Return to Form
By Daniel Halstead
A much better performance than the last one!
After last week we needed to find our feet quickly again, but we were handed a challenging looking fixture away to Downend Saints. We had worked on our game at training and arrived ready to put in a fairer showing of our ability. We welcomed Toby back this week and he started behind a back four of Dex, Max, Harry and Mike. Olly took a new position as a deep lying midfielder behind James and Kyran whilst Joel, Harvey and Cody started up front. Josh was nursing a knee injury, so started on the bench.
The game was a full-blooded affair from the outset with both sides refusing to be bullied off the ball. The game ebbed and flowed for the first 20 minutes as we tried to get the ball under control and use the width a little better. Downend had one shot early on that cannoned off the bar and Dex had a well timed clearance off the line from a corner, but the game was incredibly close. It took a moment of real quality to break the deadlock and this came when James squared the ball on the edge of the area to Harvey. Just as it looked like Downend had got him covered, he stepped inside and curled a perfect shot into the top right hand corner to give us the lead. This was the kind of start we needed and the this was something to build on. However we did the unthinkable and switched off and hopeful looking cross from Downend found their striker unmarked from four yards out to turn the ball home. Not ideal.
However we were not going to let that dampen our enthusiasm and determination to get a result. In truth we were already much improved from last week. Dex and Max were working very well as full backs, letting little past and being strong in the tackle. Harry and Mike dovetailed well together as a centre back pairing, a good combination of strong in the air and quick at the back. Toby had a quiet first half, but in the second had more to do and made some important interceptions and saves. Olly looked comfortable in his new deeper role and was key in linking up play and moving us forward. James and Kyran started dominating the midfield with the former having lots of time and space but finding himself getting clipped a lot.
We went in at half time all square, but feeling positive. Joel took a rest and we brought Josh on. He worked well and soon played through any issues he had with his knee, at one stage he rounded 2 or 3 at close quarters in the box before being crowded out. Cody was demonstrating his good first touch throughout and Harvey looked a menace with his pace troubling the Downend defence. It was foul to Harvey on the right of the penalty area that gave us a free kick in a great position. We had a large number of corners already, but we were struggling to find Harry’s head with Downend being quite a large team. Kyran spotted a gap and fired a low hard cross in to the gap between defenders and keeper and the ensuing confusion saw the ball break for Mike who turned the ball in to the unguarded net.
Joel was sent back on for Olly who was tiring and he performed the same defensive shield role with great effort and helped us battle on to the end of the game. Downend threw everything at us late on and Toby made a couple of good saves to keep us ahead, but we stood up tall and almost got another goal on two occasions with Cody being flagged offside and Harvey unable to take a chance late on, but we got over the line and rediscovered the winning feeling.
A good resolute performance and a pleasing return to form.
Man of the Match: Max Bracey – Epitomised the improvement in application and concentration the team showed since last week – barely put a foot wrong all game.