The buzz could be felt throughout the dressing room as Sporting 87 'A' Team prepared for their first game in Suffolk and Ipswich League's Divison 6. After a season last year that ended with two points won, the first game of the season gave the 'A' Team an opportunity to bag more points in one game than in an entire season.
The stakes and hopes were high as the whistle sounded for kick off.
From the off the A's showed energy and a willingness to win back the ball and Matt Barton put in some hard but well time challenges on several occasions to help establish a foothold in the game. The opposition did there best to unsettle a resolute 'A' Team side but there efforts were in vain when around fifteen minutes into the game Daniel Herrera put in a challenge that fell kindly at the feet of Jaime Rodwell who poked through a pass into the line of Pete Collinson, the keepers poor attempt at a clearence resulted in Collinson dispatching a well placed shot into the back of the net. Flashback to last season and you would forgive anyone watching for thinking it was only a matter of time before The A's conceded and low and behold it was AFC Titans who struck next to pull their side level with a mix up in the box which allowed their forward to slot past Dan Page in goal.
This was not the A Team of old however and immediately they piled on the pressure, Mike Ginn putting in a great effort to win the ball back time and again. The resulting pressure lead to a throw in on the far side and Paul Stebbings stepped up to take it. Having delivered several times into the box Stebbings sent his throw backwards to a hovering Herrera who controlled quickly and sent in a cross that Collinson latched onto and slid his second of the game into the back of a now frustrated AFC Titans net. Not to be out done a dangerously quiet Nick Bailey burst into life as he sprung the offside trap to tap in the A's third of the game. There was much controversy regarding several key refereeing decisions however after a show of authority from referee Odyebade resulting in the booking of AFC Titans defender the match continued and so did Sporting's domination. Some staltward defending at the back by Honeyball, Taylor, Stebbings and Warnock kept AFC Titans at bay. A further showing of grit and pressure resulted in a terribly under hit back pass to AFC Titans Keeper and Bailey was the first to react, like a bolt of lightning Bailey raced to the ball to round the keeper and tap in Sporting's fourth of the half. The half was drawing to a close as Collinson picked up the ball and drove hard and fast into AFC Titans box unleashing a pinpoint cross that found Bailey at the back post who squeezed in his shot low and hard under a helpless keeper. The whistle blew as the A's enjoyed a 5-1 lead at the break something not matched since 2011 in a game against Wickhambrook.
The second half started and had not long been played when Matt Barton announced his intentions for the season by unleashing a rifling 20yrd shot that took a wicked deflection to take the ball past a static AFC Titan keeper. Not surprisingly Sporting had taken their foot off the gas slightly now as Taylor and Honeyball had to make several key interceptions and tackles. Warnock continued to endeavor down the left side and tried to graft something for the side to no avail. Daryl Manning and the out going Jim Miller took to the field mid way through the second half and injected some energy into a now tiring side and the added energy paid off with some dangerous moves in the latter stages of the second half with Miller powerhousing a shot over the bar and Manning putting in several good deliveries. It would be AFC Titans who would be the last to notch however when a freekick was converted from a Stebbings foul when the ball found its way through a crowd of players to nestle into the bottom corner of Page's net.
The final whistle blew and scenes of jubilation could be seen across the pitch as the A's finally chalked up 3 points, A first league win in over a year and smashing last seasons points total in one game.
Manager Mark Crawford could be seen beeming from the sidelines as his hard work and efforts behind the scenes had paid off.
Sporting will be hoping that this was no fluke but a sign of things to come in SIL DIV6.