For the first game of the new year we entertained CUP who always have some useful players and some good guys.
After the incredibly hot and dry summer and wet autumn, the pitch is no-longer as conducive to fast flowing football as it was in the past. That said, it sure develops one hell of a workout as everyone is carrying around mud clogged boots for 90 mins! We had a strong 13 and after a fair bit of consideration we opted for a 442 formation.
The game was an even affair throughout the first half and CUP had the ball in the net after about 20 minutes. A shot from distance was parried by Kieran in goal with their tricky left winger banging in the rebound. Fortunately for us he was offside, so the scores remained 0-0. We were using the ball well and created a few opportunities but too frequently our final ball was lacking. CUP had some youthful legs across the midfield and they also enjoyed some good passages of play with some tidy passing moves.
However, after about 40 mins, Roy at right back reacted sharply and first to a loose ball and knocked a great pass in behind the CUP defence and in front of the keeper. Howard was onto it like a flash and he curled a great left footed looping shot over the advancing keeper and into the net for a well-taken finish and a 1-0 lead.
Everyone had played their part in a competitive first half, with Fraser working tirelessly up front alongside the deft touches, clever runs and guile that Howard always offers. Walshy came on to support Howard up front (after recovering from a hamstring injury) in the 2nd half and he too worked like a Trojan winning countless balls and putting the opposition defence under serious pressure. Sedge, Simon, Chris Keeble and Chris Parker were playing some good football in the middle and the defence was looking solid at the back. Nigel switched to right back for the second half using his clever footballing brain and great talking to good effect. This allowed Matt Warren to return to centre back after a 2 year lay off (he looked like he had never been away!) Sully was sweeping up tidily and getting forward on the left and Kev Hurst was an absolute rock for the full 90 minutes.
With around 20 mins to play a great break saw Chris Parker free down the left. He skilfully cut back onto his right and rolled an inviting but bobbling square pass into the path of the on-rushing Sedge who drilled a thunderous first time shot into the top right hand corner from about 18 yards. 2-0. It had been a competitive game and the extra goal gave us a little bit of breathing space as well as sapping a bit of the impetus from the opponents. However, they kept probing with a few corners and well-worked moves but the defence were all sharp, solid and full of commitment and we managed to secure a clean sheet with some excellent punches from Kieran when required.
Andy Smith gave an excellent performance as referee too,
We enjoyed some great sandwiches (courtesy of Paul Sully), some good camaraderie and the enjoyable surroundings of the Pavilion after the match. It was great to be back in the groove, to start the New Year with a win but there are likely to be some stiff legs on Monday!