Unbeaten Smithswood Firs travelled to Leamington Hibernian for their third league game of the season. The pitch wasn’t the best and uneven all over with patches without grass on but manager Paul Ryder still sent out his team to try and play their normal passing style.
Starting Line Up: -
McKenna, Rooke, Evans (Capt), Godwood
Thomas, Shiels, Thompson, Harris
Glenn, Leek, Taylor, Wall, Anderson
Before the game the manager wanted to ensure that his team didn’t have a half like they did last week against Redditch Borough. They were extremely poor in that first half and had gone in behind so Paul Ryder wanted his team to come flying out the blocks. They certainly listened to him as Adam Hemming went close in the first few minutes. Hemming spun wide and had the pace to get in behind the full back forcing a good save from the keeper. It was a great early chance and wouldn’t be the first time that Hemming would get the better of their back four. A few minutes later Craig Evans stepped out of defence to intercept a pass and pinged a 40-yard ball behind the defence. Adam Hemming got in behind them again as his pace was causing them problems but this time fired wide of the goal.
Leamington Hibernian was obviously used to playing on this uneven pitch and they were playing route one football. Every time they had the ball at the back they tried to hit their young number 9 up top but Craig Evans and Adam Rooke were up for the challenge. They worked well and there was always one of them going for the header with the other sweeping up behind. Leamington also tried to put the ball high behind the full backs and Will McKenna and Ed Godwood came under some pressure but they were more than up for the challenge early on as Smithswood settled against their long balls.
Chances were few and far between in the first half hour with Craig Evans having the only real chance from a Curtis Thomas corner but his header was cleared by the defence. Smithswood tried to play their passing style but the pitch wasn’t helping them out as they struggled to get the breakthrough.
It came on the half hour though, following some great work from Lee Harris. Harris hadn’t been in the game until then as all Smithswood’s attacks had gone down the right and he wasn’t getting the ball but he came inside to win it back and angled a great pass to Adam Hemming who again beat the last man. He was denied again by a great save from the keeper but as the defence cleared the ball from the resulting corner, Craig Thompson fired the ball into the net from outside the box to give his team the lead.
Smithswood started to control the game and soon made it 2-0. Lee Harris again moved inside to get on the ball and threaded an inch perfect pass through the defence to Adam Hemming who deservedly got his goal slotting it calmly under the keeper. He had made some great runs in the first half pulling out wide to support Will McKenna and Curtis Thomas down the right while also playing off Anthony Short who was controlling the ball at his feet excellently. Hemming was causing them real problems at the back, as they couldn’t handle his pace.
The two goals made the managers team talk easier and he was happy that they were controlling the game and the only threat against them was from the high ball. He wanted them to listen to each other more and work better as a team and be positive on the pitch. As long as they kept it tight at the back he was sure there were more goals in this game for them but it was important to keep a clean sheet. He wanted them to get at Leamington in the first ten minutes and get that third goal.
Ryder’s team did exactly what they were asked and were 3-0 up within two minutes of the restart. Carl Thompson intercepted the ball in midfield and surged forward unleashing a bullet shot into the bottom corner giving the keeper no chance at all.
Smithswood made three changes before the end of the half with Aaron Anderson coming on for Carl Shiels, Stuart Taylor replacing two goal Carl Thompson and Nathan Leek for Lee Harris. Leamington was still playing the long ball and anytime they managed to get wide and cross, David Stratford was claiming everything in the air. Stratford and his back four were working hard to ensure they kept their clean sheet.
Anthony Short was booked by the referee for what he deemed to be a bad tackle on the poor lad who appeared to have been shot ten minutes before when he took a dive without anyone near him. It sparked a few jeers from the sidelines and his own teammates as everyone looked worriedly for the killer bumblebee that must have got him.
Smithswood completed their performance with two goals in the last five minutes. Curtis Thomas had been cool all game with the ball at his feet. He kept it simple and started attacks and was always free to have the ball no matter how tightly he was marked. Thomas crossed into the box and Aaron Anderson was stronger than their defender and got in front of him to fire the ball past the keeper. They saved the best till last with a goal of real quality. David Stratford hit his kick wide left, which looked like it was going out for a throw in. Aaron Anderson didn’t give it up though and kept it in with great control playing it back to Stuart Taylor who was in space. Anthony Short gave Taylor the call and spun in behind the full back as Taylor lobbed a perfect pass over to him. Short controlled it first time and held the ball up with his back to goal as he waited for Anderson to make the run in behind. When it came Short hit a sublime back heel, which put him clear. Anderson spotted Hemming in the middle and fired a cross, which Hemming met to fire home and complete a quality move from Smithswood. As the team was celebrating the ref signaled for the goal but didn’t realise Nathan Leek was behind him. Comedy followed as the ref left Leek doubled up after hitting him full on in the plums.
Smithswood Firs ran out comfortable 5-0 winners. The clean sheet was pleasing as well as the goals on what was a poor pitch. Smithswood still looked like they had a few more gears to go up which they may well need next week and when you look at the players who didn’t even get on the pitch, the squad looks strong as they continued their 100% record.
Next up is Division 2’s Sutton United, which will be their biggest challenge so far this season as they look to progress in the Les James Challenge Cup.