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Match Report

Saturday 15th December 2007

Hawkhurst United
2 - 3
First XI
Barry Cleaver, Richard Cooke, Bobby Moulson

By Shaun Keddle

A fantastic result and performance to once again leave the title race wide open

On Saturday we travelled to scenic Hawkhurst for an important top-of-the-table clash. Our previous encounter at our place saw us play really well and take all three points.

However, this victory was in many ways a bigger achievement due to the selection circumstances beforehand. Hawkhurst are a good strong side and you will always need a strong squad to compete with and beat them.

Our ‘missing in action’ list was…..Roots damaged his ligaments and will be out for some time, St John in goal was on his honeymoon and replacement Friend was unavailable due to work commitments so Edwards the reserve team keeper was drafted in, Cooke, J and McKeown were both unavailable due to last minute sickness; Pragnell was suffering from a groin strain so took to the bench to be used on an emergency basis. As replacements the promising young Warren was drafted in from the reserves as was Moulson who has been playing well of late. Harrigan was signed as an emergency and was great to see him back in the Farnborough colours for the first (but not the last!) time this season.

The first half started and we kicked up the hill. The tactics beforehand of keeping things tight were working well. We looked to neutralise Hawkhurst 3-5-2 formation by tucking in on the flanks when we did not have the ball. This was expertly executed by Cleaver, B on the left hand side who on countless occasions dropped into the middle and picked up the ball. The first half was quite cagey with Hawkhurst having more of the ball but the Guild never looked troubled. Hawkhurst were always looking for the long ball towards the No11 and looking to play off him but they could not get beyond our solid back four. The first half ended 0-0, but with lots of good possession football being played

At the half we had done exactly as planned – kept it tight and did not over commit in midfield. Tactically we had it right, but with the slope and superior fitness to our advantage we went into the second half with great confidence. Tactically we made a change that really benefited us, and switched Williams, J to the left hand side to expose the space left by the wing back and big back three, which lacked pace. We instantly went on the attack and the warning signs were there for Hawkhurst. Cooke, R had two good opportunities before finding the opener, neatly tucking the ball away. Within a couple of minutes of the re-start Hawkhurst replied after we gave the ball away from an attacking position and were caught napping at the back. The centre forward run through and finished past Edwards with ease.

Straight after the kick off, we again went on the attack and looked really sharp on the break. Williams, J was rampant on the left hand side and on 65 mins delivered a perfect cross for Cleaver, B to get his head to. The effort beat the keeper, but not the post. However, the bounce was kind and Cleaver, B followed up to finish. 2-1 up.

At this point we expected Hawkhurst to tire but again they came straight back at us and finished from a loose ball in the box after hesitant and unconvincing defending.

With 15 minutes to go the tiring Harrigan was replaced by debutant Moulson

We were not happy with the draw and that result would certainly have suited the Hawks. With 10 minutes to go a winner was found courtesy of the diving head of Moulson who found the corner of the net after a good cross from Williams, L. A great goal.

However, twice previously we got complacent from kick offs so we changed to a 4-5-1 formation (nice one Bazza!) and decided to sit deeper and settle for what we got. Moulson was upfront on his own and Williams, L dropped into the middle. Not a tactic that we usually adapt, but horses for courses and twice bitten twice shy etc…

The remainder of the game was played out very competitively which saw both sides unfortunately end the game with 10 men

Personally, I feel that this was our performance of the season so far given the pre-match circumstances. We have played very well in both occasions against a big, strong, solid Hawkhurst side. It’s easy to see why they are a successful side – they play to their strengths and are managed and supported very well.

However, this was our day and I honestly feel that we were the better side, had more chances and deserved to bag the points. There were many decent performances across the whole of the pitch. Edwards in goal was solid, Small at the back got the passes going, Cleaver, L worked well with Williams, J on the left hand side and contended with the ‘line’ very well, Davis at the back was strong and clever; Cooke R was getting forward and creating opportunities, Cleaver, B was very tactically aware, Williams, L bust his gut with endless running and work rate; Harrigan was a joy to watch his touch and holding of the ball; Moulson came on and showed why he is rated in the reserves and his opportunities will come.

For me though there were three performances of note. Judge led the side very well and even before a ball was kicked, he really fancied this and really got everyone up for the match and focused – he never stopped talking through this encounter and led by example – a true captain’s performance. However, we do need to join in with his vocal enthusiasm. Perkins in the middle covered every blade of grass and really wanted this, despite suffering the affects of flu. He was box to box for 90 minutes and was machine like in approach and performance. Williams, J walked away with man-of-match and really showed what he is all about. He really wanted to put the Borough performance behind him and did that in style. A display of pace, power and a fantastic attitude towards some harsh treatment towards him. His crossing was spot on and he caused panic amongst the Hawkhurst backline. Well done mate.

Pat-on-backs all round but we must perform to the same level against Chislehurst this week.

Farnborough: 1. Edwards; 12. Small; 3. Cleaver, L; 4. Davis; 5. Judge; 6. Cooke, R; 7. Williams, J; 8. Perkins; 9. Williams, L; 10. Harrigan; 11. Cleaver, B
Subs: 15. Moulson for 10. Harrigan Subs not Used: 14. Warren; 16. Pragnell

Hawkhurst: 1. Moore; 2. Pantry; 3. Lerry; 4. Hyner; 5. Bolton; 6. Hichmott; 7. Hazell; 8. Sands; 9. Norman; 10. Sands; 11. Mitchell
Subs: Channer; Golding; Ellarby