From the first game of last season, only three players survive from that starting line-up. Nick Samuels, Ollie McEnery and John Stubbs started the opening fixture of the 2016/17 season in the 3-1 home defeat to Stones, which featured in today’s opening fixture against Ringmer. A testament to the new look Slade reserves with new faces joined by old in a bid to start the season in style.
Truth be told, Slade do not have the best record of opening fixtures with two defeats and a draw in the last 3 seasons, so it was always going to be a challenge to turn that round. As has been well documented, last season was a real struggle for the club, with the reserves finishing comfortably bottom with a disjointed and discombobulated season. This season however, the re-introduction of managers Norris and Hornsby has brought a degree of stability, which has helped the squads settle early. As a result, the likes of Matt Hornsby, Daz Tai, Tom Bendall, and Ben Williams all being available for the second team, and the likes of Genardo Campbell and Dougal Tyrie back playing their best football. Add that to a few new faces, Slade all of a sudden looking a strong outfit.
Slade lined up with the unfamiliar, albeit once upon a time closet goalkeeper, Tom Bendall donning the gloves for the first time competitively for the club this season. Slade keeping things simple with an orthodox 4-4-2 formation, were pleased to see the return of Ollie McEnery at left back, and the second team debut of Ben Williams after a busy summer of getting married and having a baby! Making up a new centre back pairing was Jordan Nicholls and a second team debut for Ryan Petto. Second team manager Matt Hornsby returns to the second team after a season away was partnered with new team captain Dougal Tyrie, who has so far made a strong start to pre-season. Last season’s manager’s player of the season, Nick Samuels, took up the right with last minute addition, Tom Hillier, taking up the left. It was also pleasing to see the return of Genardo Campbell to the starting line-up, after a season out of action, who was partnered by Stubbs, reportedly playing his last season for the club. A strong bench was made up of Charlie Jorgensen, looking to make his club debut, as well as Jon Farrant, and Regan Rider.
I was unfortunate enough to arrive to the game 30 minutes in, but to my delight, arriving with Slade 1-0 up. The opening 30 minutes was reportedly even, with Ringmer enjoying the lion’s share of possession, but Slade looking solid and untroubled. The deadlock was broken though via a free-kick, won by Stubbs down by the corner flag, which Samuels proceeding to send in a sumptuous cross, where Campbell was able to outleap his marker, and hammer home a powerful header from 6 yards. GOAL 1-0! I also arrived with Ringmer player flat out on the side of the pitch with a suspected broken leg, ironically the same venue that first team captain, Sean Trend, managed to suffer a broken ankle before. Fortunately, it ended up being nothing more than a badly sprained ankle. Hopefully a speedy recovery will ensue.
As the half progressed, Ringmer played themselves into the game, getting more territory in the Slade half, although once again, the defence was holding firm well marshalled by a commanding Bendall. It was then quite surprising that they were able to sneak an equaliser just before half time. A good cross from the left was flicked onto a man at the back post, to head home from 2 yards, giving the Slade stopper no chance. GOAL 1-1.
The half soon came to a close with the game finely poised. With the match on 3G, and the quality on the pitch, it was fair to say that we were not really making the most of possession or the space available in the opposition half. The forays were coming in sharp bursts rather than sustained periods of pressure. Perhaps something this team has been guilty of in the past. The message from the manager was to be better in possession, but when not in it, keep that solid shape which is making it difficult for the opposition to play through us.
The second half kicked off slowly for the visitors, and perhaps afforded Ringmer a little more time and space than we wanted to give away. That being said, it would be Slade that regained the lead, somewhat against the run of play. A poor clearance by the Ringmer full back sent the ball into the danger area, eventually into the path of Campbell under some Stubbs pressure. After some jostling, the loose ball fell to Samuels whose shot was parried into the path of Campbell, who finished smartly left footed past the Ringmer keeper. GOAL 2-1!
It was hopeful that Slade would this time be able to take more control of the match from a winning position, but it was Ringmer, which were the much more threatening and much more likely to score the next goal. They were regularly getting shots away from the edge of the box or getting the ball into the channels and dangerous areas, but Bendall still relatively untroubled. Charlie Jorgensen was introduced for the much improved Hillier, perhaps to inject a little bit of extra energy. As the half was progressing on, the likes of Campbell, Samuels and Hillier were becoming a little detached from the game, and not being able to put their stamp on the game. Unfortunately, it was one of these Ringmer advances, which eventually resulted in an equaliser. The Ringmer number 9 was afforded just a little too much space in the box, and with a smart turn and was able to find the bottom corner with a well guided shot. GOAL 2-2.
At this point, the momentum really looked like it was with the home side, as they pressed for a winner. It was only for some very impressive and brave interventions by the Slade part time goalkeeper, as Bendall threw himself at the ball at corners, demonstrated some excellent agility clawing away shots that looked destined for the back of the net. However, Ringmer wouldn’t be having it all their own way as it looks as though Slade might take an unlikely lead, as Hornsby crashed a great shot from 25 years on the half volley against the cross bar. That wouldn’t be the only action the wood work would see as Ringmer continued to threaten, hitting the post, with the rebound just missing all Ringmer players. Farrant was introduced for hard working Williams, and Rider entered the fray for Stubbs. With the game seemingly running out for a draw, Slade pick up a free kick 20 years from goal, just left of centre. There was only ever one player who was going to take it, already two goals to the good, Campbell steps over the kick. With a short run up, open faced, hits a fantastic free kick, which I thought was destined for the top corner, only to crash off the cross, bar. Fortunately, Samuels was quickest to react, and managed to bundle the rebound into an almost empty goal! GOAL 3-2!!
Slade take the lead for the third time, can we hold it this time? Well to cut a long story short, the goal took all the wind out of Ringmer, and Slade proceeded to stroke the ball around the big pitch with relative ease. In fact, it was the kind of composure, which could have helped Slade, control the game in the middle parts of the game. None the less, it was composure, which took three massive points and us to full time! Full time 3-2.
A great feeling for all concerned, and a true buzz, which was largely missing from last season. Every player from start to finish, including the subs, played their part in earning the points. Truth be told, this time last season, we arguably wouldn’t have had the character or personnel to win the game, so it is pleasing to see that the group has captured an edge which we were missing last season. Ringmer will feel hard done by, and perhaps they were, but how many times last season were we on the end of something similar. As far as I am concerned, in this game, you make your own luck!
Special mentions go to Tom Bendall, who was in inspired form, saving us on more than one occasion. Dougal Tyrie, who put in a captains performance. John Stubbs, who demonstrated how much we missed him last season. Tom Hillier who is improving with each game, and Ryan Petto who has already demonstrated to be a great addition to an already bursting squad. However, today man of the match could only really go to one player. When he’s on it, he’s unplayable, and was only a few centimetres from a perfect hatrick (right, left and header), did enough to force the winner. Today’s man of the match goes to Genardo Campbell. Hopefully today’s match winning brace will inspire him to bag some more goals, but also to grow as the season goes on.
Next week Slade begin their home campaign against Handcross Village who have had a rough start to their season with back to back defeats. That being said, Slade are a long way off being where they want to be performance wise, so there’s a lot to work on, which starts at training on Wednesday. Manager Hornsby will continue to have selection headaches with the imminent return of Daz Tai, Paul Westgate, Andre Neto, Rob Bennett and Rob Ingham, while newbie Charlie Jorgensen making a positive impact as sub sure to give the manager lots to think about.
Updated 13:38 - 10 Sep 2017 by Rob Ingham