Last Game of 2017 is a Corker
Another few weeks have gone by without a game and then in the final week before Christmas we were faced with the unbeaten Longwell Green at home. The pitch conditions were not great but definitely playable. Injuries still kept Toby and Dex out, so we only had the bare minimum of 12 , but decided to retain the system and move players as needed. Harry played for the final time in goal with Flynn at right back and Joel taking left back. Emmanuel and Max were the centre back pairing with Kyran anchoring a midfield behind Liam and Olly. Elijah and Cody flanked Mike in a front three with Josh taking a spot on the bench.
We knew what our aims were early in the game and set about the task in hand. We concentrated on possession and good crisp passing and it was early in the first half as we worked an opportunity on the right hand side with the ball finding Olly towards the edge of the area. He found Joel in space who had joined from left back and his shot arched in powerfully over the Longwell Green keeper for a great start. We were playing well and Emmanuel and Max kept a good defensive line remaining strong. Emmanuel was particularly powerful and one break from the back saw him cut through Longwell's attack and then midfield before his through ball found Mike perfectly. Mike pushed his shot past the keeper, but unfortunately it hit the post and bounced away to safety. However we were not having matters to ourselves and Longwell Green were getting a foothold in the game and their powerful number 3 was dictating play in the middle. Mid-way through the first half, they managed to find away through and appeared to have scored an equaliser, but the flag was up for offside. We continued our own attacks and Elijah curled a few dangerous balls into the box, Liam had an effort from range and Cody smashed a volley straight at the keeper as we sought to extend our lead. However before the half ended Longwell Green found an equaliser despite our defensive efforts. The first half came to a close all square.
We decided to change it around at half time in order to get some control back in the centre. We moved Elijah to the centre to add some size and Joel went left forward with Josh coming on at left back in place of Olly. The second half started well and we quickly shut down the centre of Longwell Green's midfield. Elijah and Kyran grabbed control in the middle keeping it tight and Liam was available to try and make the links with our attack. A Longwell Green corner was cleared by Elijah and he ran nearly 50 yards before slipping Mike in to finish, but this time it was our turn to have the goal ruled out by the linesman's flag. We were not to be deterred for long though as Joel took matters into his hands with a powerful run bearing 3 people down the left hand side. As he reached the area he floated a perfect cross for Mike who was clear in the centre and he headed the ball home to make it 2-1. We were confident now and the front line were chasing everything. Cody was seeing plenty of the ball and we looked like we were in the ascendency. Joel showed more strength down the left hand side dispossessing a Longwell Green defender and finding another cross to Mike who powerfully drove the ball home and extended our lead to 3-1. The defence was working hard to maintain our advantage and Josh slipped into his role well keeping his flank clear of danger. Whilst Longwell Green did have chances, they were comfortably at bay by Harry who was having an excellent game in goal - his distribution to find the forwards was especially pleasing too.
Olly came back on for Cody as we looked to close the game out, but we did not contend with an exciting final 10 minutes. A Longwell corner was not well cleared and the ensuing melee saw a rash challenge and a penalty awarded against us. The penalty was well taken, but Harry got very close and the game was now 3-2 with limited time remaining. There was some intelligent play to close out the time working the ball towards the corners, but actually in the end we took more decisive action. A throw on the right saw Olly squeeze the ball to Elijah and he rolled it on again to Joel who smashed the ball home and capped our 4-2 victory and consign Longwell Green to their first defeat of the season.
Another great performance from the team and another good victory - we play better when we play the better opponents. There were a number of man of the match contenders. Emmanuel was a rock at the back and powerfully kept the opponents at bay. Kyran was superb in positioning and discipline sitting in and maintaining the team's shape. Harry was excellent in goal in his positioning and distribution. Elijah grabbed control of the midfield in the second half and help silence their best player. Mike was a torment throughout and his pace and finishing caused no end of problems for Longwell Green, but...
Man of the Match: Joel James - for the second game in a row, but he was a game changer down the left setting up two goals and scoring two. He has been playing well all season, but this was another level for him again.