4 months ago
By Rob Ingham
Slade fail to keep perfect record going as we fall at the second hurdle
In all honesty, there was a great deal of excitation leading up to the first home double header of the season. Both teams with excellent squads, pitches in great condition, the sun shining, and looking forward to six points in the bag. Unfortunately, as full time whistle was blown on both pitches, Slade walked away with nothing.
Today’s opposition were Handcross Village, who have so far played two and lost two, conceding 11 in the process. It’s easy to speculate, but on paper maybe an opportunity to get some goals. That being said, two games into a new season, nothing can be taken for granted!
So here we are, only a few months on from the end of last season, where we struggled to really put together 11 players to start a match. This week, no less than 5 players had to be dropped from the squad including ever reliable Jon Farrant, Mark Saunders, Paolo Segatto and Regan Rider. That being said, it did mean that there were no excuses for good results. In essence, the starting line up remained unchanged, but with the first team at capacity, Harry Smith and Alex Evans had the opportunity to get some second team fantasy points. Alex pulled out last minute struggling with a bit of man flu, opening the door for Andre Neto, fresh from Portugal. So with Slade’s back up keeper living the good life in Portugal, Slade were forced to resort to their back up back up, in Rob Ingham, who was backed up by the same back 4 from last week; Williams, Petto, Nicholls and McEnery. Slade opted to continue in the winning 4-4-2 formation from last week, keeping with the industrious Hornsby and Tyrie combination, with the latter donning the armband. With Smith in the squad, Tom Hillier had to make do with the bench, with Nick Samuels continuing on the left. Last week’s hero Campbell continued his number 9 role, backed up by the ever reliable Stubbs. Andre Neto and Tom Hillier were joined by ever present Darren Tai, who was returning after a busy summer away.
The day started well with the pitches being set up ahead of time and the arrival of new tracksuits! However the late arrival of the vast majority of players meant the game preparation was a little disjointed. McEnery took the lads through their warm up and the team scooted through some ball work, before gathering for manager’s pre-match talk. In essence, there was some emphasis on the expectations, and what we had to do as a team. A lot of last week’s success came down to the solid shape we managed to maintain, so there was a call for more of the same. The players head to the pitch in preparation for the game. The game, however, started in the worst possible way, as a catalogue of errors resulting in an early conceded goal. The home side sacrificed early possession from kick off, and a sloppy foul resulted in a free-kick, 25 yards out. The makeshift keeper immediately called for a 3-man wall, but the majority of players casually going about their business, hands in pocket. With a wobbly wall vaguely in position, the referee blew for the free-kick to proceed, with the ball coolly chipped to the back post, an unmarked Handcross player was able to nod home. GOAL 0-1.
So a bad start was made worse by the immediate retirement of last week’s goal threat Campbell hobbling off the pitch with a groin injury. Fortunately with a strong bench, Neto was immediately into the fray. From there on, Slade’s performance failed to really impress, failing to really control any meaningful possession making life fairly easy for the opposition. Handcross attempts were largely limited to long balls which generally ran through to the keeper or were swept up by the defence. On the other side of the pitch, a lack of controlled possession meant that attempts into the visitor’s penalty area were somewhat limited. However, Slade should have been level through Neto, who couldn’t convert a pin-point Smith cross from the right, with the whole goal to aim at, on his less favoured right could only screw wide. The shape of the home side was somewhat disjointed with the wide players regularly pulled out of position which resulted in the central midfield being relatively exposed. Stubbs was winning his fair share of headers on, but players around him failed to pick up any of the second balls. Ingham managed to thwart Handcross’s best other chance as a heavy touch meant the temporary stopper could collect the loose ball. With limited goalmouth action, the half petered out to a second half. HT 0-1.
The good news was that we were only 0-1, but unfortunately not performing at all. Possession was generally squandered, and we were desperate to go direct, which was not working with a strike force just lacking a bit of match sharpness. We needed to get back to basics, hang onto that shape, and start operating as a unit. Unfortunately the second half kicked off as the first did, and we were staring at 2-0 in the opening minutes of the half. Yet another set-piece punished the home side as a corner was recycled back into the box, and a strike hitting a defender and spinning up over the stranded keeper. GOAL 0-2!
You’d think the second goal might spark life into the home side, but unfortunately it was the same story as the first half. Slade almost found themselves 3-0 down, yet from another corner, but fortunately was saved by the referee as he blew for a foul on Stubbs, who’d been pulled to the ground. The general play was as said, very similar to the first half, but still struggling to get a foot hold in. As the half wore on, some of the players started to fade as we were doing a lot of chasing, non-more than Smith, who was eventually replaced by Hillier. With little more than 15 minutes remaining, Darren Tai was introduced, replacing Williams, switching Samuels to right back. Tai – made an immediate impact. Slade with the extra man in midfield were starting to hold a bit of presence in the middle of the park, and Tai’s extra quality helping maintain possession. It was no surprise then that it was him that pegged Handcross back, the route though, my my! McEnery, with perhaps the most suspect throw in I have ever seen in my life, found Tai on the left hand side, but with time and space, he proceeded towards the goal, and nonchalantly stroked the ball into the top corner with the greatest of ease. GOAL 1-2.
Early shout for goal of the season? You bet! But it did not end there. Slade continued to press and with only a few minutes left on the clock, Slade draw level. A corner on the Slade left was sent into the danger zone, where Stubbs unleashed a shot which was excellently parried by the Handcross keeper. However, the ball only reached as far as player-manager, Hornsby, who did an improvised half volley into the far corner. GOAL 2-2!!
Slade claw back level! Did we deserve it? Our performance probably didn’t warrant the scoreline, but it was not like Handcross were a dominant force either. That being said, as we found out last week, it is not over until it’s over. Handcross with the bit between their teeth were keen to rectify a comfortable winning position managed to force a late corner, but with the original kick cleared the left hand side of the box, the number 10, who was a consistent thorn in the Slade side, managed to work a yard on the by-line and rifle a shot goalward, and into the far top corner. GOAL 2-3.
Was it a shot? Probably not, no. From that angle, he was clearly trying to cross the ball, but under pressure sent the ball more goalward. With little left of the game, Handcross had the chance to make sure, and 4-2, but only to be stopped by Ingham in the last minute when 1v1. Slade were not the better side today, and defeat was arguably a fair result. Handcross controlled the game much more, and probably had the lion’s share of good opportunities. There were far too many 6’s and 7’s today, and although nobody played terribly, probably overall just a little too average. Today’s MOM, who is proving to be a great addition to the club, not only for the second team, but also for the firsts. Ryan Petto was one of the few that didn’t let his level drop all game, and remained positive on the ball and was very assured off it. Well done.
Slade back on the road next week as we look to get back to winning ways. Fletching, the opposition (was originally Forest Row) have started the season well with winning 8-3 against early high flyers Antsy. We will need to up our game to continue to compete in this league, especially as there are a lot of teams scoring a lot of goals.
Updated 13:47 - 20 Sep 2017 by Rob Ingham