With the weather having turned milder after a very cold spell, Greshams gathered at Pauls for the return fixture and their penultimate game of the mini season. They were glad to find the pitch in better condition than for the corresponding fixture last season, when prolonged rain had soaked the surface such that Froudy started a sliding tackle on one side of the pitch and finally clambered to his feet on the opposite touch line. With five wins and a draw in their last 7 matches Greshams were in confident form. In keeping with the practice of those present one week retaining their position the next, Cashen named a side of Rob in goals; a back four of Danny, Rich Minns, Hamblin and Dan Mayhew; in midfield Foudy, Sam, Heady and Nathan; with the familiar pairing of Rob and Steve Norfolk up front and Cash and the Romanian Exocet on the bench.
The game started off fairly evenly. Pauls were having plenty of the ball but with the disruptive energy of Sam in midfield, Greshams were disrupting Pauls play and preventing them from having any clear cut opportunities. On the odd occasion that Pauls did manage an attempt on target, 'Big Nev' in the Greshams goals was equal to it. His best save came from a deflected shot when he was initially going the wrong way but managed the not inconsiderable feat of shifting his weight across to fling himself full length to make the save.
Pauls were having the majority of the possession, but were finding their attacks snuffed out at the edge of the Greshams box by the strong centre half pairing of Rich Minns and Hambo. In fact, the better chances were falling to Greshams. Danny and Froudy were linking well down the right as were Dan and Nathan on the left, and Greshams looked dangerous going forwards. Rob Minns, who must have been born offside, managed on a couple of times to get free of the last defender but was just unable to find the finish. Nathan also managed to work a couple of opportunities for himself using his pace and trickery but again just couldn't find the net, coming particularly close with a left footed effort that went agonisingly past the far post. Greshams also had one or two free kicks in dangerous positions which they were just unable to convert.
Half Time Pauls 0 Greshams 0
No changes were made at half time and the second half continued in very much the same pattern as the first, with clear cut chances difficult to carve out for both sides. With ten minutes of the half gone, Greshams made a change with Cashen coming on for Dan at left back. Greshams were now playing with a bit more control of the game and finally got the breakthrough that their play deserved. It was a brilliant through ball from Froudy that put Rob Minns through on goal once again and this time Rob found the perfect finish giving the keeper no chance as the ball flew into the back of the net.
At 1-0 up, Greshams then had a spell when they appeared in total control of the game. They were keeping possession well, passing the ball around and not letting Pauls have a sniff of a chance. Greshams came within inches of making it two when Nathan again showed great skill, got into the box and beat the keeper, only for the shot to lack a little pace allowing the defender to get back to hack the ball off the line to safety. They came close again when Nathan drilled in a cross, the defender facing his own goal stretched out a leg to clear, and came within inches of diverting the ball into his own net as it flew narrowly over the bar.
With time running down Emy was brought on to replace Sam, who had had a good game. Froudy went across to the centre with Emy down the right. Emy was soon into the action, raiding down the right and working hard defensively too.
It looked like Greshams were going to see the game out in comfort as Rob had barely been called into action in the second half. However as the game entered its closing stages, Pauls made a few changes, throwing the big number 7 further forward. Suddenly they seized the initiative. From nowhere the number 7 set off on a mazy run. With Greshams standing off the broke into the box virtually unchallenged and hit an unstoppable shot past Rob and into the net.
It was now up to Greshams to dig deep and find a response but instead, worse was to come. The number 7 added a virtually identical second and with just minutes to go, the bad tempered number 9 got clear and added a third leaving Greshams to digest a very unpalatable defeat.
Man of the Match
So for the second year in a row Greshams succumbed to late Pauls goals in this fixture. There was plenty to be encouraged about in their play however, with the wide men working well and in centre midfield Heady's elegance being matched by Sam's energy. Plenty of chances were created while until the late flurry of goals, there was a sound defensive performance, as indeed there has been in all the recent games.
Not an easy call for man of the match but the Management Team have been in consultation and decided to award the bubbly to Heady this week for a dominant and creative display in central midfield. Well played mate.