Saturday 10th February 2007
By Shaun Keddle
Squad: 1. St John; 2. Small; 3. Cleaver, L; 4. Davis; 5. Judge; 6. Pragnell; 7. Williams, J (15. Clark, D); 8. Perkins; 9. Harrigan (14. Wright); 10. Head (12. Williams, L); 11. Cleaver, B.
Subs not used: 16. Keddlinihio; 19. Mace
Another impressive away victory to put us right back in contention.
This week we were on our travels again for the third week in a row. These days we are harder to beat on our travels and have not been beaten in the league since the first week in November. We were up against a very young and decent Wickham side who had changed a lot since last season but still possessed two of the division''s most successful forwards in the form of Stocks and Brind who have successfully notched up 15 league goals between them in 8 games.
Despite the recent weather the pitch looked good and both teams were keen to play as time is against many clubs which could be an important factor in deciding where the promotional places go. On top of that we are starting to hit top form at the right time and are playing some fantastic, free-flowing football. Right from the start we were up for this as the pre-match atmosphere was excellent and I was confident of doing well.
Within the first couple of minutes an instant attack left the Park centre forward with a decent opportunity but he failed to make the effort count with a hasty and wayward strike. After this early scare we settled down a bit more and started to impose our orthodox 4-4-2 system against their wing back system. An early chance for Head presented itself in front of goal after good work from the clever Harrigan left the forward with a chance but slight hesitancy from Head enabled the challenge to be made and the chance was gone. After twenty minutes of sustained pressure the ball broke loose to Pragnell who let fly with a shot that flew past a number of bodies and inside the near post leaving the keeper stranded. 1-0 to the Guild. 10 minutes later and the Guild doubled their lead after Head was presented with an identical opportunity but this time the outcome was different and the effort was confidently hammered past the on-rushing keeper. 2-0 up and deservedly so.
At this stage we were playing some good football. Our defence was again rock solid, no-nonsense when they had to be, but playing the ball out of the back when possible. Judge was very vocal leading and encouraging the team where necessary ably assisted by Davis who was a powerhouse at the back. Small on the right was very disciplined and Cleaver on the left was his clever and reliable self. The centre midfield had their work cut out, playing against three in the middle but we still managed to impose ourselves on them. Out wide is where we did the attacking damage as Williams, J was again on fire down the right hand side and Cleaver, B was clever and resourceful down the right. Up front Harrigan held and distributed the ball well with some excellent passing and neat control. His partnership with Head was working well; Head working his socks off as usual and very direct with his approach to the game. St John in goal did not have a great deal to do in the second half but his kicking was assured, met crosses with both fists and his distribution was good.
The half finished with us two goals to the good. The pitch had started to cut up and get slightly boggy so we new our work would be cut out. We also knew that Wickham were the younger side and would come at us to the end. The next goal was vital.
The start of the second half saw us again dominate in commanding fashion and an excellent third goal was added after some crisp, quick interplay started when the ball was played our the back to the left hand side. Cleaver, L with some clever footwork evaded a challenge and played a neat ball to Cleaver, B down the line. Cleaver, B swivelled and played an intelligent ball to Harrigan who created space for himself in the middle. Harrigan in turn delivered a sublime pass that cut through the Wickham defence parting the centre half and left back. Williams, J was at full pace and beat the defender to the ball and thrashed the ball past the keeper and into the onion bag. A truly magnificent team goal. Three nil up and I did think that it would take the stuffing out of Wickham, but they never gave up hope. Williams, L replaced Head who was given his first start in the first team after performing well in the reserves. With twenty five minutes still on the clock Wickham pressed and pressed looking for a goal to get them back into the fixture. However, we were once again in a mean mood and St John in goal confidently dealt with everything. With being three nil up it was all ours to defend and substitutions were made to give players a well deserved rest but also to strategically counter Park’s more attacking formation. Wright replaced Harrigan which changed the formation to 4-5-1 and Clark, returning from injury, replaced Williams, J and again our pack was re-shuffled. We played out the remainder of the game under pressure, but nothing penetrative from Park.
All in all it was another good performance from the Guild and another three points away from home, another clean sheet and another three goals scored. Wickham Park are a good side – young and enthusiastic with a good attitude. They never gave up and I can see them beating a lot of teams in our division. They will definitely take points of some of the big boys and I fully expect them to finish in the top 4 this season. However, they were second best to us as the Guild continue their good run of form. We are unbeaten in the league since 4th November. We have only conceded 3 goals in our last 7 league outings, scoring 13 in the same time frame. We definitely seem to be the form side in the league. Our next two league games are at home, which is our fortress and we must maintain this good record. We have only lost once this season at home to an excellent Tudor side which have now lost a few players to a higher standard. A lot of teams have a lot of fixtures to play in a short space of time so there is plenty of football to be had and this also means a lot of teams playing a lot of games in a short space of time. This league is as open as it has been for years and is there for the taking. We have also already played a lot of the top sides in the division and have got some difficult away fixtures out of the way with plenty of games to be played at home. Once again this week we have an excellent and strong squad and we have Borough at home. Beating Borough on Saturday could put us as high as third, so that’s the incentive on Saturday to take all three points.
Excellent football of late boys. There’s a real buzz in the changing room, lets win our next two home games to really put us back in there.