Steady rain over the past 12 hours rendered the playing surface of Winscombe U14s’ Theatre of Dreams particularly greasy, but the home side hit their groove right from the first minute, showing commitment in the tackle and imagination in their forward play. The chances came thick and fast in the early exchanges: Palmer saw his header from a pinpoint Cook cross ruled offside, Gait had a goal-bound effort tipped away by St George’s excellent keeper, and Neary fired a scorcher just beyond the far post.
Winscombe continued to press, with a Cook effort parried away, swiftly followed by a raking drive from Coates that was touched over the bar. Then came the breakthrough – and it was a move straight off the training ground. A deep, hanging corner from Cook was met by the head of the unmarked Coates. 1-0.
That it had taken Winscombe 21 minutes to break the deadlock was testament to the acrobatics and safe hands of St George’s keeper. A minute later, the home team’s own number one, Lovell, got his first touch of the ball – further evidence of Winscombe’s dominance. Seconds later, a second goal looked odds-on when Coates sprinted clear of the defence. His first shot was well-saved and he then saw his follow-up ping off the crossbar. St George’s luck couldn’t hold out though and when Palmer’s shot was parried by the keeper, Sinclair was on hand to gratefully double the score. Palmer had another attempt on goal before the half-time whistle, but his neat flick was cleared off the line.
Winscombe’s attacking flair showed no sign of abating in the second half, despite the absence of the traditional oranges during the break. Coates had a header saved at point-blank range, but a third goal felt inevitable. And it came within four minutes of the restart when Brean’s blocked shot fell to Cook who coolly netted. 3-0.
From then on, the floodgates were well and truly open, and a torrent of goals poured into the St George net. The fourth came from the slickest move of the match, when Neary and Coates combined on the left to play in Cook who smashed the ball home. 4-0. The fifth arrived four minutes later when a low cross from Hale was smartly turned in by a swivelling Sinclair for his second of the game. 5-0. The wet and bedraggled crowd didn’t have long to wait for number six, when Neary’s free-kick from near the right-hand corner flag was met at the back post by Dawe for his first goal for the club. 6-0.
Hopes of the first clean sheet of the season were punctured when a strong St George counter-attack found their centre-forward penetrating the Winscombe defence. Lovell made a sharp save from the original shot, but was unable to keep out the striker’s follow-up. 6-1.
Winscombe’s response? To go straight down the other end and re-establish their six-goal cushion. A clever flick from Hale found the ever-busy Palmer who slammed an arrow-straight drive into the top corner, drawing applause even from the sizeable travelling support. 7-1.
Number eight arrived three minutes later when Hale scored his fourth of the season, drilling home after Sinclair’s cheeky back-heel. Still Winscombe weren’t finished and, as further proof of lessons learned at Tuesday-night training, Brean brilliantly attacked Cook’s cross to head into the top corner. 9-1. Double figures were reached before the final whistle when St George’s keeper, after an admirable performance that had kept the score down throughout, made a poor clearance which was punished by Hale, who notched up his second of the game and fifth of the season. 10-1.
Following the previous week’s dominant display, this was an even more assured team performance. Those summer acquisitions have bolstered the squad which now plays with commitment and fluency for the full 70 minutes. Sixteen goals scored in two matches, and only two conceded, sends a strong message to all those teams around them. Watch out!