Buckden FC were somewhat unlucky to lose 1-0 at Haverhill Borough Reserves in a highly competitive cup tie. Although they were disappointed to lose, their performance was vastly improved compared to last week's insipid effort at Wisbech. It was a good test for Buckden against high-flying opposition from the league above, and although they couldn't quite get over the line, they will be hopeful that their upward trajectory continues in the coming weeks.
The away side made three changes from their previous fixture, with Owen Howard making his first competitive start, and Dom Smith and James Price re-introduced to the eleven. Despite a limited warm up for some of the side, largely due to some incompetent navigation on the part of the acting Assistant Manager, the black and whites started at a good tempo, forcing a string of corners in the first fifteen minutes. Clear cut chances, however, were at a premium, with a very bobbly pitch making it difficult to be precise in attack. Long distance efforts from Dom Smith and his brother Josh, Luke Fennell and Graeme Marks all failed to seriously test the Haverhill keeper, in large part due to the ball-striking lottery caused by the pitch. Darren Scutt attempted to take the pitch out of the equation with an adventurous lob from 40 yards, but his effort drifted wide.
As the half progressed, Haverhill came back into the game, though they weren't presenting much of a threat in attack. Buckden's new look back four dealt with their direct play with a degree of comfort, while Tim Smith and Luke Fennell did a terrific job of breaking up the play in front of them. It remained 0-0 at the break, with the away side probably playing the better football.
The second half was similarly combative, with Haverhill's long-ball game made more effective by the strengthening breeze at their backs. Buckden's cause wasn't helped by substitute Shane McDonald having to go off with a knee injury within minutes of his arrival on the pitch. As the second half progressed, the higher division team gradually exerted a little more control over the game and began pumping a succession of high balls and crosses into the box. Buckden resisted determinedly though, with Chris Dennis and James Price heading away delivery after delivery, and Big Jan in goal commanding his area well. At the other end, the pace of the Smiths and the craft and guile of Graeme and Jonny Love presented a threat on the counter attack, but the final ball occasionally let them down.
On 70 minutes, Jan made a miraculous save from a goalbound header to keep the scores level, but Buckden were gradually being pressed deeper, perhaps still not quite up to full fitness as a result of their stop-start opening to the season. With five to go, yet another long punt into the area was knocked down, and the Haverhill striker dispatched the chance with glee. The black and whites roused themselves for one last desperate effort, and managed to create their best chance of the match, when Dom shot straight at the keeper after showing great pace and stamina to beat the full back down the outside and cut back on to his stronger right foot. That was the last chance they would have, though, and their frustration was compounded seconds later by the full-time whistle, which consigned them to a slightly unfortunate defeat.