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!