Smithwood Firs went into today’s game in good form and have been showing a great team spirit in the dressing room this season.
Paul Ryder had some tough decisions to make with his starting line up, as competition for places was high for the visit of Redditch Borough. He went with the following team sheet for the game, naming himself on the bench due to a last minute withdrawal.
McKenna, Evans (Capt), Glenn, Godwood
Taylor, Shiels, Rooke, Harris
Subs: Anderson, Ryder, Shenton, Taylot, Thompson
The game got off to an unfortunate start with one of the Redditch Boroughs players getting a bad injury in the second minute. He went down and twisted his knee badly screaming out in agony and had to be carried off.
Smithswood’s football in the first half was probably the worst they have played since Ryder’s new squad was put together for pre-season. They had a few half chances with Adam Hemming chasing down a back pass and managing to deflect the clearance but it bounced high and wide of the goal for the keeper to get back and claim. Lee Harris had a shot saved down low after being teed up by Adam Hemming who had been put through by Stuart Taylor. Their only other chance came from a Stuart Taylor corner, which Craig Evans narrowly headed over.
All the positive football was coming from Redditch Borough though as Smithswood gave them too much time on the ball. They were going unchallenged in the middle of the pitch giving them free runs at the defence and Craig Evans was being called upon to cover and clean up too many times for the managers liking. It wasn’t the same organised defence we have seen the past few weeks and they were holding on at the end of the first half to try and get in without conceding a goal. They couldn’t quite do it as Redditch Borough took the lead with a minute to go. Their midfielder was again unchallenged in the middle of the pitch as he controlled a ball played into him from defence and had a clear run at the Smithswood defence. He shifted the ball to the left of the advancing David Stratford and passed the ball into the net.
The Smithswood Firs dressing room wasn’t a nice place to be at half time as Paul Ryder ripped into his team. The bottom line was they were second best in every position on the pitch and any one of them could have been substituted. The team were too quiet, there was no talking anywhere on the pitch other than their Captain Craig Evans. Their organisation was not as good as usual as the opposition was getting too much time on the ball and there were no challenges for the second ball when they lost the initial one. Smithswood’s first two wins of the season were built around their excellent passing game but they hadn’t put together any passing passages of play worthy of any credit in the first half. Ryder wanted them to get out and play how they have been the past few weeks. Carl Thompson came on for William McKenna who was the unfortunate player to be taken off, as it really could have been anyone chosen by the manager. Andrew Glenn moved to right back and Adam Rooke moved to partner Craig Evans at the back so Thompson could move to his defensive midfield position.
It took five minutes for Smithswood to get the equaliser but there was an element of luck involved. It came following some great work from Stuart Taylor wide right as he picked out Lee Harris on the edge of the area. He hit his shot low but it looked like an easy save for the keeper, however he spilled it while diving low and it went in for a goal.
It was a different Smithswood Firs after the goal. The defence was solid and organised and clearing everything that came their way. Carl Thompson had made a real difference in the middle of the pitch and this had also revitalised Carl Shiels who was a man on a mission in the second half, closing and chasing down the opposition. Lee Harris and Stuart Taylor were threatening on the flanks and Adam Hemming and Anthony Short were holding everything that came into them to create chances for their teammates.
It was 2-1 on the hour mark as Anthony Short was put through on the left but he had to battle hard against two defenders to hold the ball up by the corner flag. He was strong and had the vision to pick out Lee Harris who was supporting him on the edge of the area. Harris slid a quality ball in behind the defence and Adam Hemming fired the ball hard and low into the bottom corner. A quality team move and there only looked like being one winner as Smithswood were on top and playing more like the team we know.
Paul Ryder made two changes to freshen things up in the last half hour bringing Curtis Thomas on for Stuart Taylor and Aaron Anderson for Adam Hemming who had run himself into the ground up top.
Anthony Short went close in the last twelve minutes firing a bullet shot from 30 yards, which was brilliantly tipped over by the keeper. Smithswood almost scored from the resulting corner as Carl Shiels whipped in a quality corner, which somehow managed to miss everyone in the box and go out.
The win was secured in the eighty-first minute. Curtis Thomas attacked down the right and unleashed a shot hard and low which their keeper brilliantly pushed onto the post and out for a corner. Thomas fired the corner into the near post for Lee Harris who flicked it on for Craig Evans. Evans headed into the back of the net to make it 3-1.
Paul Ryder was extremely happy with the way his team had turned the game around and the second half performance was ten times better than their poor first half display. He will be keen to ensure their first half display doesn’t happen again so may need to look at the way they warm up or change the times they go out as they will get punished if they do it too many times and won’t have the chance to get back into the game.
Smithswood Firs now face two away trips, next Saturday at Leamington Hibernian in the league who have lost their two league games so far and a cup game today on penalties. Their focus then shifts to the Les James Challenge Cup First Round against Sutton United and a chance to test themselves against the level of team they want to be playing against next season.