Well, we started off with the same intensity, desire and concentration that we finished last week’s match with. Yet again, our defence was strong, midfield was quick and delivered some incisive passes and Teddie was a ready and willing runner up front. The team (each of them) played like a team – backing each other up, shouting for the ball, passing to feet and strong in the tackle, epitomised by Dom with that captain’s armband helping him give 110%.
For the first 10 minutes we were that dominant, a 3-0 score-line would not have flattered us. Owen’s corners were delivered with pace and power, and we saw shots flash just wide from Teddie and Ryder (twice). Their first real shot (thanks to the defensive teamwork from Connor and Matthew) came after 11 minutes and was smothered by Jude, and from the resultant corner, Owen broke away and drew a great save from their goalie.
Dom and Owen were brought off (whilst they still had any energy left!) to be replaced by Jack and Danny. We continued to push forward, with a shot from Jack whistling wide left of the goal, and a shot by their Number 12 (who was getting more of a threat as the game went on) well held by Jude.
With three minutes to go before half-time, Tim was sent on for Jack, and after a bit of pinball in the middle of the pitch, Teddie was through on goal and slotted it past the keeper for a much deserved 1-0 lead.
But, you know what they say about luck when you’re at the wrong end of the league. Within a minute the referee blew for a penalty when the ball flew off Connor’s elbow when he had his back turned. I think it’s fair to say that the ref was the only person within 100 yards who thought that was deliberate. Up stepped their number 12, who confidently put the ball into the back of the net, and the boys trudged off the pitch at half-time with the scores level.
George, who had been coming up with clichés in the car on the way over, unknowingly hit the nail on the head when he pointed out (before kick off) that ‘”if you don’t take your chances at this level, it will come back and hurt you!”.
At half-time, Tim was replaced by Owen. The match was a lot more even than it had been in the first half, with shots coming in from both sides. After about 7 minutes, I had written that Ruddington were coming more into the game, but that Matthew and Connor were holding strong. Having said that, Ryder hit the post and Teddie brought a magnificent save from their keeper (see this for something similar http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEXlrQlR28M
Owen and Danny were exchanged for Tim & Dom, but a couple of minutes later, their Number 12 was given time as we backed off him, and steered the ball past Jude from 6 yards out to make it 2-1, and from our kick off (and with the Ruddington players clearly still buzzing), we lost possession and their forward chipped the ball over Jude for the cheekiest/luckiest goal ever. Minutes later it was all over as they made it 4-0, and Dom, Tim and Matthew were withdrawn for Jack, Owen and Danny to come back on. In the dying minutes, we had a shot on target that looked for the world like it had crossed the line, but the ref unsurprisingly decided against it. Worryingly, for that last ten minutes, you couldn’t hear a word from our team (with one or two discouraging exceptions).
Next week, we have a timely midseason break, where we can pit our wits against other teams with the pressure completely off. Time to recharge batteries, take stock and plan for the last few games of the season. And most importantly, time to banish that doubt with a firm kick between the legs and remember what a brilliant team we can be.