After a rigorous pre-season consisting of a successful friendly against Ambassadors and a fitness boosting 5 a side session at Whitton, Greshams gathered at the Club in confident mood for the first fixture of the season against Fat Cat. Despite the meeting time of 9.30, the changing room was sparsely populated come 10 o'clock, but finally players began to arrive in dribs and drabs and manager Cashen had a squad of 13 to choose from. The line up selected for this first game was Rob in goals; a back four of Harry, Greg, Hamblin and Cash; in midfield Froudy, Sam, Rob Minns and Matt; up front, Meng, and, making his first start since his big money transfer window move, Nathan. On the bench were the slightly injured Emy and, making a very welcome return to the squad, Rich Minns.
With the season once again in a 'mini league' format, every game counts and it was important for Greshams to start well. Indeed they did play the better football in the opening exchanges, with Froudy raiding down the right and Meng and Nathan looking a threat up front. Despite having the better of the possession however, they were unable to create many clear cut chances as the Cat back four seemed to snuff out many of the moves around the edge of their own area. Indeed Rob was arguably the busier of the keepers making a fine save with his legs in a one on one situation. Greshams then fell behind in the unluckiest manner possible. A Fat Cat attack ended with them hitting the post. The ball rebounded and struck Greg Hammond on the arm. There was nothing Greg could do about this and nobody from Fat Cat appealed but the ref's bizarre decision - penalty, together with a yellow card to Rob for his protests. The spot kick was confidently struck and Greshams were behind against the run of play.
Within moments the ref had the chance to atone for his error as Greshams pressed forward and Nathan was clearly clipped in the box. However, for some reason as Greshams still had the ball, the ref indicated an advantage!!!!!
Luckily this did not matter as Greshams were level within a couple of minutes of going behind. Some good football in the box ended with Sam teeing up Nathan who lashed the ball high in to the net for his first goal for the Club.
However, in a game that was fairly even at this point, and being played in a good spirit, Greshams soon went behind again. Fat Cat had a clear height advantage and when a perfect delivery came in from a corner, one of the tall defenders was able to attack the ball and send a strong header into the net giving Rob no chance.
Half time Greshams 1 Fat Cat 2
Manager Cashen decided to change things at half time. Emy replaced Harry to link with Froudy down the right, and Sam was sacrificed for Rich Minns, allowing Greg to go to the defensive midfield position, and adding extra height at set plays.
Whether as a result of these changes or some other factors, Greshams were dominant in the second half. Despite Emy not being at his rampaging best, the combination with Froud down the right flank worked well. Matt Miller found his passing range with some great through balls, and Rob Minns found extra energy from somewhere to drive forward from midfield. Meanwhile Rich Minns added some ball playing composure alongside the solid Steve Hamblin which meant that Fat Cat barely had a shot in the second half.
Greshams on the other hand were creating chances, but too often the final ball was not quite finding its man. They nearly scored from the most unlikely source imaginable when Cashen somehow found himself on the end of a perfect cross. The veteran met the header well but to his huge frustration the keeper threw up a hand to make a good stop and turn the ball over the bar, thereby denying Cashen a career first headed goal. Shortly later Greshams went even closer when Nathan was fouled right on the edge of the box. Wisely ignoring Cashen's claims that it 'suited a left footer', Froudy stepped up and struck an absolute beauty that positively rattled the crossbar before bouncing to safety - a great strike. The next chance fell to Rob Minns who created it by himself with a great dribble diagonally in to the box. Rob rounded the keeper and had the goal apparently at his mercy, but was being leaned on by the substantial bulk of the Fat Cat defender and was badly off balance as he hit the shot left footed which went just wide.
With the minutes ticking by and chances going begging, Greshams were just starting to wonder if a goal would come, when they won another corner. Matt had been pinging in some beauties but this time he took it short to Rob Minns who took a few strides and then simply lashed the ball in to the net from the angle of the box - a fabulous finish.
Deservedly level, Greshams went in search of the winner. It came from Rob Minns. Once again going on a mazy dribble in to the box, Rob had to stretch for the shot which turned out to be quite a weak toe poke. However the Fat Cat keeper misjudged the shot which squirmed under his body and trickled apologetically in to the net, barely creeping over the line but sending the Greshams crowd, unfortunately missing season ticket holder Nana Potter, into raptures.
With just seven minutes left Greshams were prepared for a seven minute onslaught but it never materialised. Fat Cat did win a corner but although they sent the keeper up, Greshams were defending set plays confidently thanks to the added aerial ability of Rich Minns and any danger was averted. Greeshams saw out the remaining minutes in comfort to end with a valuable three points.
Man of the Match
It was great to start the season for a win. Nine more and another title is in the bag!!!! A few candidates for the bubbly in a good display, particularly in the second half. However the award has to go to Rob Minns, not just for the goals but for an energetic second half display from centre midfield. Well played mate.