Smithswood Firs went into today’s game unbeaten. They were on a high after knocking out Division 2 team Sutton United last week to progress in the Les James Challenge Cup and had won five out of five in all competitions so far this season.
Following last weeks injury list, Paul Ryder was sweating on a few last minute calls and was also hit by two unwanted problems before the game. Firstly, Daniel Wall pulled out of the squad and then Aaron Anderson who was starting, pulled up with a hamstring injury in the warm up.
Smithswood Starting Line-Up:
McKenna, Rooke, Evans (Capt), Billingsley
Godwood, Thomas, Taylor, Harris
Subs: Cottrill, Glenn, Shiels, Thompson
Paul Ryder wanted his team to start better than they did last week and getting the first goal was important. He wanted them to get at Northfield and get the ball down and play it around.
No team really took control early on as it was a scrappy start. Adam Hemming looked the most threatening in the opening twenty minutes and clearly had the beating of the Northfield defence. He was watching the line well and was playing off the shoulder of the last man and had him beaten for pace. Ed Godwood was the first to play him in with a quality through ball but the defender managed to block the shot for a corner. From the corner Craig Evans rose to win the header but it was cleared off the line.
Will McKenna and Ed Godwood switched roles early on with Godwood moving to right back and McKenna moving to right midfield as Smithswood changed things slightly.
Smithswood took the lead twenty-five minutes in with a great team move. Lee Harris won a header in the opposition half heading it onto Anthony Short. Short held it up with his strength, spun his man and played it in behind the full back for Adam Hemming. Hemming didn’t panic and calmly squared the ball for Curtis Thomas who stroked the ball into the net past the keeper.
It should have been two a few minutes as Smithswood put together the move of the game. It came down the right with some great one-twos between Curtis Thomas, Will McKenna and Ed Godwood. Adam Hemming took the ball wide right and dinked a cross for Lee Harris. Harris got ahead of the defender but directed it narrowly wide. It was great football from Smithswood.
Stuart Taylor and Curtis Thomas started to control the midfield. Both were comfortable on the ball and were trying to find that pass that would split the defence in behind or get one of the wide players through with their great range of passing.
Smithswood were looking solid at the back with Adam Rooke and Craig Evans clearing anything that came near them. Godwood was working well with McKenna down the right and Daniel Billingsley was having one of his best games for Smithswood and was impressive both defensively and going forward.
Craig Evans forced a save from the Northfield keeper with a 25-yard free kick, which was tipped over the bar and Anthony Short had a fantastic chance when Curtis Thomas found him free in the middle but his shot came off his shin and went just wide of the post.
David Stratford was penalised in the box by the referee who said he had controlled the ball with his hand before it touched the ground and then picked it back up again. It was a dubious decision, as Stratford clearly didn’t catch the ball but Northfield found themselves with a free-kick six yards from goal. Everyone in the wall threw himself at the ball and they cleared it to safety.
Smithswood doubled their lead just before half time as Stuart Taylor put a great ball into Adam Hemming. Hemming controlled the ball brilliantly as he brought it down and slid a first time ball in behind the defence for Anthony Short. Short used his strength to get on it ahead of the defender and then had the composure to round the keeper and tap the ball in to make it 2-0.
At half time Paul Ryder was happy with things but pointed out that his team could play much better and had a few more gears to go through if they needed to. There were more goals out there for them but the most important thing was to keep the clean sheet and win the game.
The second half didn’t have as many chances as the first. Curtis Thomas hit a 35-yard shot early on but it went over the bar. Northfield Town had their first chance on the hour with a shot from outside the box, which went wide of the post.
Carl Thompson replaced Lee Harris and Smithswood should have got a third following more great work from Adam Hemming, this time on the left. He skinned the full back and unselfishly laid the ball on for Anthony Short who chose to try and place his shot but it hit the defender and was cleared to safety.
Carl Shiels replaced Stuart Taylor.
David Stratford hadn’t had anything to do but was made to make his first save with a quarter of an hour to go as he comfortably gathered a shot down low.
Andrew Glenn replaced the impressive Daniel Billingsley.
Carl Shiels had a half chance as Adam Hemming and Will McKenna worked the ball well down the right. It was laid back to Shiels who hit a shot forcing the keeper make a save.
Craig Evans had to come off the pitch in the last ten minutes for treatment as he came out of a challenge with a cut between his nose and eye, which wouldn’t stop bleeding. Following some good work from the Northfield physio he came back on to continue winning challenges and headers with Adam Rooke. Carl Thompson picked up a late yellow card for a late tackle as Smithswood played the game out comfortably.
At the full time whistle it finished Smithswood Firs 2 Northfield Town 0 sending Paul Ryder's team top of the table with games in hand too and preserves their 100% record.
Paul Ryder was happy with the clean sheet but will know his team have more gears to go through should they need them, They created chances and should have probably had four goals at least. His defence continues to look solid with Evans, Rooke and Stratford at the heart of it. As mentioned earlier, Daniel Billingsley had one of his best games and Ed Godwood and Will McKenna worked well down the right alternating positions. McKenna showed another side to his game today with his attacking ability and fitness levels as he supported the front two. Lee Harris battled well again wide left even though he didn’t get as much of the ball as he would like as most of the attacks were going down the opposite side but showed his class when he did get the ball. Curtis Thomas and Stuart Taylor were impressive in the center of the pitch controlling the ball for a lot of the game while the front two of Adam Hemming and Anthony Short were a constant threat up top. Short was again excellent at holding the ball up and bringing his team-mates into good positions and Hemming terrorised the back four all game with his pace and movement. Carl Shiels and Carl Thompson added defensive stability at the end of the game and Andrew Glenn showed he can play anywhere across the back four slotting in at left back.
Paul Ryder also has a lot of players who didn’t get on the pitch today who just add to his squad depth. Aaron Anderson, Lewis Cottrill, Chris Else, Jake Grogan, Nathan Leek, Renaldo Mayers, Robert Sheldrake and Daniel Wall didn’t get on today but give the manager some fantastic options once they are all fit and available.
Next week will bring a different test as the Challenge Vase gets underway for Smithswood with the visit of Rostance Edwards to the Mackadown.