As Greshams congregated at the Club, it seemed a long time since their last game, the narrow defeat at Wetherden on Remembrance Sunday. Manager Cashen had a strong squad of 13 to choose from, though it quickly became apparent that Emy was still suffering the effects of a big night out on Saturday. Emy was therefore relegated to the bench together with Cashen and the starting 11 was announced as Rob in goals; a back four of Phil, 'Groggy', Hamblin and Harry; in midfield Nathan, Froudy, Rich Minns and Matt, with Norfolk and Rob Minns up front.
After a few minutes of panic caused by the late arrival of the referee, the game got under way in extremely windy conditions. Briarbank had won the toss and made the slightly strange decision to go against the wind in the first half, a decision they would come to regret. Within minutes, Greshams were forced in to a change as the unfortunate Harry pulled a calf muscle allowing the veteran Cashen to enter the fray. The change proved inspired as within minutes of the substitution, Greshams went ahead. In a move that would become spookily familiar as the game went on, Norfolk picked up the ball in the number 10 position, and threaded it through for Rob Minns who easily had the beating of the Briarbank back 4 for pace. Rob sprinted clear, advanced on the goal and lashed the ball into the net for a fine goal for Greshams.
The goal was no more than Greshams deserved because regardless of the advantage of the wind, it was the Blues who were playing all the football, with the Mini League Champions looking strangely disinterested. A fine move saw Greshams double their lead. The ball was passed across the pitch from one flank to another and ended at the feet of The Beast, who played in Nathan. Nathan floated in a great cross and not unexpectedly in the conditions, saw the ball catch the breeze and sail into the far corner with the stranded keeper having no chance whatsoever.
Although the game was being played in a good spirit, tempers flared midway through the half as Froudy was subjected to a couple of agricultural challenges, one a very late tackle and the other a blatant body check, with the culprit on both occasions being the Briarbank number 7. Fortunately Froudy was able to carry on as he was having a great game at the heart of the midfield, where he and Rich Minns were totally dominating their opponents. Indeed everyone in Blue was playing well as Greshams continued to dominate, with Rob White being a largely untroubled spectator. It was no surprise when Greshams added a third - another Rob Minns effort and a virtual carbon copy of the first - and then a fourth as Briarbank made a hash of their attempts to clear the ball and it dropped out of the air for Marr Miller to calmly volley in to the bottom corner.
Unfortunately Greshams were unable to keep a clean sheet through to the half time whistle. In the final few minutes Briarbank finally put some football together and began to exert a bit of sustained pressure on the Greshams goal for the first time in the game. One of a succession of corners was only partially cleared and the rotund shape of the Briarbank number 2 was on hand to lash the ball into the top corner, a nasty swerve caused by the breeze meaning that Rob had no chance. A great strike, though Greshams were slow to close the shot down.
Half time Greshams 4 Briarbank 1
At half time Manager Cashen scooted anxiously to the touch line for a health check on his one remaining substitute. Emy, not content with surrounding himself with clouds of vapour, had also fortified himself with a bacon butty and a coffee, and was now almost sober and raring to go.
As Greshams started against the wind it quickly became clear that they were adapting to the conditions far better than the opposition. Rob in goal always had a short option rather than attempting long kicks against the wind and some of Greshams football as they worked the ball out from the back was a pleasure to watch. After 10 minutes Emy replaced Matt, who had had a good game. Emy went to the right flank with Nathan switching to the left and the Romanian Exocet was soon involved with some characteristic rampaging down the wing. Bizarrely at the opposite end, the Briarbank keeper seemed to be having as much trouble kicking with the wind behind him as he had with it against him, meaning that Briarbank were not really clearing their lines.
All the pressure and chances were coming from Greshams and it was no surprise at all when they went further ahead and equally no surprise that it was a pass from Norfolk to find Rob out pacing the defence, that led to the goal. What was by now a familiar sight of Rob sprinting clear ended in emphatic fashion as he put his laces right through the ball and absolutely lashed it into the far corner, a screamer of a finish.
Briarbank did pull one back when their striker just had the pace to beat Greg and also beat the advancing Rob to the ball, lifting it over the Greshams keeper to see it drift, rather wind assisted, in to the net. However this was not the start of a fightback but rather an isolated attack, as the Greshams back four defended well as a unit and simply refused to give Briarbank a sniff. The only other chance the visitors had was a header from a corner, other than which Rob was completely untroubled. In fact it was Greshams who had all the late chances, with Nathan, Rob Minns and Steve Norfolk all coming agonisingly close to adding to the tally, with the Briarbank keeper making some great last ditch stops.
The fifth goal had really deflated the visitors and Greshams were able to see the game out in relative comfort.
Full time Greshams 5 Briarbank 2
Man of the Match
Other than the unfortunate Harry and the under employed Rob White, all of the Greshams players are MoM candidates this week, including Emy who made a real impact in his substitute appearance. The back four performed well with the partnership between 'Groggy' and Hamblin solid as ever, while the full backs showed the benefit of their many years' experience. In midfield Matt was his accustomed assured self on the ball and scored a good goal, Froudy and Rich bossed the centre of the park, while Nathan showed what we had been missing for the past few weeks. Up front, Norfolk and Rob Minns combined brilliantly for 3 goals and numerous chances. However for a fine hat trick the bubbly has to go to Rob. Scored three goals, could have had 3 more, gave a brilliant example of front running and absolutely had the defenders on toast. Well played mate.
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