Sunday 1st November 2020
By Mark Harrington
The Art of Defending…
Venue: Harrow Meadow, Eynsford.
Supporters: Mr & Mrs McQueen.
So we all got the news yesterday from Boris that we really didn’t want but if we are honest, all recognise that something must be done and we all waited anxiously to see if the weather would threaten what would be our last game for a few weeks. Thankfully, we were playing away and at Riverside, which traditionally stands up well to the elements. Yes it was very boggy but we are used to the conditions and the slope does not help but players win matches not pitches and today was no exception.
Our opposition were very happy to win the toss and allow us to kick downhill in the first half. We were happy with this as if we could get the advantage you have something to defend in the second half. You always have to remember that when chasing back you also have to have to run uphill and with plenty of runners in our ranks, this did not worry us, although we did not start in our usual vibrant manner. Anyway, Mr McQueen arrived and before he had even taken his chair, a great ball out wide by Kerbs to Neil stretched the play and Neil, playing in an unfamiliar right wing role, put over a super cross that Alan controlled and fired beyond the keeper's reach. I guess if you cannot have your usual winger in Dean Murphy, lost to a hammy injury, you have the next best thing and keep it in the family with the brother-in-law. A cross that had ‘goal’ written all over it and Alan’s control was superb and made the finish look easy. Three goals in two games now for Al and thankfully no sight of the hamstring injury of the past few weeks.
We knew this was going to be a tough game, they always are against Riverside and so we really needed to take the chances we created but sadly a number of shooting boots were left at home but battles were taking place all over the pitch and this really was a game for defenders. Both sides defended excellently, which was all the more impressive with the pace of the game and the heavy and slippy surface.
As Paul Tanton always testifies, if you don’t concede two goals you generally win games and this was the case today, although it was a superhuman effort to maintain our 100% start to the season. From one to eleven a real shift was put in, although we could have gone into the break with a larger margin but as it was, we went into half-time without one at all however, there was a very large chunk of fortune in their goal as a clear throw to us was not given and from the through ball, we tried and failed with an offside call and the striker bent the ball around Gary to level the scores. A disappointing goal to concede for many reasons but another strange call by a ref who seemed to have his own ideas of interpreting the proper football rules. One blatant penalty for a tackle on Jez Mooney saw him put the whistle to his lips but play advantage!
Anyway, we went into the break knowing that we were going to have to defend for our lives and catch them on the break. We reinforced the view that we had not been our usual assertive selves. We seemed to be concentrating too much on the pitch and not using our speed and the wings and instructions were to change both of these and it was exactly what all players did. Midfield hassled and defenders just defended and headed clearances and composure saw us eventually keep a second half clean sheet but this was in no small part due to Gary Rosslee, who kept out anything that the defenders missed. Joe Champ and Jon Gasson were stand-out performers and along with Gary achieved 4 MOM votes each to share the spoils.
What we could not have imagined was that whilst the game was about defending, it was a defender who settled the match. Catching them on the break Alan held the ball up, Neil’s cross eluded all but salvaged by Kerbs who fed Joe and his shot could not be kept out and we were back in the ascendency. So if we could see the last 15 minutes out then our game plan had worked a treat. We thought we were going to extend our lead when Matt Kerby burst through and we waited for the net to bulge but amazingly the ball rolled past the far post. Would we regret that miss? Nearly, but in the last two minutes a smart save from Gary pushed the ball onto the post and the clearance was completed by Damien and we worked ourselves clear and the final whistle was a welcome sound.
This was the type of game you want to play in. Far better than high scoring wins and whilst we have played very well this season, this game was far and away our best performance of the season. Decisions can be easier when you are a few goals to the good and so playing like we did, with the conditions and under more pressure than previous weeks, made this a much more praiseworthy performance. Every defender raised their game and could have been nominated as MOM. Neil, Gary M, James, Joe, Jon, Gary R, Mark, and Robin were equal to any attacks and put their bodies on the line to protect our goal. Supported by Rhino, Si, Tant, Damian in midfield provided a formidable barrier with Kerbs and Jez giving us legs on the breakaway.
So we will now go through November unbeaten but hopefully, 6th December we will pick up where we have left off. A shame to be having a pause as players look fit, confident and enjoying their football and today’s result was a testament to the mindset of the group that we are confident enough to keep a second half clean sheet and be patient to catch the opposition on the break. We could have probably made life easier with chances being taken but glad I didn’t mention it Kerbs or for that matter, the back pass Robin! Chris Morris is definitely right after all these years and thankfully for you, he was not there to see it. No means no by the way!
Be safe and see you all for the Christmas drinks!
Man of the match: Joe Champ, Jon Gasson, Gary Rosslee