After 4 games and 4 defeats, Slade were left rooted at the bottom of the table with zero points, but after back to back cup wins, were starting to find their groove. With weather on the south coast mirroring that of some recent meteorological activity across the Atlantic, Slade not only had to battle against early league form, but also gale force winds, which at one point threatened the game even going ahead at all.
Truth be told, performances in recent weeks were gradually improving, which was making the league situation probably a bit of an unfair reflection of the overall form. Attendances in training have also been promising, as the new training facility proves favourable amongst the players. Despite all this, the inclusion of Sean Trend was probably the biggest bonus of all. After some rotten luck as of recent, which resulted in a serious knee injury which required surgery, and a broken ankle which was sustained on the last game before surgery. After surgery and some well documented rehabilitation, Trend returned back to not only the squad, but also the starting line up, as we look to add some attacking intent into the team dynamic. After only 5 goals all season, the 24 goals in the last 2.5 seasons from the boot of Trend (token header also available), most certainly a sight for sore eyes.
The conditions were not conducive to total football, but they were definitely indicative to a game of two halves. One upside though, despite the game being played at the top of the Peacehaven Cliffs, we did have the luxury of playing the game inside the county stadium, which at least would provide SOME cover. The playing surface was an absolute dream, a far throw from conditions currently enjoyed at Victoria Rec. Peacehaven historically has been a decent hunting ground for Slade, earning a 2-0 win in the same ground on the last day of the season two years ago, although last year played to form which resulted in a 3-1 defeat. Another trend which has been enjoyed over recent weeks is a settled side which is looking more quality each week. Despite recent injury concerns, Big Bear Westgate swapped the second team jersey for first team duties once again, especially after the heroics the week before. Slade opted to stick with a back three which has so far served us well. Kevin Bradburn has been a revelation so far this season bringing some much needed assurance at the back, who was flanked by Dan Rahaman and Adam Steele. Harry Smith continued his good vein of form at right wing back, with Jack Larkham looking fitter each week on the left. In the middle of the park, the return of Sean ‘Petal’ Trend was again support by a strong unit of Neil Shelly and Dani Garcia. Up top, Tom Chidgey was partnered by newbie Ben Hall. A Boddy heavy bench included brothers John and Rob, with the latter looking to get some match fitness after stop-start last 12 months, and utility man Ben Graves.
Slade played with the wind behind first half, which to be honest was not all that much of a benefit. The wind dictated the flight of the ball to such a degree, that speculative balls over the top would be whipped away into the secure hands of the Peacehaven stopper. The first half was really a bit of a stalemate with either team really having too many chances. Much of the attacking play was coming down the left hand side, with Larkham and Steele linking up well and using their extra technical quality to make short work of the Peacehaven press. Unfortunately this partnership didn’t last too long as Larkham twisted his ankle twice, resulting in an early replacement, with the younger of the Boddy’s entering the fray. Slade were performing admirably, linking some excellent passages of play together in midfield, which was well backed up by some excellent shape and organisation. But while the shape was good, and organised, we were not really causing much trouble in the opposition half. Progress into the danger areas was predominantly coming via Chidge who was working hard at holding up play and bringing surrounding players into the fray. Slade were presented their best chance of the half with a ball over the top of the defence, inevitably held up by the wind, but on the bounce at an awkward height, meant Chidge could only guide over from 6 yards.
Peacehaven weren’t anonymous in the game, and probably shaded the lion’s share of good chances, but for some resolute defending, if not desperate at times, meant that we were able to go in at half time the score line unchanged. There probably was not much call for specific changes in the play, as conditions in the second half would be so different. That being said, being aware of the change in conditions as the team that adapted quickly would arguably grab the advantage. Second half kicked off as expected, with Peacehaven creating the initial pressure, with Slade trying to repel advances of both the hosts and the wind. It would however be the heavy wind which would result in the opening goal in very bizarre fashion. With little pressure, a cross was aimed for the middle of the box from the Peacehaven left, but as soon as it left the winger’s boot, the wind took control. The ball spiralled towards the Slade goal, and despite Westgate’s calls to comfortably collect the ball, the wind took the ball over his head and into the top corner. GOAL 0-1.
A really unfortunate and unfair outcome to a relatively harmless situation, and 1-0 down, and up against it (literally). I think any onlookers would have expected the floodgates to open, especially with the conditions the way they were, but Petal and his merry men had other ideas. When the ball was on the deck, we were able to frustrate the hosts, stringing some good spells of possession together which clearly wasn’t playing to the Peacehaven plan. It was causing a visible amount of frustration, indicating Slade had adapted well to the changeable conditions. On the hour mark, the hard working Garcia, clearly hindered by a knock, was swapped out the Boddy number two in John. A fresh JB on any given day would prove to be a headache for any team, and this proved so. An injection of creativity and positivity forced a series of corners in the Peacehaven half. So far during the game, the corners were increasingly difficult to control, and rarely reached their desired destination, but it would be an excellent Boddy delivery which was sent to the back post, but who was it that climbed the highest? None other the Sean Trend. GOAL 1-1!!
He’s back, and some! The goal was met by the usual 14 year old yelp, as he tried to rally his fellow players to go on for the win. Peacehaven had conceded not only the lead, but also a strong position given the circumstances. The hosts did push on for the win as best they could, with their number 9 being arguably the most likely provider. Unfortunately for him, irrespective of his failing body, Westgate was equal to anything thrown at him, make 2-3 excellent stops, although the striker might be disappointed he didn’t do much better. With little more than 20 minutes left, Petal made his bow, unscathed, giving the opportunity for Graves to get some minutes out on the pitch. The pattern of play didn’t alter much, with the visitors working hard all over the pitch, and bravely equalising the Peacehaven advances. There was no change in the scoreline, and the spoils were shared. Full-time 1-1.
Overall, Peacehaven again probably shaded the number of clear cut chances, but Slade deserved a share of the spoils, in very difficult circumstances, which included having to adapt to numerous injuries throughout the game. It was also a sign that things are continuing to improve, and now a collection of positive results, which is developing momentum and improving confidence. There were a lot of standout performances, and a welcome return for Slade favourite, Sean ‘Petal’ Trend, but this week man of the match was awarded to Harry Smith. While a majority of the attacking play went through the middle or the left, it did not retract from the tireless defensive work being done on the Peacehaven left by Smith, fast becoming a Slade favourite.
Next week Slade return to the Theatre of Wet Dreams™, as we take on old foes Smallfield, as we look to add the first three points of the season! See you all at training on Wednesday!
Updated 13:41 - 30 Oct 2017 by Rob Ingham