That has been the theme of the early season for Blues Twos and today saw some of them returning giving the team a more solid and settled feel for the first time this season. Twos captain Andy Grant even had the pleasure of calling on 3 subs (prior to kick off at least as one went down in warm ups!).
This Intermediate Cup game started brightly with an intensity that both sides were upholding. Norsemen felt comfortable and should have been ahead when Grant fired a header, from a Doug Zucconi free kick, back across the keeper early on. The keeper was up to it on this occasion, saving the first effort and making a brilliant second save from Wayne Bremner on the rebound. At this level and with the respective abilities of both players, Norsemen really should have been 1 nil up.
It wasn't long before Norsemen were rewarded though with the seas parting through the Hale End Athletic ranks midway through the first half. Having picked the ball up around the centre circle, Tom Collier strode forward to find firstly the midfield and then defence standing off him before unleashing a 'Bale like' laser into the top right corner.
Shortly after however the rust in the Norsemen ranks wore through. An opposition throw deep in Norsemen's half was not set up for quickly enough and Hale End were able to nip down the left flank behind the defence. A searching low driven cross was met by a striker at the front post to tie the scores. A goal that with a little intensity and foresight could easily have been avoided.
If the goal conceded was sloppy then the next goal scored was sublime. Starting deep in their own half, Norsemen swept forward through 5 different players before Mark Sarfo hit an unstoppable shot from the edge of the 18 yard box to inside of the left post giving the keeper no chance. No doubt the team goal of the season so far.
Half time 2 1 Norsemen.
The half time talk was about doing the little things well, communicating, marking, passing. For the most part of the second half this was achieved well and the result seemed to be in their hands. Unfortunately the referee, who was having an otherwise pretty good game, decided he would take the the influence of Norsemen center midfielder Dan Wilkes out of the equation. Both teams were finding decisions made against Wilkes baffling and it certainly affected his ability to dominate the central role through tackling.
Entering the last part of the match and the game changed. A diagonal ball over the top was out of Grant's reach and far enough away from keeper JJ to draw him slightly out of position. A very well controlled lob later and the game was tied and headed for extra time. Looking at the goal, Grant will feel disappointed he turned like an ocean-liner and JJ he got drawn into no mans land between player and goal.
The final goal of the match came just minutes before the final whistle and had a touch of the unfortunate that has plagued the team so far this season. An Athletic midfielder broke through the midfield after the game had become stretched and fired on goal. Grant got a block on the ball with the ball rebounding into the centre of the 18 yard box. JJ came out to collect in traffic but was unable to collect it cleanly and it was neatly tucked away by the opportunistic striker. A disappointing finish to a game that promised much for Norsemen.