It had been a tough week for Smithswood in the build up to their top of the table clash against Rostance Edwards. Things got worse on the day as manager Paul Ryder struggled to name eleven players.
Captain Craig Evans couldn’t shake off his hip injury and will be a doubt for next weeks cup game too as he battles to regain his fitness. Anthony Short was hit by food poisoning during the week, which has seen him lose almost a stone in weight. The team was also crushed by the news that they will be without first choice goalkeeper David Stratford for a while. Ryder was also without Ed Godwood who was still unavailable following the birth of his child, Daniel Billingsley (work), Adam Hemming (holiday), Carl Thompson (suspended) and new signing Luca Scannella (injured).
Paul Ryder still had a strong squad going into the game but was then hit by three no shows as the team met up which meant they travelled without Nathan Leek, Carl Shiels and Nathaniel Darby.
Despite all the problems Smithswood Firs still had a good first eleven out and were confident they could give Rostance Edwards a tough game.
Smithswood were really fired up for the game and started really well. Daniel Wall got at their full back in the first minute whipping a cross in for new signing Aaron Keen. Keen hit the target but their keeper made a great save. Shortly after, Smithswood won a free kick following more great work from Wall, which Curtis Thomas curled in to find Wall but his header went just wide. Daniel Wall was causing them real problems early on.
Rostance Edwards also had an early chance as they hit a long range shot which was heading for the top corner. Grogan was quick to dive and deflect the ball away for a corner.
Smithswood made their early pressure tell ten minutes in with a great move which started at the back. Andrew Glenn stepped out with the ball and played it up to Matt Morton who held it up well and then slid it into Aaron Keen. Keen still had a defender to beat but he managed to get past him and coolly slid the ball under the advancing keeper to give Smithswood the lead.
There were some tough challenges flying in from both sides but the referee was letting the game flow so it was a bit surprising when he booked Andrew Glenn for a bad tackle considering the ones he had let go before.
Smithswood kept the pressure up and were really positive as they used the ball well. Adam Rooke and Andrew Glenn were called upon a few times but stepped out to intercept the ball and they looked in control at the back. They were two up just before the half hour mark from a Matt Morton free kick wide on the left. It looked like he may whip the ball across but instead went for goal. It looked like the keeper had it but the power on the shot deceived him and it went through his outstretched hands.
Smithswood were in control and almost made it three a minute later as Daniel Wall skinned their full back again and whipped an early cross in for Aaron Keen. Keen almost directed the ball into the corner despite being at full stretch and in mid air but it went narrowly wide as Smithswood tried to kill the game off.
Smithswood were in complete control of the game until ten minutes before the half when they committed football suicide. They failed to clear their lines at the back and rather than going for safety first, gave the ball away. Rostance Edwards wide man got into the box and was fouled giving away a clear penalty. They stepped up to hammer the ball into the back of the net and take advantage of the error.
Rostance Edwards were fired up after the goal and were on level terms within a minute. There didn’t seem to be any danger as they picked the ball up just inside the Smithswood half but they let them run at the defence. Smithswood didn’t get a challenge in as their attacker cut inside and hit a shot from 25 yards, which deflected past the keeper.
The teams went in at half time at 2-2. Smithswood had bossed the first half an hour but Rostance Edwards had definitely had the last fifteen minutes and it was definitely game on as the two teams treated the fans to a great entertaining game.
Paul Ryder couldn’t believe his team was in the dressing room all-square. They had been the better team and played some great football creating several good chances and had converted two of them but two lapses in concentration had given Rostance Edwards a way back into the game. They needed to come out up for it the second half. Ryder wanted his team to start defending first and stop trying to play their football from the back every time. Sometimes they need to hit the channels, or play it out and re-group rather than force a ball in and risk losing it and it coming straight back.
It was a controversial second half to say the least with both sides out in their technical area screaming at the ref in parts. The first incident came ten minutes in as the referee awarded Rostance Edwards their second penalty of the game. At first glance it looked like their player played the ball in to the box as the defender got his body in between the ball and the player to shield it as it rolled back towards his keeper. The linesman who was ten yards away with a clear view kept his flag down but the referee who was thirty yards away decided it was a penalty. They slotted it home to take the lead. After speaking to the ref who went and discussed it with the linesman, he said he thought he was in a better position despite his linesman saying no penalty.
Smithswood were obviously upset by the decision and really pushed on. The ball spent most of the time in the Rostance Edwards half for the first twenty minutes of the second half despite the penalty as Smithswood piled the pressure on. Curtis Thomas and Lee Harris were playing well in the centre of midfield and Thomas went close with a bullet shot that missed the keepers top corner by inches. Smithswoods pressure again paid off a few minutes later as Matt Morton held the ball up well and then shifted it on to Aaron Keen. Keen shifted the ball to the right, turned and fired the ball into the bottom corner to make it 3-3
Smithswood kept the pressure on and five minutes later had the ball in the back of the net only to have it ruled out by another controversial decision. Smithswood had a free kick on the edge of the area. The shot forced a fumbled save out of their keeper and Aaron Keen was the first to react coming from behind the defender to slot home for what he thought was his hat trick. The linesman flagged for off-side but it was obvious to everyone watching that Keen was at least a yard in front of the defender when the shot was initially hit. When the keeper spilled the shot he was standing in an off side position but the linesman didn’t take into account when the ball was first struck as it was clear to see that Keen was standing at least a yard in front of the defender and not behind him. A poor decision and one that could have turned the game for the tiring Smithswood team but instead it gave Rostance Edwards the lift they had needed as Smithswood had played most of the second half up until then in their half.
Like the first half, Smithswood then committed their second attempt at defensive suicide as Rostance Edwards had the last fifteen minutes of the half like the first half. They took the lead again as they got in behind the Smithswood defence a little too easily and slotted the ball home to make it 4-3. The final nail in the coffin for Smithswood came a little after as they allowed a Rostance Edwards player the freedom of the pitch as he dribbled through Smithswood too easily and managed to lob the ball in despite the keeper getting a touch on it.
At Full Time Rostance Edwards ran out 5-3 winners but the score didn’t tell the full story of the game. From a Smithswood point of view, going forward they were excellent and were in charge of the game until they conceded a penalty on the 34th minute and then lost two quick goals. The will feel aggrieved about the penalty decision, especially as the linesman closer to the incident didn’t think it was a penalty but the referee who was much further away did.
The disallowed goal was also a turning point as the threadbare Smithswood squad really put Rostance Edwards under pressure in the second half and to get back on level terms and then be denied what looked like a perfectly good goal was a cruel blow. Rostance Edwards deserve real credit as they took the chances gifted to them, which you can’t fault as they were clinical in front of goal.
Next up is Sutton United from Division 2 in the Birmingham Challenge Vase at the Mackadown next Saturday. Smithswood look back with fond memories of their earlier season 3-2 win against them at their ground in the Les James Challenge Cup. This game will be even tougher as Smithswood battle with their injuries so manager Paul Ryder may need to bring in some new blood, as he can’t afford to go another game with the management team on the subs bench and no depth to his match day squad.