It was a cold and drizzly morning, but at least we didn’t have the dreaded walk to the allotment pitches on our seasonal visit to Olney Town FC.
An 11 -aside friendly, played over three, twenty minute thirds, to allow us to change systems and try to familiarise ourselves with the format for next season.
Whirlwinds opted for a 3-5-2 system to start off with, a system which they used and looked fairly comfortable with in their only other experience of a 11 a-side. They certainly looked the more comfortable of the two sides to start off with, keeping Olney at arms length and looking dangerous on the attack. Ajiri had two very good chances to break the deadlock but fired wide, Olney at the other end had a long range shot which was keeping practice for Nathan. Whirlwinds were pressing and had a series of corners, all expertly delivered with quality by Sam, really were causing havoc in the home defence, so much so, that a home defender, thundered a header off his home post, a let off for the home side. The first third, finished goal less, but with the away side looking the better quality outfit.
1st third – 0-0
For the second third the away side opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation, and it was clear from the early exchanges that they just weren’t comfortable with it. Olney had picked up their intensity, and were now comfortably winning the loose balls and 50/50’s. They received a gift when an away defender tried to shield a ball out, which didn’t have the legs to cross the goal line, an Olney attacker spotted the error, nipped in and nicked the ball on the goal line, and headed unchallenged in to the box, to slide a pass across goal which was tapped in to the net 1-0. This certainly have the effect of adding more steel to their performance and they were now totally dominant. Confidence seemed to drain from the away side, and panicked defensive clearances and lack of communication, were adding to the problems with getting to grips with a new system, the second goal soon followed, several scrambles in the box, eventually led to an Olney attacker smashing home 2-0, if there ever was an advert for ‘schoolboy defending’ this was it, with 5 or 6 chances to put in an effective defensive clearance all missed and eventually punished. The away side finally found their attacking feet, with Ajiri again firing wide on a couple of occasions when presented with a clear site of goal.
2nd third – 2-0
For the last third the away side switched back to a 3-5-2, and immediately it was obvious this system suits them best, again taking the game to opposition, a lovely ball from Billy, put Ajiri through, this time he managed to get his shot on target, only for the home keeper to palm away, Sam following up, only managed to hit the outside of the post from a tight angle, however he was probably slightly hampered by the on rushing Ajiri, who was desperate to make up for his miss. The next action saw Jake force a corner, again a quality delivery from Sam was headed up in the air by a home defender, it sailed high in the air, Jack M hovering on the edge of the box, watched it all the way to his foot, to smash home a low volley off the inside of the post, a fantastic piece of individual skill, 2-1. Olney were still winning the majority of the 50/50’s, their Rugby heritage certainly shining through, as they looked a little tougher than the away side. Too many of the away side were backing off and it lead unfortunately to a third goal, as an Olney forward drifted past 3 home defenders, to cleverly lay off for a first time finish in the corner 3-1. It highlighted an issue that we have had at times this season, which we need to address when we play the stronger the teams. However the Whirlwinds were looking like a strong attacking unit, again another corner was forced on the left and a quality delivery from Sam, was half cleared, Ajiri pounced controlled with his chest and smashed in to the roof of the net 3-2. Just over five minutes remained and the away side were now full of belief they could get an equaliser or even push on for a win, however Olney are an experienced side, never having played outside of the top division, they stood firm and held on for the win.
FT – 3-2
Scorers : Jack M, Ajiri
Summary : Today was about trying to find our feet at 11 a-side, an opportunity to try different things, the first third we were very good, but our finishing let us down, the second third was a bit of a disaster all round, but we recovered well in the last third and again looked the stronger side. All in all we were fairly pleased with the performance and certainly we learned a lot. We definitely need to show a little more determination and character, as we sometimes get bullied by more physical teams and the middle third highlighted this, however we showed in the first and last thirds that we are a real threat to any team.
M.O.T.M : It was strange today at it was pretty much a mixed bag in terms of individual performances, every player seemed to have good spells and then not so good spells within the game, Billy again did well in midfield, Thomas defended well at times, Ajiri was always a threat and on another day would had 4 or 5. This weeks award goes to Sam, who when needed, added that little bit of quality to our attacking play. Special mention the Dylan, making only his second appearance and Archie making his debut, it was a difficult game for them to shine, but both showed some good contributions.