By Daniel Halstead
Unbeaten league run continues
As half term ended, we were left with a number of absences, but fortunately managed to pull a team of 11 together to face Westfield. The pitches were a little challenging, but eventually we managed to get the game to go ahead on the Bay pitch (our first game on there).
We lined up in our usual 4-3-3 with Toby in goal behind a back four of Max, Harry, Emmanuel and Josh. Kyran anchored the midfield behind Olly and Liam who were both back this week. Elijah and Joel were wide either side of Mike. It was clear from the outset that the pitch was challenging as the bobbly surface made it hard for us to connect with our passes and the ball ran away at any slight loose touch.
However we were sub-par for large parts of the first half and in the early stages we failed to clear a Westfield corner. We had chances to clear, but the ball stuck in our area and as we scrambled to try and clear it the ball was prodded home into our own net by Emmanuel. A setback, but the team started to play a little better. An early chance for Elijah was snatched at as he tried to break the net and it went over. Other chances looked like they would follow but our final ball was lacking in quality. As the half unfolded some neat interplay between Kyran and Elijah on the right opened up some space and Kyran’s ball in was a little behind Mike, but Joel stuck out a boot and the ball diverted inside the post to bring the scores level with his tenth goal of the season. Another attack saw us awarded a freekick on the right and Kyran’s ball swung in dangerously, but there was no finish unfortunately. A corner soon followed and as it was cleared Mike took the ball on the right and squared. The ball went through past everyone and back to Liam on the left and he floated a perfect ball into the penalty area six yards out where Elijah bravely met it with his head before the onrushing keeper to put us into the lead.
This should have seen us take control of the game, but again we self-destructed at the back. Another corner was not dealt with again and the ensuing scramble saw us concede a penalty which was calmly converted by the Westfield player. This was a little unlucky on Toby who had no chance with either goal, but otherwise had a strong game and made a number of good saves during the game. We went in at half time equal with the scores at 2-2. The team were told to get the basics right and take their time with the ball and that the chances would come.
The second half almost started with catastrophe as Westfield attacked resulting in a great save from Toby, but their follow up was turned goalwards only to find Josh with a goal line save. This seemed to be the defensive spark we needed as from that point onwards Emmanuel took control at the back as he and Harry formed a much more solid line. Max covered the right side well and Josh was playing really well down the left being defensively solid and also offering something going forward too. We started carving out chances, but our control was lacking (maybe due to the surface) as we had shots from Mike, Joel, Kyran, Liam and Olly during the second half. Kyran sent a through ball to Mike on the left wing and as he beat his man and got to the byline, he fired a cross perfectly across the centre of the goal where Elijah was racing in to meet it and send us into the lead. Mike was desperately unlucky not to score shortly afterwards as his shot from the left lifted just over the bar and another of his crossed from the right saw Joel lift the ball over under pressure from a Westfield defender. Another day and better conditions may have seen a more comfortable position, but in the end we were happy to escape with the win with better to come next week in the reverse fixture.
Man of the Match: Josh Friend – a goal saving clearance when the scores were level and he was also strong moving the ball forward out of defence. His recent performances have been increasingly strong.