It was a damp grey start, back to Houghton, where we gave probably our worst half game performance back in April, eventually going down 4-1.
We spoke prior to the game about getting off to a good start, Houghton would be full of confidence after thumping us in last season’s fixture and we must start well to show them that was one off. And what a start it was, with just a couple of minutes on the clock, Brandon sprayed a pass out to Oliver who was galloping down the right flank, he controlled and on the run whipped in the perfect cross for Jack M to punch his header past the despairing ‘keepers dive 0-1. Houghton caught a little cold, at the start showed some resilience and quickly recovered, battling hard in midfield and looking to always release their dangerous striker. The away defence soon got to grips with the danger and marshaled the threat with relative comfort. Houghton were getting control of the midfield battle, but couldn’t find their way through the packed away defence and were restricted to the occasional long range shot, which didn’t trouble Nathan in goal. A poor defensive header that went straight up in the air was compounded by allowing the ball to drop in the box, where a Houghton player got a toe to the loose ball to poke it goalwards, an alert Thomas on the cover swept round and cleared off the line.
The away side were largely playing on the counter, looking dangerous and probably of the two teams looked the more likley to nick a goal, the majority of the game was being played out in midfield with Houghton probably just edging that area of the pitch, but they struggled to make any clear cut opportunities. Frustratingly the away side couldn’t hold the ball up in attack, thus putting the midfield and defenders under pressure. Houghton should have had a player sent off for having a clear kick at Brandon, the Referee leniently just gave him a stern ticking off. Tackles were flying in from both sides, it was a game right on the edge and close to boiling point. As half time approached Houghton broke down the right, the attacker seemed isolated but was allowed to check back and whip a cross in, still the away defence had plenty of numbers back, however none took responsibility, the cross found an arriving Houghton midfield player who scuffed a shot, which somehow went in 1-1. They away side regrouped, with just a couple of minutes to go, kept solid until half time.
It was fair half time scoreline, team talk consisted of correcting a couple of things, we were at times overplaying at the back, the opposition were pressing high so we could play longer passes in to the channels. Also we need to win the second balls in midfield, we weren’t competing well enough for them, as well as the need to hold the ball up better in attack to allow us to get further up the pitch.
The away side meant business in the second half, straight away the tempo was better, Billy, Brandon & Oakley were now dominating in midfield, snapping in to tackles, making it uncomfortable for the opposition and now winning all the second balls. Jake operating in the ‘No.10’ role was holding the ball up, and linking well with the midfield. Houghton were under a lot more pressure and soon it told, Ajiri danced through a couple of midfielders drew the defence out and played a perfectly weighted reverse pass to Sam who raced forward and smashed a left footed shot from 15 yards in to the top left hand corner 1-2. Whirlwinds were now in full control, some great work by Jake,Oakley and Sam, found Ajiri in a clear shooting position he struck his shot sweetly enough but the home ‘keeper pulled off a stunning save. Unfortunately the away teams spectators were up to their usual antics of haranguing the referee, which seemed to pass over to the opposition players who began to do the same and the game got fraught and tetchy. Rather than let it get to them, the away side responded in the correct way and continued trying to play the game in a controlled manner, they were soon rewarded, Jake again fed Oliver with a lovely ball inside the full back, which Oliver reached and got in front of the defender and honed in on goal, the ‘keeper came out to close him down, unselfishly he squared the ball to Sam to smash home from a couple of yards 1-3. This just antagonised the home spectators, who’s behaviour was shameful, and also the opposition players who lost their self discipline and the final 10 minutes was played out in a hostile environment, however the away side kept their heads and showed how football should be played and comfortably saw the game to a conclusion.
Scorers: Sam (2), Jack M
Summary: It was fantastic start, we then didn’t do enough of the right things in the first half, however we competed well and never really looked in any trouble. We corrected at half time and the second half was a fantastic all round team display, some great football at times, but we battled and controlled the midfield. Especially proud of how we handled the horrendous behaviour of the opposition parents and players and kept calm and controlled throughout. I will add the opposition manager and a couple of parents came over to me at the end, and were good enough to apologise for their spectators and players behaviour.
M.O.T.M: There were some super performances today, everyone I thought did themselves justice, two players I just couldn’t split, they were excellent especially in the second half, competed and won everything to get us on the front foot, this weeks award goes jointly to Billy & Brandon.