of the game when after Ryan yet again won a second ball he quickly moved it to Henry who playec a beautiful through ball for Josh S who outpaced their back two to get to the ball first 25yards out gl push it into his path and bear down on goal in a one-on-one situation only for the last defender to commit a professional foul and completely take him out !!! No red card and no consequence substitution, little disappointing to say the least. From the resulting free kick Ryan hit a wonderful right foot strike towards the top corner that the keeper got to but fumbled, we claimed it had crossed the line but the referee was perfectly positioned on the goal line to say 'No goal'. The game finished goalless in what was a hard fought and competitive encounter.
We praised the boys for their attitude, commitment, concentration, work rate, dominance and at times quality of play. We knew it was going to be tough and they did everything we asked of them and but for a cynical tackle the victory and three points would have deservedly been ours. All the boys played their part in a real team performance, however, when it came to Man of the Match it was between two, Ryan who had an outstanding game in midfield dominating every challenge, winning every second ball and moving the ball in two or three touches in an area were there was little space. However, the award went to Thomas M who not only led thd back line with maturity and class but he was also dominant in his own performance and anticipated danger signs to put out any fires before they became problems, an outstanding individual performance.
With no Cup game next week we have a development game against the current leaders of Group B Timperley FC Demons next Saturday 10th December 9.30am kick off at home.