Squad : 1. Cameron (GK), 2. Sam.D, 3. Billy, 4. Oakley, 5. Jack D, 6. Jack C, 7. Sam.A., 8. Jack M, 9. Ajiri, 10. Mitchel – Capt, 11. Joe, 12. Oliver, 14. Jake
The final league game of the Autumn/Winter league campaign saw FC Leighton Colts, visit Crawley Road. A real winters morning and an overnight frost, coupled with an early kick off saw the pitch playable, but a crusty surface would make it a difficult bobbly surface to play on.
Whirlwinds started the better of the two sides, pitch conditions made slick passing difficult, but both sides were looking to play football and keep the ball on the ground. The early exchanges were mainly fought out in midfield, with both sides defences handling any threats well. Leighton were looking particularly dangerous with raids down the right, which stretched they Whirlwinds back line. Pre-match instructions were to try and get the ball wide, and in behind the opposition defence. Whirlwinds were trying to do this with both Ajiri & Jake whenever possible looking to turn the defence, Oliver & Billy in central midfield, were starting to probe and Whirlwinds certainly looked the more dangerous of the two sides. A goal kick was played short to Mitchel who traveled out of defence and played a neat ball in to Jake who in turn played inside, the ball was quickly moved forward and Oliver slipped a ball inside the defence for the on rushing Ajiri to burst past the static defence and calmly roll past the on rushing goalkeeper, a superb team goal which started at our goalkeeper, 5 passes and in the back of the net 1-0. Leighton responded well and again looked very dangerous down the right and Whirlwinds were at times struggling to cope, a desperate lunge gave a foul away on the right hand side of the home area. Whirlwinds, usually very organised over committed with a 3 man wall, which left them outnumbered in the box, a fantastic delivery was met with a powerful header which flew in, 1-1, a disappointing goal to concede. A slight defensive re-shuffle to try and counter act the problem Leighton were causing Whirlwinds down the right, seemed to do the trick and Whirlwinds responded well and again were looking the more threatening, a great interchange of passes in midfield dragged the Leighton defence out of position, Ajiri, picked up the ball and danced past a despairing defender to break clear and again calmly finish 2-1. The final few minutes of the half saw Whirlwinds probe and press but unable to add a third which would have given them a little more breathing space.
Half time team talk was very positive, the pitch was almost thoroughly thawed and now easier to play on, the only real negative was that we had in many occasions in the first half, had the ball in great positions in the wide areas, but failed to deliver in to the box, so we must improve this in the second half. Also we felt the next goal was really important and we must press to finish the game off.
Leighton to be fair came out fired up, and enjoyed a good spell of early possession, forcing a couple of corners which were in the main well dealt with by the home defence. Whirlwinds being pressed back now, had to revert to playing a counter attacking style of play, a good combination between Jake & Sam A, fed the ball through to Jack M, clear on goal he just couldn’t find the finish and the keeper saved. Leighton continued to press and there were some over aggressive challenges going in by a frustrated home midfield, which just broke the flow of the game down and handed the opposition good opportunities to deliver in the box, one long range free kick tested Cameron’s handling, but as ever it was impeccable. Leighton were on top in possession but Whirlwinds playing on the counter looked again the more dangerous, a great jinking run by Jake, saw him go round 3 desperate defenders and his shot from a very tight angle was well saved, a simple square ball would have seen a goal, with two Whirlwinds attackers free and waiting for a tap in, still after such an amazing run, it would be difficult to deny Jake the opportunity to finish it off. A few minutes later Ajiri broke free one on one, with the keeper he seemed to hesitate and his weak shot bounced off the keeper and Sam A was just unable to reach the rebound. Almost straight away Whirlwinds were made to pay, when they lost the ball in midfield, Leighton surged forward and good run was found with a great pass and slotted home 2-2. Whirlwinds looked a bit shocked, but quickly got back in their stride, and with just a few minutes to go, realised they still had a chance to win the game. A tiring Jake was replaced by Oakley, with the instruction to try and get the ball in wide areas and get some deliveries in to the box. Whirlwinds were working the ball well and trying to go for the winner, a neat interchange found Oakley on the right a great low delivery, went skidding across the area, the opposition keeper bravely came out and missed the ball but clashed with the onrushing Sam A, and took him out, the ball wriggled across the goal and Oliver was just unable to get to it, and the Leighton defender cleared. The Ref blew the whistle and pointed to the spot ! Having allowed the play to run through he deemed the challenge by the goalkeeper on Sam A a foul, and the penalty was awarded. Sam A picked himself up and spotted the ball, and smashed it in the bottom left hand corner, the Referee ordered a retake as he had not blown his whistle, giving Sam A the instruction to wait for the whistle, nerves I think got the better of him, once again he struck low to the left, but this time the keeper guessed correctly and saved, again the Referee ordered a retake as again Sam A had jumped the gun ! 3rd time lucky and this time listening for the Whistle which came, Sam A switched tactics and smashed it in the top right hand corner ! 3-2. Leighton looked beaten and to be fair I felt the penalty was a little harsh, Whirlwinds kept the ball well in the last minute or so to see out the game for a hard fought victory. A dramatic end to an entertaining game.
Scorers : Ajiri (2), Sam A. (pen)
M.O.M : Mitchel – commanding display at the back, but the highlight was his calmness with the ball in distribution from the back.
Summary : A nice win to round off our Winter League campaign. First half we played some really good football, on a difficult pitch, but didn’t create enough clear cut chances that our possession should have allowed us, largely I think down to failure to deliver when we had the ball in good wide areas. Second half saw us adapt well and play on the counter, and really should have been out of sight before being pegged back, with 3 or 4 clear cut chances created but finishing let us down. I felt we were a little fortunate with the penalty decision, but certainly on the balance of play deserved a bit of luck, and to be honest, luck hasn’t really been on our side so far this season. A great way to finish this half of the season, and we look in pretty good shape going in to the Spring League.