After an enforced lay off it seemed a long time since Gresham's last match. On a cold damp morning they arrived at the Club to hear the welcome news that they had been allocated Changing Room 3, complete with power showers. With morale suitably restored, the team to face old foes Selkirk Reserves was named as: Rob in goals; a back four of Phil, Greg, Hamblin and Cash; in midfield Emy, Sam, Rob and Ollie, with Meng and Norfolk up front leaving Ash and Harry as subs.
In a strong breeze, the game got off to a scrappy start. With Greshams taking a while to find their feet it was Rob who had the first save to make, when a decent header from the edge of the box looped towards his goal. It looked like a comfortable gather for Rob, but with the goalmouth wet and muddy, he struggled to keep his feet as he changed direction, and eventually just about managed to slither across to shovel the ball behind for a corner.
Shortly later Greshams were punished for their slow start when they were unable to prevent a cross coming in and the onrushing midfielder struck the ball across the goal, wrong footing Rob and in to the back of the net. However, Greshams were beginning to come in to the game now, with Meng and Norfolk showing some good touches up front and Emy great pace down the right. Greshams soon won their first corner. Rob Minns, promoted to corner taking duties in the absence of Matt, placed the ball carefully before running up and mis-hitting it miserably. The ball never came in to play and instead dribbled harmlessly off behind the Selkirk goal.
Shortly after this Rob had the chance to make amends from the penalty spot. As a ball came in to the box, Emy went to challenge for it but was almost chopped in half by an agricultural challenge by the defender. This time Rob made no mistake and struck the ball low in to the corner to bring Greshams level. Greshams should have had a second penalty when Ollie was clearly barged in the back but on this occasion the ref bottled it and waved play on.
The game remained scruffy but Greshams were now enjoying the majority of the play. They had a great opportunity when Meng broke through in the inside right channel and bore down on goal. A simple square ball would have left Norfolk with a straightforward tap in but instead Meng elected to shoot and lashed the ball over the bar. Luckily this didn't matter too much (except to Norfolk!) as Greshams soon took a deserved lead, and what a goal it was. A through ball from Ollie found Emy who had timed his run through the middle perfectly. Nobody expected what came next though as Emy hit the ball first time with the outside of his foot (or was it his toe??!!??) and it went like a bullet over the keeper and in to the roof of the net. Great finish. Unfortunately however Greshams were unable to hold on to the lead. They switched off from a throw in, the ball came in to the box and a number of attempts at a headed clearance were made, with the Selkirk players largely targeting the Greshams defenders rather than the ball. Eventually the ball dropped to the striker who to be fair, hit a decent strike giving Rob no chance.
There was still time for one more piece of action in the half and again Emy was inevitably involved. He managed to find space in the box to get a cross / shot in which was clearly handled by the defender, and Rob placed the resultant penalty into the exact same spot. This time the keeper got a hand to it but was unable to keep it out to see Greshams go in at half time 3-2 to the good.
Half time Greshams 3 Selkirk 2
Early in the second half Greshams made a change with Ash replacing Ollie at left midfield. The game continued in the same scruffy vein, and this was largely thanks to the tetchy Selkirk number 32. Every challenge he made was a foul, while every challenge on him was taken as a personal affront. With the ref not interested in taking any control of the situation the game became niggly and fragmented. However, when football was being played, Greshams were far the better team and extended their lead through two more fantastic finishes. First, a long hoof forward from right back by Phil turned in to a great pass to Meng, who took the ball in his stride, advanced, and thumped an absolutely unstoppable drive from fully 30 yards giving the keeper no chance. Next, Meng turned provider. His ball inside the full back looked to give Emy too much to do. However Emy switched on the afterburners and with explosive pace, left the defender trailing haplessly in his wake and laced the ball into the back of the net. Another fabulous finish.
With Harry replacing Phil, Greshams looked comfortable at 5-2 only to concede a goal under frustrating circumstances, with the Selkirk number 32 once again to the fore. A soft free kick was awarded and while Greshams were arranging their wall, the ref having said to wait for the whistle, the 32 took the kick quickly It sailed over the wall, confusion ensued between Rob, Phil and the striker, and the ball ended up in the back of the net with the ref, rather than insisting the kick be retaken, allowing the goal to stand.
There was still plenty of time left at this point and Greshams might have expected something of an onslaught, but it never really came, with Rob called in to action just a couple of times, once when he did well to tip a speculative effort over the bar and the other a full length save of a shot from the edge of the box. In fact it was a relatively comfortable afternoon for Greg and Steve in the centre half positions as they dealt comfortably with everything that came their way. In fact it was Greshams who came close when a great free kick from Meng brought a sprawling scape out of the Selkirk keeper. In the end Greshams were able to add some gloss to the scoreline when another through ball from Meng found Rob in a race with the keeper to get to the ball. There was only going to be one winner. Rob got there first, knocked the ball round the keeper, and stuck the ball in the empty net to cap a great performance.
Final score Greshams 6 Selkirk 3
Man of the Match
It seems harsh not to award the bubbly to Rob after a hat trick performance, and Meng, with two assists and a great goal, also deserves a mention. However the Moët this week goes to Emy, who scored two, was involved in winning both penalties, and gave an outstanding display of running. Well played mate.