Home cup match played on 17 October 2015.
Kicked off at 2:00 PM

The Lions went into this game on the back of five straight wins with morale within the team at an all time high. The team spirit in recent games and training has been excellent and Paul Ryder’s men have been able to play at a level recently that at times for the opposition has been simply impossible to cope with.

With the visit of Henley Forest came the chance to continue their run and try and get a cup run going, something that has been missing in previous years for this club. Smithswood Firs were favourites for this game but credit has to be given to Henley Forest as they certainly made us work for the win and are a credit to their manager, supporters and league.

Smithswood Firs were unchanged from last weeks 8-1 mauling of Alcester Town but just couldn’t get going in the first half. A main factor in our recent play has been the ability to dominate midfield and possession and control the tempo of the game. We have used different formations recently with a flat four, diamond or a three in the midfield but have been able to keep the high levels the same and dominate. In the first half this didn’t happen as we were forced to try and go long and our creative players Curtis Thomas, Ash Weeks, Nathan Leek and Aaron Anderson just couldn’t get enough of the ball to dictate the game. That put the pressure on the front pairing of Sam Hulme and Danny Charlton to try and work of scraps and high balls rather than receiving it into feet or in behind the way they like which plays to their strengths.

Credit has to be given to Henley Forest for stopping our midfield from getting a hold on the game and it was our defence that had to be on their game and concentrate in the opening half as Henley Forest looked to hit us from set pieces and were a threat with their height. Adam Rooke and Carl Thompson stood strong while Tyrone Borland and Jack Duffy looked to try and give attacking options wide when they had the ball but the formation didn’t seem to be working in the first half. Lewis Cottrill was solid again and claimed everything that came his way but never really looked troubled.

Nathan Leek was designed to be the holding player with Anderson, Thomas and Weeks ahead of him but he only had a few chances in the first half to pick the ball up deep. His game always carries the threat with his passing range and he can switch the ball with a 50-yard precision pass but the width just wasn’t there in the first half to allow him to do it.

Everyone knew in the dressing room at half time that they had to work better and the midfield had to get into the game and take control to start creating chances. To try and get the width the midfield changed to a flat four with Thomas and Anderson tasked with getting the width and it seemed to work as Ash Weeks started to take control of the game and get more of the ball. Him and Nathan Leek got more time on the ball with Thomas and Anderson occupying the opposition which then gave them the options to spread the ball wide.

It only took a minute to take the lead in the second half as Jack Duffy picked the ball up inside the opposition half. He whipped a ball into the box and Sam Hulme took it perfectly on his chest beating the defender in the same move and fired home to give his team the lead. Hulme has settled really quick since his signing and has been excellent for us and is in great form.

The team created more chances and the second goal came through a great flowing team move. Thomas picked the ball up and put Danny Charlton wide who ran at the full back and whipped a great cross in for Sam Hulme who buried it at the back post for this second of the game. Hulme and Charlton were playing together up top for the second straight game and are starting to build up a great understanding.

Paul Ryder’s team could have had a few more on the day as Danny Charlton beat the last man and rounded the keeper only to get a horrible bobble as he hit his shot, Sam Hulme hit the bar and Aaron Anderson had a great chance but fired wide.

The third goal came in the last ten minutes through quick thinking from Jack Duffy who took a quick free kick to Curtis Thomas. He was wide right and jinked past two defenders and hit a bullet left foot shot in the bottom corner giving the keeper no chance.

A clean sheet and a solid three goal win is good enough to take the team into the Second Round draw. We stay with the cup games next week in the Challenge Vase. This is the league cup and one that we really want to win this season. We host Coventrians who are the team who beat us in the league before we won the last six games so Paul Ryder will be looking to set the record straight and book his team a place in the next round and make it seven wins on the bounce.

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