A grey, drizzly morning greeted the Tigers for their second 'tournament' match, this time against Farnham Town Youth Dragons. After the performance, and result, from the previous week, there was a hint of optimism that another similar performance could leave the Tigers in a strong position for the final Group match.
The players were briefed by the manager to keep the work rate, the pressure, and covering they had from the last game, and take it in to this and they would have a good chance of a result.
Unfortunately, the Tigers didn't start with the same zest thay had in the 'monsoon'. They allowed the Dragons too much time on the ball, and quickly reverted to rushing in to challenges, rather than to 'close down, slow down...' as has been the focus of the last 2 training sessions. As a result, the Tigers often found the opposition behind them, and they were chasing back. Add to that a reversion to watching the opposition deal with loose balls, rather than battle to take it themselves, and it wasn't long before the Tigers found themselves 2, rather soft, goals down. This did, however, spark something of a lift in their play, with an increased amount of pressure on the Dragons, and more than a hint of evidence that the Tigers could play around the opposition. After a number of corners, an eventual Tigers goal came midway through the first half.
Unfortunately, the Tigers never really owned the game. For all of their efforts to push the Dragons on to the back foot, a constant lack of pressing the opposition allowed them too much time and space to use the ball well, and run at the Tigers often unchallenged. On one occasion, a Dragon ran through 5 Tigers and get a shot away without a single pressured effort against him. That said, there was some good covering from 3 or 4 Tigers, with some timely blocks, and the counter-attacking was proving to make the Dragons uncomfortable. There were a couple of efforts hit the post, and more than a decent number of other chances, but all to no avail.
Ultimately, a mix of lack of pressure, communication and tracking back with conviction, too many unnecessary possession-losing clearances, and a lack of potency in front of goal (including a few shots which may have served better as lay-offs to team mates) all combined to leave the Tigers short.
MoM went to A D for another sound GK performance. Again, the conditions proved tricky for any handling, which he coped really well with, but in addition, notably a 5-minute, Dragon-dominant period in the second half, he made a number of good stops and came out bravely on a number of occasions to gather the ball, and ultimately ensured the Dragons went away with no more goals.
The final group game will need to see the Tigers win, with a decent goal difference, and hope for the right results in the other matches, to have any chance of progress. If they maintain their focus and put in the effort they did last week, there is no reason they can't get that result.
Win, Lose or Draw, Tigers Roar!