Saturday 12th April 2008
By Sam Evans
We deserved a point out of this game. Phoenix had a nippy striker but not much else and we matched them throughout the game. Their second goal came in second half injury time and 2-0 flattered them.
Our team was:
Mark Edwards (goalkeeper)
Terry Connor (left back)
Adam Benninfield (centre back)
Richard Davies (centre back)
Pete Morton (right back)
Barry Putt (left midfield)
Sam Evans (centre midfield)
Daragh Nott (captain, centre midfield)
Jay Blay (right midfield)
Dan Head (centre forward)
Paul Tanton (centre forward)
Mark Doyle (sub Jay Blay 60 mins)
Anthony Dine (sub Daragh Nott 45 mins)
My recollections of this game fall into two categories: specific incidents and general points. Let’s begin with the specific incidents. Barry Putt was unlucky not to win a penalty when challenged in the box on the left wing. This was in the first half and followed some decent passing play where we really opened them up. I thought it looked a good shout but the ref disagreed. In the second half I wasted a good chance after more good passing. I stepped round their centre half but lifted my cross frustratingly over the bar. Also in the second half we got Pete Morton in down the right and perhaps he could have shot rather than crossing but that’s easy to say with hindsight.
Their first goal was a ball over the top which caused confusion and led to Mark Edwards hauling down their striker just inside the box. Mark basically rugby tackled the guy and was lucky to escape with just a yellow card. They scored from the resulting penalty. That was after about 60 minutes I think. Their second goal was another long ball over the top and their striker got in. This was on the break when we were pushing for an equaliser in injury time so it didn’t make much difference. The only other specific thing I remember was a wonderful piece of chin control from Barry Putt. The ball ricocheted up off the hard surface and Barry reacted wonderfully, caressing the ball with his chin, and really taking the sting out of it.
In terms of general points, there was a strong feeling that we need to get more men into the box. There were times when we would slip the ball to Dan Head or Paul Tanton in a channel and they would look up to see one, or at best two, team mates in the box. When you watch Match of the Day the top teams are throwing all but one of their midfielders in there too to try and score, and I think we (myself included) need to work harder at this. To an extent these problems on Saturday may have been caused by the large pitch, but it is definitely something to bear in mind.
Another general point is our quality in the final third. The best shouts from the touchline I hear are those which urge players to “relax”. You definitely perform better if you relax and really believe you’re about to do something good. I’m as guilty as anyone for snatching at chances, or panicking and kicking the ball aimlessly in the final third so I appreciate the challenges we face here. But I do think we need to work at this – we had the ball in dangerous areas a few times on Saturday but I can’t remember a shot on target?
The final general point I remember is that we seemed to struggle more than we have done previously against 3 men in centre midfield. Again this may be as a consequence of the pitch, but we all need to remember that must do our jobs off the ball too. And we must communicate with one another. This will be vital in the semi final on Saturday when there is every reason to think we’ll be up against a team who pass the ball accurately and quickly to team mates who are constantly on the move. We must be prepared to talk to each other more than we did today.
Man of the match was deservedly won by Dan Head who turned in a battling performance against their two big lumps at centre half. Dan hassled and harried all day long, as well as using the ball intelligently when we delivered it to him.
Man of the match: Dan Head