An even bigger test playing Old Hamptonians, who have won the AFC premier league for the past few years. No excuses as we had a solid team, good pitch and fair weather.
We had young Louie Remy starting his first game at right midfield in the first team and 17 year old Jardell Stirling on the bench ready for this large test.
The first half was dominated by the opposition from start to finish and we realised the difference between this opposition and the other games we have played this season.
The best we can take from this half was that we held it together and went in at half time drawing one all. We managed to score first against the run of play when Matt Roles chipped the goalkeeper from a deflection outside the box. The opposition equalised before half time and it was nothing more than they deserved.
Once again we needed to regroup and try to change things at half time, because we couldn’t carry on like the first half. And once again it seemed to work.
We came out in the second half a different team and everything seemed to improve. We scored two fairly quick goals, one a Geoff Hurst special coming down off the cross bar from Chaz which he guided in from a close range squared cross delivered by Gavin Sudell, and the second from the pass of the match back heeled by Chaz into Chris Morgans path where he slipped it past the keeper.
The score stayed at 3-1 for some time and the game started to get very tense with a few bookings from both sides as Old Hamptonians started piling on the pressure and showing they had no intention of giving up.
We battled hard and showed we could match teams at this level but the down side was too much arguing with the referee and the opposition. This definitely put us under more pressure. After too many free kicks given away just outside the box. It was only a matter of time before we shot ourselves in the foot once again.
Too much arguing before the free kick left us unorganised and the opposition took the free kick against a messy wall and in it went.
This made the game even more frenetic with the opposition smelling blood and came at us for the equaliser. Old Hamptonians have not been at the top of their tree for many years for good reason and it was with 5 minutes left that they got there equaliser.
All credit to our players that our heads did not go down, which was a massive plus to our “never say die” attitude.
With almost the last attack of the match we got a free kick which Chris Morgan took. He whipped in the cross, to be met by Chaz who looped it into the far post and scored the winning goal.
It was a great feeling because the opposition were the best we have played and we didn’t fancy another 30 minutes, especially after the last 2 Saturdays that went to extra time.
A statistic to reflect on is that Old Hamptonians have only conceded 5 goals in their league all season and we scored 4 on Saturday.
You can win games all different ways. This one was against the general run of play but shows if you stick in their anything can happen. It gave us the chance to have good spells and take advantage of them, which then leads to the self-belief that gives us the spirit to be a good and confident team.
This we will need as we are now drawn away to Polytechnic, probably the best amateur team in London which will show us exactly where we are at the moment! We will be doing it without a number of good players with injuries. Both our full backs injured this week, one with a sprained ankle and another with a pulled hamstring. Lets hope that they repair fast.
My man of the match reflects the game. As usual our goalkeeper Jack Robery, pulled off a number of saves which we all take for granted. This is the second week that Jack has had a massive influence on the game and is now being recognised and rewarded.
The much awaited north London derby finally arrived and Perhaps a little too hyped up for some. The first half an hour was all Winchmore Hill and more specifically Andy Barrells half an hour. Our team was warned that he was a handful and still we couldn’t stop him causing all sorts of trouble. A lesson hopefully learned for the future, but he certainly gave us a lesson on the day. We were 2 goals down in the first 15 minutes and we were shell shocked, this was a first time we had been put under this kind of scrutiny. After the first 2 goals Jack robery had to pull off another 2 saves that could have wrapped the game up for the Hill, tipping a free kick on the the bar and over along with a great one vs one save. In the last 15 minutes of the first half we made 2 substitutions (Using the roll on roll off philosophy that we have embraced) bringing on Alosie Ohuonu and David Greene which helped to settle and take the game to Winchmore Hill. A couple of set pieces caused them problems, with David hitting the bar from a drop down in the box with his first touch. This was by far our worst half of football all season, and credit to Winchmore Hill for their part in our poor performance.
Roll on to the half time break, where we had to try and get things back on track. What was said seemed to work, and we were back to our normal game pressing the Hill from the off.
It was the reverse of the first half with 2 quick goals from accurate corners by Matt Roles. The first one fumbled in by their keeper and the second a bit of a scramble headed home by Max Harrowell.
Back on equal terms, there was only one team in it with Norsemen having most of the possession and it was back to how we have been playing all season. There were notable individual performances that helped with this turnaround but the highlight for me was Alosie Ohuonu who for the second week running was outstanding with and without the ball. Just when things were getting better we had 2 set backs, firstly Max Harrowell coming off with cramp then David Greene with an ankle injury. Both players influential to our return to form, but it was time to make changes with our rotation policy anyway so they were easy decisions. Jake Lawrence went to centre back and looked like he had played there all season. The game swiftly went to full time with everything to play for.
Our second game in a row going to extra time so it was not a new experience. We tried to win the game during extra time but to no avail, so it was going down to the wire and penalties.
The Norsemen boys were asked who wanted to take the penalties? Six players immediately came forward and stipulated which particular penalty they would take, so it all fell nicely into place with no stress!!! Our first three takers all stepped up and slotted them away which luckily was all that was needed. Unfortunately for the Hill things didn’t go quite so well as they missed the target twice and one was saved by our very own Jack Robery. Scoring one out of four was not good enough and the win was ours.
All in all I think it was a good game for the crowd of around 200 but tense for those involved. With a bit of luck we will have many more derbys in the coming seasons.
In summary we must improve our defending, we seem to let in too many weak goals that could be avoided. Sometimes it is defending with the right numbers and sometimes poor choices or concentration.
The man of the Match is going to upset Jack Robery as he made 2 crucial saves at an important time and saved a penalty. But this week it goes to Alosie Ohuonu for his high performance over his last 2 games with his controlled defending and composure with the ball.
Please find all pictures and videos from this classic cup tie on the media page of the website.
Gary Harrowell, First XI Manager
Our biggest test so far in the AFA cup against last years finalists. The game was not to disappoint and started at a pace that was definitely a new experience with Old Meadonians dominating the first 10 minutes with possession and territory. Looking from the bench, this was a new experience for the boys and we had to sit and wait to see how they would respond to the onslaught. We didn’t have to wait too long before we responded, after the 10 minutes we settled and took the game by the scruff of the neck and turned it round for the next half an hour. During our period of advantage Chris Morgan, assisted by Laurence Connolly, struck a medium range shot curling the ball into the top right corner giving there keeper no chance. Unfortunately at the end of the half when we were in control of the game we conceded a penalty which looked like a coming together, but because of some needless negative banter that was creeping into the game, the referee decided to give a penalty. This changed the game back to Old Meads who were gifted the opportunity to go in at half time drawing instead of being behind. During our spell in the first half we should have been further ahead with many chances that were missed, but this was still encouraging that we were making the chances in the first place.
The second half started like the first with the opposition coming out with all guns blazing and were fortunate to be gifted an early chance when Jack Robery slipped when clearing the ball that fell nicely to the opposition. We were outnumbered and facing the wrong way allowing them an easy opportunity which they converted. With their tails up, they continued with the pressure and it wasn’t long before they took advantage of one of their numerous set pieces. A suspicious corner was given after the referee overruled the assistant referees decision to give a goal kick and a well taken corner into the middle of the box was met by their centre half with a bullet header that left Jack no chance. The game went a little to and fro for a while before we rolled our sleeves up and showed our character and started to take the game back to Old Meads who looked surprised with the change of heart. We were now well on top, with the goalkeeper making several good saves. But it wasn’t long before we got a penalty when Laurence Connolly was brought down in the box. Unfortunately Matt Roles failed to convert and we remained two goals down and time ticking away. Instead of our heads going down, the complete opposite we went again and continued the pressure until Laurence Connolly finally got his first goal for Norsemen assisted by Max Harrowell. To be fair Laurence had his fair share of chances in the game and deserved his headed goal in the fracas in the box. As the clock was ticking away we continued to press and pressure Old Meads and this persistence finally paid off with Laurence Connolly being brought down again in the box in the final few minutes of the 90minutes. Up steps Gavin Suddell, insuring he gets the ball before Matt gets it, and scores the equalizer. Just when we thought we had enough drama in the 90minutes we found ourselves in at the back post and the ball put back agonisingly across the six yard box to find no one on the end of it. The final whistle goes and we go into extra time!
There was a reasonable crowd by this time and nobody was going home. The game continued with a high tempo from both teams during the first half of extra time and finished on level terms. The second half was the same but Old Meads were given a piece of luck when a shot was deflected off Max Harrowells head when he tried to block a shot and looped over Jack Robery with no chance of saving it. The last 10 minutes was messy where we tried too hard and rushed our play giving the ball away too cheaply, but to be fair so did the opposition. A great game that finally put a halt to our 100% record and we wish Old Meads the best of luck for the rest of the competition.
The man of the match goes to someone I mention most weeks but not this one for some reason, but Alfie Lloyd was exceptional. In defence, allowing the opposition nothing with some of the hardest and best timed tackles you will see and showing composure running with the ball setting up attacks for us. The understanding that is starting to develop with Laurence down the left side is gaining fruit because Laurence is getting the confidence to get forward and create as well as covering for Alfies forward surges. Laurence can feel unlucky that he didn’t beat Alfie this week!
As an extra compliment to the game. The referee wrote in his report that we deserved more and that this was the best & most competitive game he has ever had the opportunity to referee. Take heart and push on!
Happy New Year!
After a couple of weeks lay off we were looking forward to the top of the table clash with EBOG, which is also the only team we havn’t played yet. We were expecting a hard game on a difficult pitch and we were not disappointed. The game started at a pace that continued until half time with both teams competing hard for the important points available. We had most of the possession and tried to play our normal game which was disrupted by the competitive nature of the game. However the first half finished goalless with Jack Robery and the EBOGS goalkeeper both making good one on one saves. Everything to play for with neither team really making a mark on the game.
The second half started the same way until we gave a silly free kick away to give EBOGs a chance. A poor free kick that went through all the players was met by a late runner who passed the ball into our goal. This was not the first time we have gone behind this season and won’t be the last, so there was no panicking or doubts that we would pull it back if we carried on with the way we have been playing this season. We were knocking on the door with David Greene hitting the bar from a Matt Roles knock down and It was only a matter of time before the opponents would run out of steam. After a few more attempts we finally scored with Gavin Suddell sliding David Greene though one on one before calmly slotting past the keeper to equalise. The patience of our side was brilliant throughout the second half, reaping the rewards 6 minutes from the end. Matt Roles thumping in a loose ball coming out of there area which he hit through a number of various bodies creating mass celebration throughout the squad. By this time the opposition looked tired and beaten. After more free kicks, cards and a sin bin we finally put the game away when the EBOGs keeper took Gavin Suddell out when he was clean through on goal. Gavin stepped up to take the penalty and made it 3-1.
Looking back it was good to see all the players matching the competitive spirit, in a difficult environment. It is great to have David Greene committing to the rest of the season adding to our talented squad. Now the cobwebs are wiped away we can look forward to the rest of the season with players competing for game time! There were a number of contenders for the man of the match with many consistent performers but it was between 3 players in the end. Alfie Lloyd with another faultless performance in defence and penetrating runs that caused the opposition all sorts of trouble. Chris Morgan Who showed composure when the game was at its most frenetic and his tracking back to help the midfield, as was discussed before we started. And Max Harrowell who swept up and made some crucial headers when the game needed it most. The award goes to Max in the end after much deliberation. The only other thing to add is that we finally seem to be talking more, especially Down the middle with Captain Jake Lawrence, Max and Jack all Piping up!
A final word on our reserve side led by captain Austin Gash. Also yet to lose in their league campaign. They won 3-0 away at Weirside Rangers with players Archie Lloyd, Charlie King and Tyrese Reynolds who have all been part of the first team set up this season stepping up on Saturday. The competitiveness for places between the two sides makes my job very difficult to select a match day squad but a fantastic problem to have. Both the first team and reserves have increased their level of quality so far this season both remaining unbeaten in the league campaigns. A long way to go so lets not take the foot of the gas anytime soon!!
Gary Harrowell, First XI Manager