It was a pleasant morning at Mayhill, and a much-appreciated later KO than usual. Still hanging on to the Autumn sunshine, the Tigers hosted the Hartley Wintney (HW) Eagles for the first derby match of the season. Both teams coming in off the back of disappointing recent results, both teams looking to improve.
The Tigers were reminded of the focus from last week's training session of defensive duties (across the pitch), with one player pressing and the next player backing up at distance to pick up the opponent if he beat his man. The players were told that they had to improve the consistency of their good performances and not switch off and gift the opposition cheap goals.
From the KO, the Tigers, to a man, attacked the game with real determination and grit. Superb pressing, really good backing up and some really nice positional discipline. Quick moving of the ball soon resulted in a fantastic opening goal for T Bu, coming from a lovely diagonal pass from T L on the right, a quick control and touch from T B in the middle before a nice low shot in to the bottom corner. Now all the Tigers had to do was keep control of the game. And, for the most part, they did. A high level of concentration, a high work rate, and a good intensity of football meant the Tigers were predominently on the front foot. However, a slight lapse in concentration in the last minute allowed HW to play some good football, with a little more determination to get the loose balls, resulting in an equaliser on the stroke of half time.
The positive approach from the Tigers from the start of the second half was great. Although they were warned not to throw themselves foward at the expense of their defensive duties, the forward players often dropped a little too deep which frustrated any real attacking options by the Tigers. Overall, whilst they still tended to have the edge in the game, the Tigers did start to lose a little bit of their first half vigour, as the inevitable fatigue crept in. This is where they will need to learn the maturity to realise they need to focus their efforts on keeping the opposition out, rather than running themselves out of gas charging forward.
As the tiredness crept in, so did a few basic errors. The Tigers must be more decisive in the attack, often looking for more touches than necessary when a quick pass in to the path of an attacking team mate would be more effective; they must be more decisive and go for the loose balls, rather than wait to see what happens, often losing out to the more decisive opposition; they must take the responsibility of getting hold of the ball, rather than assume a team mate (further away!) will get it; and they must not turn their backs when the opposition are looking to make a pass or clearance, a number of times a Tiger could have been on to a ball that came loose from such a pass/clearance.
A second goal from HW in the final minute of the match signalled a 4th consecutive defeat that was in no way deserved... But what happened next was the epitomy of the Tigers' ethos. A simple bit of communication between B E, T Bu and C N at the KO resulted in a quick pass to the left, T Bu putting a quick diagonal cross in towards the box, helped on by C N for B E to volley in the top corner! Barely 5 touches from the KO and the ball was in the back of the Eagles' net. An edge of the seat finish, 2-2 result, and a deserved something from a really good performance by the Tigers.
Interesting to note, most of the 14 goals conceded in the last 4 games have come from inside the box, predominently because the Tigers were not quick or urgent enough to just clear the ball when under pressure.
C N was awarded MoM for some very hard work leading the line; he held the ball up well on a number of occasions and topped his performance off with a nice onward touch to set up the last gasp equaliser.
Win, Lose or Draw, Tigers Roar!