The gathering of players at Greshams on Sunday was like a reunion of long lost friends. Tommo had returned, apparently in one piece, from Afghanistan, while the other players had not had a game for five weeks or more. The fitness training during this enforced winter break was much in evidence in the improved physique of some of the squad, with the urgency for a size XXL keeper's jersey becoming rapidly more apparent.
Despite the hard frost overnight, the pitch passed the inspection and Greshams first fixture of 2014 began with a line up of Rob in goals; a back four of Tommo, Hamblin, Cooky and Cash; in midfield, Froudy, Sam, Matt and Rob; with Hunn and Norfolk up front and Josh as sub, and Josh's missus representing the Greshams WAGS.
Despite the long break since the last game, Greshams were soon into their rhythm, the passing game very much in evidence and Tommo's return providing welcome energy and pace at right back. The game was being played in a competitive but friendly enough spirit, apart from the Claydon number 10, who had presumably had a futile Saturday night and was looking for a way of venting his frustration. After some verbal spats and one or two near misses, the situation boiled over as the 10 hit Cooky with an agricultural challenge so late that it rightfully belonged in next week's game. Something of a melee ensued, with the referee somehow deciding that the appropriate course of action was to issue no cards.
Meanwhile elsewhere, a game of football was breaking out. In a fairly evenly matched game Greshams were just about on top though without creating anything clear cut. Then with about twenty gone,the Hunn was set free to run on goal. The Hunn would normally expect to score from this kind of position, and his team mates were rapidly on their mobiles as he ran through on goal, getting a bit of in-play action. Unfortunately he was in a position where the shot was on his right foot, and ultimately blazed the chance over the bar. Shortly after a more difficult chance fell to Froudy and once again went wide of the target.
Greshams were left to rue these misses when Galaxy scored twice in quick succession. For the first, Greshams were unable to stop the cross coming into the box and although the first chance was blocked, the ball was ultimately laid off to the oncoming midfielder who, despite being closed down, got a decent shot away which squirmed under Rob to trickle agonisingly over the line beyond the Keeper's despairing clutches. The second goal shortly after was a good solo effort as the striker showed good pace, cut inside,and managed to get enough power on the shot to beat Rob at his near post.
Half time Greshams 0 Claydon 2
The second half was a story of missed chances for Greshams as Rob in the Greshams goal was reduced to the role of a virtual spectator. A succession of chances came and went, some of which the players concerned would normally be expected to stick in the onion bag, some of which were blocked, struck team mates, or seemed magnetically drawn straight to the keeper.
Claydon did have one or two incursions into the Greshams half, from one of which Rob made a fine save and another being cleared off the line by Cashen, who narrowly avoided the humiliating fate of slicing the clearance into the roof of his own net.
In the main though it was all Greshams. The midfield found a more compact shape in the second half that stopped Claydon from playing, and with the wide men much in evidence, the possession and territory stats were massively in Greshams favour. Froudy's set plays were of the usual high standard and how one was not put into the net remains a mystery, while Rob worked hard and productively down the left. Up front despite the lack of goals, the Hunn saw plenty of the ball and gave the Claydon defence (in which former French rugby international Sebastien Chabal was making a surprise appearance) a torrid time, while Steve Norfolk's touch and all round play were at times different class. Meanwhile at the back the solid centre half pairing of Cooky and Hamblin dealt comfortably with Claydon's rare incursions.
So a frustrating opportunity missed to beat the high flying Claydon, but Greshams will be encouraged by their all round play.
Man of the Match
After a frustrating morning in front of goal it seems unusual to give the bubbly to a striker, but Steve Norfolk's all round contribution was top notch on a morning when he did everything but score. One or two touches went astray in the first half but in the second Steve really upped his game to give a great all round striker's display. Well played mate.
Next up - Worlingworth Away
Longest journey of the season next week as we attempt our first win of the year - usual text to be issued later in the week but we will be meeting at the Club at 9 o'clock SHARP (Cooky!!!!!) and taking as few cars as possible, those who drive to be excused from paying subs. Thanks.