After getting back to winning ways last week against Hailsham, Catsfield were looking for another 3 points on Saturday when they welcomed Battle Baptists II’s to the Rec. Despite the away side yet to register a league win, the Cats were not going to underestimate them, especially since this Battle side beat Catsfield pretty comprehensively in pre-season.
A host of missing personnel saw manager Nick Gurr have a major reshuffle as Catsfield continued on their settled 4-4-2. Players responsible for 6 of the Cats 8 goals last week were missing as it was up to their replacements to score the goals and get the job done.
Catsfield number 1, D. Champion, was unavailable for this one and it was up to returning striker turned goalkeeper G. Matthews to don the gloves a keep net. A more familiar back four was in front of him however, A. Manning switching to right back as the returning I. Swain slotted in to his usual left back role. The impressive partnership of R. Madge and T. Luke were reunited in the heart of the Cats back line after two weeks of different centre back partnerships, Catsfield still yet to concede a goal this season with Madge on the pitch.
The midfield saw 2 changes from last week. Hat trick hero J. Vincent was unavailable as P. Rollison played over on the right. A first start of the season for M. Rawlings as he was picked to start over on the left. The solid partnership of D. Booth and K. Manning continued in the centre of the park.
With Matthews in goal and 3-goal debutant J. Jones unavailable – the Cats were left with just one available striker in S. Harris as he was partnered up front by the returning W. Thwaites up front.
P. Waughman, G. Paffett and N. Gurr were named as the Catsfield subs.
Catsfield began sluggishly – the home side struggling to get going in the opening 20 minutes. A tactical switch by Gurr was made on the 20 minute mark as he switched W. Thwaites and Rawlings, the latter giving a bit more pace and energy up front with the former giving the option of a left footed cross from out wide.
There were very few if any chances in the opening 45 minutes as a stop start game saw the referee taking centre stage on numerous occasions. D. Booth found himself booked within half an hour after what looked like an innocuous ball to hand was deemed a yellow card worthy deliberate handball. A. Manning then almost talked his way in to the book, the referee content on punishing him by deeming every one of his throw ins a foul throw for the remainder of the game however.
The only real opportunity in the first 45 minutes was a half chance at best. It came on the half hour mark as Catsfield failed to clear a corner, the ball remained in the home sides box. A series of lunging limbs ensued from both sides as one team were desperate for the ball to be cleared and the other doing anything they could to get it in the net – the Cats eventually managed to clear their lines though.
Neither side looked like scoring in this one as the referees half time whistled sounded. 0-0 at the break. The Cats struggling to get going and barely out of 1st gear.
The second half began with Catsfield slightly on top, retaining possession well with the ball finally sticking up front which allowed the home side to move up the pitch as one whole unit.
Chances were still at an absolute premium however. Good work from Booth down the right saw him get to the by-line, his looping cross just evaded Harris and then cleared away. A. Manning then did indeed manage to get himself in to the referees book as he was punished for a hard but clean tackle – his protests deemed as dissent and the yellow card was brandished - £10.00 to East Sussex FA.
With the game looking like it was going the way of an unheard of 0-0 draw, the game changing moment came just after the hour mark. A good interchange between Harris and Booth saw the latter blocked off and fouled by the defender, a free kick 35 or so yards out on the right side. A delicious in-swinging left footed ball was sent in by W. Thwaites that bounced on the penalty spot before being guided in to the back of the net from 6 yards out by the head of unmarked Luke who was up from the back. 1-0.
The goal seemed to bring the game to life. Makeshift goalkeeper Matthews saving well down low to his right after a drilled shot from the edge of the area was destined for the bottom corner. Another half chance for the away side went begging after a visiting striker headed just wide from a high looping cross.
A. Manning was then replaced by Waughman at right back in a straight swap as the Cats looked to see this one out. There was only one real chance in the final 20 minutes and once again it went to the away side – a visiting player blazing high from the edge of the box.
The referee finally blew the full time whistle confirming the narrow victory for Catsfield. It will be encouraging to Manager Nick Gurr that the Cats can play badly and still pick up the 3 points – a trait normally seen within title winning teams.
Catsfield remain in third after this victory. Level on points with Pebsham Sibex but behind them on goal difference and 3 points behind leaders Bexhill Rovers, the Cats could leapfrog them with a victory in their game in hand however. More impressively for Catsfield though is the goals against column. Another clean sheet in this one meant that they now boast letting in less than a goal a game on average – with the best defensive record in the division by some way.
The Cats turn their attention away from the league next week as they kick off their Hastings FA Junior Cup campaign in a fixture that sees them travel to Hollington IIs – a side that they beat 2-0 in September. A decent cup run to coincide with their excellent start to the league could just be the start of what is looking like a bright future for Catsfield!
FT: Catsfield 1-0 Battle Baptists II
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