Saturdays trip to Continental Star was being talked about as a must win for Paul Ryder’s Smithswood Firs side as they are right in the relegation fight. It is important that they win the games against the teams around them. Bottom side Continental Star will have been thinking the same so it was going to be a tough battle as both sides looked to gain three points.
Ryder had selection problems with Zach Cogger, Henry Donaghey, Harry Gardiner, Nathan Leek, Richard Robinson, Adam Rooke and Anthony Short all out for various reasons. New signing Troy Smith was not fit so also missed out and impressive youngster Khalil Harrison had a chest infection but still turned up and took a place on the bench showing a great attitude to want to play for the team. Before the game he had won November's Player of the Month award so he really wanted to play but it was decided not to risk him from the start.
With the long list of players out it meant a start for Smithswood Firs legend Carl Thompson who was re-signed in the week as cover as he took a spot in a new back three with Rammal Robinson and Ash Weeks in front of keeper Lewis Cottrill. Dale Hewitt and Aaron Anderson were given the tough wing back roles with regulars Martin Carwford and Curtis Thomas in the middle. Trea Bertie was given a free role in behind Sam Hulme who was partnered up top with Tyron Smith. Here is how they lined up;
Rammal Robinson, Ash Weeks, Carl Thompson
Aaron Anderson, Curtis Thomas (Capt), Martin Crawford, Dale Hewitt
Sam Hulme, Tyron Smith
Subs: Stefan Ciesar, Khalil Harrison, Paul Ryder
Both teams’ players and staff observed a minute’s silence before the game as a mark of respect to those who lost their lives in the recent plane crash in Colombia including many players and staff from Brazilian side Chapecoense.
It was a great entertaining game from the start but the away side tried to stamp their quality on the match early on as they controlled early possession. Dale Hewiit went close first with a marauding run in from the left as he played a neat one two with Sam Hulme which split the defence but he put his shot narrowly wide.
Smithswood had a lapse in concentration which left them three against one from a cross but Lewis Cottrill was quick to make a save and even quicker to let his defence know how upset he was about the overload against them. Smithswood settled after the scare though and continued to bombard the Continental Star goal with their penetrating attacks. Tyron Smith volleyed narrowly over the bar before creating a chance for Sam Hulme who beat two on the edge of the area but also fired just over the bar. The two combined again this time Hulme creating the chance for Smith who watched agonisingly as the keeper got a small touch on the ball to tip his shot wide as the lions pushed on for the goal.
Trea Bertie was causing problems in the free role and had two great chances to score. Sam Hulme created the first as he won the ball back but Bertie lifted the shot over the bar and then the keeper made a great save after he beat the off-side trap but he was getting ever closer to breaking the deadlock. Bertie then beat the off-side trap again and was about to get the ball and be one on one with when he was taken out by the onrushing keeper outside the area which left the referee with no choice but to send him off.
The pressure was growing even more on Continental Star after the sending off and they couldn’t hold out as Smithswood Firs scored with a great move. Aaron Anderson and Martin Crawford worked the ball down the right and Crawford picked out Tyron Smith in the area and he buried the chance.
Just after the half it looked like they had made it 2-0 as Sam Hulme buried a cross from Dale Hewitt but the linesman flagged Hulme for off-side. Trea Bertie then had to come off with a knock and was replaced by Stefan Ciesar.
Continental Star were not really threatening Smithswood Firs with Ash Weeks, Carl Thompson and the impressive youngster Rammal Robinson controlling everything from the back. They were allowing Dale Hewitt and Aaron Anderson freedom to push on and they were getting in some great positions.
The second goal came from a set piece as Curtis Thomas delivered for Martin Crawford who powered the ball home and the away side looked comfortable which is always a worry at 2-0 as a goal for the other team can change the game and Continental Star looked to do just that. It was a mistake from Carl Thompson who lost the ball instead of clearing his lines and they squared the ball for a tap in. Thompson had been fantastic up until then and it just shows how one mistake at this level can result in a goal but he was excellent all game.
The reaction from Smithswood Firs was fantastic though and they restored their two-goal lead within four minutes with a great move. Stefan Ciesar put Tyron Smith through but the ball went a bit too far for him. He chased the defender down and won it back and squared it for Sam Hulme who this time slotted home without the flag going up.
Khalil Harrison came on for Sam Hulme who had felt his hamstring in the first half and the manager didn’t want to risk him any longer than he had to and then Paul Ryder came on himself as Dale Hewitt picked up a knock late on.
Tyron Smith went close again before the end after beating the defence but he pushed his shot just past the post. It was the manager Paul Ryder who created their fourth and final goal as he picked it up in midfield and threaded it through the defence for Stefan Ciesar who calmly rounded the keeper and slotted home. Ciesar went close shortly after with a long range shot but the keeper made a great save and then Carl Thompson had a header cleared off the line.
Continental Star got a goal in the last minute as they found some space in the box and slotted home bottom corner but it was a great 4-2 win for Smithswood Firs.
It was a good performance which pleased all the staff at the club. They coped with the new formation well with young Rammal Robinson impressing alongside the experienced Carl Thompson and Ash Weeks in his first start for the club and he ran Tyron Smith close for Man of the Match but Smith was exceptional getting on the scoresheet, assisting and creating so many chances for his team as he was a constant threat and put in a great shift with his exceptional work rate.
Smithswood Firs host Droitwich Spa next week as they look to make it back to back wins.