The shock defeat of Feathers by Cock the previous week had left Greshams needing only to beat Hardy, the weakest team in the Division, to clinch the prestigious RM1A Title. With the weather showing a marked contrast to the previous week’s 25 degrees, Greshams gathered for the decider in the chilly but familiar surroundings of the Home changing rooms. Those who had spent the previous Sunday in Church, possibly seeking divine intervention in the title race, had returned to more customary Sunday morning activities. Danny Bond was also making a welcome return so from having a bare 11 in the previous two fixtures, Greshams had a squad of 15 to choose from. In keeping with the philosophy of continuity, Manager Cashen named a starting 11 of Rob in goals; a back four of Ollie, Hamblin, Rich Minns and Cash; in midfield Tom, Heady, Froudy and Nathan with Rob Minns and Emy up front. The exceptionally strong bench comprised Danny, Steve Norfolk, Matt and Sam.
As the Greshams players made their way out into the cold drizzle, it quickly became apparent that Hardy were struggling for numbers and in fact only had 9 players. It was all the more important therefore that Greshams started with the right attitude.
The pattern of the game, not surprisingly, was set early on with Greshams enjoying huge amounts of possession while Hardy defended the edge of their box and tried to make it difficult for Greshams either to pass through them or get in behind. It was Froudy and Tom who were prominent in these early stages, Froudy dropping deep to take up position and try to create something, while Tom was showing great footwork and committing defenders. It was Tom involved as Greshams took an early lead, as he dribbled into the box and put in a cross which Rob Minns got on the end of and finished sharply.
With the lead established it was just a question of how many Greshams would get. However Hardy continued to make things difficult for them and the game entered something of a frustrating phase for the champions elect. Tom did produce a great curling shot which very unluckily came back off the bar, but in the main, Greshams were finding it hard to carve out clear chances and, when they did create something, were guilty of some poor finishing. Emy, having been brilliant the previous week, must have had some of his Man of the Match champagne still in his system as he went from world beater to panel beater, his control and composure letting him down on numerous occasions.
Finally though, Greshams did double their advantage and it was once again good work down the right from Tom that saw him put in a great cross cum shot that Nathan had the easy task of converting from close range. They added a third when good work from Rob Minns forced the defender into deflecting the ball into his own net.
Half Time Greshams 3 Hardy FC 0
With the game effectively won, Greshams made wholesale changes at half time with all 4 subs coming on; Ollie, Heady, Emy and Rich Minns being the players to make way for Danny, Matt, Steve Norfolk and Sam respectively. Only a couple of minutes had gone in the half when two of the substitutes combined for Greshams’ 4th goal. A great corner from Matt was met firmly by Sam who scored with only his second touch since coming on.
The game continued to be attack against defence but to their embarrassment, Greshams did manage to concede a breakaway goal. The Hardy midfielder was allowed to run pretty much unchallenged into the Greshams box. Nobody had tracked the bearded number 7 who got a pretty poor contact on the shot which trickled into the net beyond Rob’s reach.
However, Greshams continued to press and Tom was unlucky to be given offside when the ‘Linesman’ Rich Minns confessed to daydreaming and watching another game altogether. The referee had to make the call and perhaps feeling sorry for the opposition, mistakenly judged Tom to have been offside. Then Nathan, standing in a clearly offside position, couldn’t resist getting a touch on Tom’s goal bound shot with the goal therefore being rightly disallowed. Then, comedy gold from Rob Minns. The keeper saved Rob’s initial shot only to push the ball straight back out to Rob’s feet. However with the keeper on the ground and the whole goal to aim at from six yards, Rob somehow contrived to put the ball well over the bar.
Finally however Greshams got a couple of goals to make the scoreline more respectable. With the ball bouncing around in the six yard box, Rob Minns touched it on to the far post where Steve Norfolk was on hand to turn it into the net. Steve was always off balance as he hit the shot and in fact this was a decent finish. The scoring was completed when Steve played the ball to Tom in the area and he showed good composure to take his time over the finish and find the bottom corner.
Man of the Match
This was at times a very frustrating game, not a real game of football at all but an attack against defence exercise. Greshams made things more difficult for themselves by missing a succession of chances. However, they stuck at their task and got the job done. In such a scenario it is difficult to choose a Man of the Match but Froudy was instrumental in a lot of Greshams good work, seeing a lot of the ball and showing some great vision and creative touches. However the bubbly this week goes to Tom who, particularly in the first half, always looked the player most likely to carve out a chance or a goal and he ended up with a goal and two assists. Well played mate.