Catsfield were in action for the first time in over a month as The Rec finally became playable after a few weeks of poor weather following the Christmas break. Local rivals Crowhurst were the visitors and they themselves were looking to exact revenge on the 2-1 Catsfield win in the reverse fixture earlier on this season. A win for the Cats here would put them 4 points clear of the relegation zone and allow them to look up rather than nervously over their shoulders.
Injuries kept out first team regulars Booth and White whilst N. Champion, Winn and Thomas were unavailable as manager Tony Luke continued with the 4-5-1 formation.
D. Champion returned between the sticks after finally overcoming a finger injury that has kept him out since September. Paffett started at right back whilst Pistol Waughman switched from his usual right back role to left back. A familiar centre back partnership saw Rawlings partner Graham.
A few changes in midfield saw Swain start in left midfield whilst usual central midfielder Rollison became a make shift right midfielder with Newman, Gurr and Bradbury all starting in central roles.
Top goalscorer Luke started upfront on his own as he looked to add to his tally for the season.
Atkins, Harris and Reus were the subs.
The game had barely begun before the Cats found themselves 1-0 down. A disputed throw-in deep in the Catsfield half was launched into the box – the Cats defence could only clear to the edge of the box where a Crowhurst midfielder was lurking, his first time volley flew in to the bottom corner giving Champion no chance – a disastrous start for the Cats, conceding in only the 2nd minute.
Luke then went close down the other end but his first time shot just went wide. Champion then made a string of fine saves – first tipping a rocket of a volley from the edge of the box that was destined for the top corner on to the bar and then expertly palming a rasping drive from a direct free kick over the bar. It was then Bradbury’s turn to go close to equalising down the other end but for a decent stop from the visiting goalkeeper.
1-0 became 2-0 to the visitors after half an hour when good work from the Crowhurst right midfielder saw him make himself a few yards of crossing space – he picked out a visiting striker with a left footed cross whose flicked finish with his right boot nestled in the bottom right hand corner.
The 40th minute saw the turning point of the game. Luke found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper but as he bore down on goal a recovering defender bundled over the Cats front man in a desperate attempt to win the ball – stonewall penalty. After pointing to the spot, most thought the next action from the referee would be to produce a red card for the Crowhurst defender for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity whilst also being the last man – the referee saw different however and frustratingly for the Cats only produced a yellow card – the reasons for which are still unknown. With regular taker White out injured, penalty duty was left to Graham whose left footed effort clipped the left hand post before going wide. A real let off for Crowhurst and a great opportunity for the Cats to get themselves back in the game before half time went begging.
With the pitch deteriorating and the weather getting worse, the Cats would have to conjure up some magic in the second half if they were to get anything out of this game.
Bad to Worse
It was vitally important that Catsfield got the 3rd goal of the game as a 0-3 score line would essentially be game over for the home side. There was no such luck for the Cats though as it only took 6 second half minutes until Crowhurst went 0-3 up. A shot from the edge of the box flying through the crowd and past Champion. Things then went from bad to worse for Catsfield as just 5 minutes later it was 0-4 to the away side – a horribly deflected clearance somehow found a visiting midfielder at the back post whose first time volley from the dropping ball flew in to the right hand corner of the net.
Harris replaced Newman on the hour mark as the Cats reverted to a 4-4-2 formation. The change of formation still didn’t do the trick though as only 8 minutes later it became 0-5 to the visitors. This time an over hit corner was retrieved on the far side of the pitch by a Crowhurst midfielder, his cross found an unmarked visiting defender still up from the initial corner who planted his free header in to the bottom left hand corner.
With the game over as a contest the Cats then made their final two substitutions as Atkins and Reus replaced Gurr and Swain as the home side went in search of a consolation. They finally got their goal with 12 minutes remaining as Luke had the beating of the defender – his pace getting him in front and making half a yard of shooting space. His finish, albeit a scuffed one, beat the ‘keeper and clipped the inside of the right hand post before going in from 8 yards out.
Crowhurst still weren’t finished though and got their sixth with 6 minutes to go. A low cross from the right caused a series of pinball like attempts in the middle of the box before seemingly coming off Atkins before crossing the line. An unfortunate own goal by the Catsfield man but it just typified the Cats luck at the moment. Harris then had an excellent chance to grab a second for the home side when a defensive slip lead him to a one-on-one situation with the goal keeper his low shot was kept out though and spun away for a corner.
The referee finally blew the full time whistle and compounded the Cats to a third successive heavy defeat. 21 goals conceded with only 3 scored in their last 3 games does not make for good reading for the Cats and now with fixtures running out and only 7 games remaining they now need at least 3 or 4 wins to ensure safety in Division 2. Although scheduled to play Wittersham at home next – the Rec is looking very unlikely to be playable next week so it could be a while before the Cats are back in action as they look to rectify this string of heavy defeats.