Saturday 29th October 2005
By Danny Saines
With a bare 11 again assembled late Friday with thanks to Jumbo and his Italian connection Antonio (Reyes), Woody''s text message early Saturday morning with a flu virus was not the greatest of starts to the day. Luckily enough a phone call from Jay Hardy not 10 minutes later declaring himself fit to start was somewhat of a relief to say the least. With new signing Peter Kirk promising to make his debut, Jez Allen covering in goal, and Dan Head helping us back out up front thanks to Des''s understanding, I was sure we could get a result that was so badly needed as a confidence booster.
Morale seemed to be quite up in the dressing room before hand, and although Chris Greenhough and the kit were 20 minutes late (tut tut), we at least managed to get out and get our preparation sorted for once.
Once kicked off, I was pleased the way we took the game to them, and there was a desire to win from all eleven players on the pitch. We closed them down, penned them in, and gave them no space to play. We were first to the ball, challenging and gaining possession. For most of the first half, although bossing it, it looked like we were going to have another week whereupon we just didn''t get the luck deserved in front of goal. Jez had barely anything to do, touching I think once in 25 minutes, Jay Hardy having a great first half performance opening up passes to Barry''s runs, with Ray supporting the front two at every opportunity. For all our (or their) luck nothing was converting again in until Barry created some space, putting Dan through with a defence splitting pass, whom took it as coolly as you like.
From there I thought we went from strength to strength, with Greenhough linking superbly with Peter Kirk down the right hand side and Judgie & Pragnell dealing with anything coming at them at the back. When the half time whistle blew though I sensed frustration from a lot of the players who had been giving it their all (aka Barry Cleaver) and who felt, as we all did, that we should have been at least 3 or 4 up. Not to worry though, we still had 45 minutes to capitalise.
How wrong again we were. As like last week, we seemed to completely lose our way in the second half and for some unknown reason let them back in the game. We lost our spark, then desire, and finally our technical ability, whereupon we couldn''t keep possession, gave the ball away far too cheaply, which crucified individual confidence. I was waiting for the rucking to start but luckily enough it did not, but players just looked a bit miserable and lost again. Lucky for us Jez made two outstanding saves to keep them from levelling the game, which would have been a travesty.
Fortunately Ray had no such qualms and continued to work relentlessly in the centre of the park, getting a well worked and deserved goal, smashing it in from the edge of the box. This lifted the flatness of the past half hour and with confidence restored we played out the rest of the match as we did in the first half.
BUT clichés aside, a win''s a win''s a win, and regardless of the 2nd half performance (we can work on that over the coming weeks when we return to a fall squad), I think we were all glad to get one back under our belts. With the injuries we are carrying and lack of substitutes to use at strategic times any result under the circumstances is a good one, even if it is not all that pretty and technically not what we are about as a unit.
Barry summed it up after the game when he said that (based on the second half performance) "we will have to do a lot better than that because there are a lot better teams in our league who would tear us apart" BUT bring back EB and Lee to balance the left hand side, Woody at the back, keeping Kirky linking with Greenhough down the right hand side, pushing Ray back up front where he belongs along side his brother, and hopefully bringing in Paul Llewellyn to give us some height in the centre of the park, things are not all doom and gloom and can only get better.