Before I go anywhere with this report, I’m just going to start with: GOAL 0-1. Slade concede from an early corner.
The obligatory conceded free header from a corner in the opening 5 minutes is pretty much how it has gone this season, as we gave ourselves a mountain to climb against AFC Ringmer in the latest chapter of Mid-Sussex Division five 2017-18 season. Truth be told, it’s not all doom and gloom. Last time the last two teams met, we were able to grab an opening day last minute 3-2 win, with Nick Samuels coming up with the decisive winning goal in the dying minutes. Counter to that, Slade were missing no fewer than 6 players missing from the same starting line-up which included goal hero that day in Genardo Campbell, who also set up the winner. This unfortunately was an unwanted trend to the season so far, which meant on average we were fielding 2-3 changes per game which was resulting in a lack of cohesion, which the first team were enjoying so much.
Once again, without a regular goalkeeper, second team manager Matt Hornsby was forced to once again find an alternative. Rob Ingham took the gloves this week, for the third time this season. The defence was a little makeshift, with Jordan Nicholls missing, which meant a second appearance of the season for Giles Ward, returning after his hiatus. Ward was partnered with the ever so reliable and flexible Bendall, with Petto and Sanders at full backs. With Jon Stubbs away this week, and Daz Tai called up to first team duties, Hornsby was paired with new partners in Craig Bland, making his first appearance of the season, and Ben Graves getting his first outfield start of the season. Slade keeping with a 4-3-3, meant that Samuels was given the chance to shine in the number 9 role, flanked by Tom Hillier and Kornelius Plouti. The bench was made up of Jon Farrant, and late call up Paolo Segatto.
As ever, pre-match preparation was less than smooth, with perennial late arrive Samuels, not making it for kick off. In all honesty, it was not really his fault as his boy threw up in the car not long before kick off, leaving a real selection headache for Hornsby. A late re-shuffle saw Farrant starting at full back, Petto moving into midfield, and Slade reverting to a 4-4-2 diamond formation. We had the personnel to do this, but how well was a different question altogether. The message before kick-off was nothing more than to return back to basics, work together as a team, make sure with the short passes (due to the disgustingly long grass), and make use of a big pitch. However, I do not need to tell you how the game started due to the spoiler at the start of the report.
So to give some context to the goal, a ball was chipped into the Slade box, and despite the makeshift keeper’s calls, fumbled the ball leaving it free in the box, which had to be eventually smuggled away for a corner. It was from that corner that Slade were made to pay. A pretty straight forward routine from Ringmer dumbfounded the defence, where they queued on the edge of the box, and when the ball was played in, the Ringmer players rushed to the penalty spot where one was able to hammer home a free header. GOAL 0-1. I don’t need to really dwell on this, it’s been gone over before, but once again 0-1 and a terrible start. Truth be told, things did improve thereafter and there was a reduction in threat, but on the whole it was still not that great. The spells of effective possession were too infrequent and in short duration. This meant that Ringmer were fairly comfortable repelling any advances and making easier work of possession. Ringmer were stringing some passages together themselves, moving from back to front, using width effectively, and sometimes using one touch passing. There was far too much space in the middle of the park, with some players failing to really close down the opposition. Unfortunately one keeper was being tested much more than the other, which meant it wasn’t long before Ingham was picking the ball out the goal once more. To be fair, the strike was excellent, and was indicative of a player perhaps playing at a level below him. Slightly against the run of play, the ball was crossed deep from the Slade left, and despite heading towards the back post, where the number 9 was beyond the back post, he unleashed an instinctive volley inside the far post from an impossible angle. GOAL 0-2.
It really was a great goal. But there’s always that nagging feeling that we could have, and should have done much more in the build-up to stop it. The back four were doing their best to repel the advances of the Ringmer front line, which the majority of the time we were, but still two found their way into the Slade goal, and if there’s nothing happening at the other end, then you’re always going to be struggling. The teams headed in at half time 2-0 down, and a little bit downtrodden. Despite the pattern in the game, 2-0 is a dangerous scoreline. We’ve already come back from two down before this season, but it will take a massive effort not only to get the goals back, but to change how we were playing fundamentally. One positive, was that Samuels had now arrived, and was primed to enter the fray. Farrant bowed out for Samuels to get in the game, with a slight re-shuffle to boot. Slade changed back into the 4-3-3 with Samuels operating as the figurehead to the attack, and Petto slotting into left back. There were still needed changes, in particular to the effort invested in play, and the midfield keeping close as a hard working unit. However, as has been a bit of an unwanted trend this season, a slow start resulted in an early goal in the second half.
Now considering the conversation which was had during half time, the start to the second half was sacrilegious. The burly Ringmer centre back picked the ball just over the half way line, and with a few touches was within striking range. Of course with no player around him, it was just an open invitation to crack a shot goalward. The strike was very well hit, and a Westgate or Graves would have probably tipped it over the crossbar, but the makeshift keeper could do nothing, other than concede under the crossbar. GOAL 0-3.
Well anything which was discussed at half time went immediately down the drain, and game all but up. To be fair to the team, the heads did not drop, and a valiant group of players continued to work their socks off and keep pushing for a goal, but the efforts were in vain. There were some excellent bustling runs from Ben Graves which gained a lot of yards, and forced pressure up the pitch, but the likes of Hillier, Plouti and Samuels largely isolated. There was argument for those players to drop a little deeper, to try help out the midfield. The only real shot of note in the game from the Slade XI was a half volley from Petto which was struck wildly, and high. Ringmer made the scoreline complete no more than a quarter hour of the game left, with the number 9 having far too much time and space on the right hand side, controlled the ball well, opened his body and side foot into the far corner. GOAL 0-4.
Game all but up. A few late saves by Ingham saved face, and the addition of Segatto for Petto at full back meant that no further goals were added to the scoreline, and game finished 4-0 to the visitors. Only way to describe it, was a bad day at the office. There were no great performances, although the likes of Graves, Bendall, Sanders and Hornsby kept the fight going on as long as they could. Once again, the impact of changes could well have had a decisive influence on the scoreline, but one thing that is never excused is effort and application. If you’re not fit enough, training is on Wednesday every week, is free of charge for club members, and means there is no excuse.
There’s no time to lick wounds for too long, as Slade are back on the road next week against Handcross Village, who dealt Slade a last minute blow last time out, as a cross come shot ended up in the top corner in a 3-2 defeat. This weeks man of the match, while the performances from Graves and Hornsby were not far away, was awarded to Bendall for the second time this season. Once again, leading by example, put every ounce of effort into 90 minutes, and one of the first names on the team sheet.
Updated 13:34 - 6 Nov 2017 by Rob Ingham