3 weeks ago
By Rob Ingham
Slade dealt crushing blow as Fletching run riot in the second half
So any team that has played Manchester City in the last 3 games will know how our team felt on Saturday, staring down at a 5-0 defeat. Against a team which won’t go down in history as the greatest ever, but an effective outfit which will be there and there abouts come the end of the season. This week Slade travelled north of Uckfield to take on village team Fletching.
In pleasant surroundings, Slade were looking to make amends for a disappointing last minute defeat to Handcross Village, despite a brave come back from 2-0 down. Once again, we were able to field a strong side which on any given day would be enough to challenge any side. So far we have enjoyed two 3-2 matches, which on both occasions have resulted in competitive affairs. Today unfortunately would be a completely different argument altogether. With long term goalkeeper still over a week away, the team once again resort to back up Rob Ingham. With Ryan Petto not available for the game, Tom Bendall was recalled back to an outfield position, straight outta the Algarve, taking up a central defensive position partnered with regular Jordan Nicholls. Slade continued with Ollie McEnery at left back, but this week utilising Nick Samuels at right back. With Slade’s genuine lack of control in the middle of the park last week, which was largely halted after the inclusion of Darren Tai, meant that Slade opted for 3 in midfield with a strong trio of player/manager Matt Hornsby, captain Dougal Tyrie and Tai. After his early sub appearance, Andre Neto was joined by second team debuts in Alex Evans and Kornelius Plouti. On the bench, Tom Hillier, Mark Saunders and Regan Rider.
Slade were scheduled to play Fletching in the opening week, however the council made sure that there was no way that would happen. After a late start into the season, Fletching went on to put 8 past early high flyers Antsy Sports & Social, which indicated the potential for difficult afternoon. The squad arrived in good spirits, and donning the blue away kit for the first time in a while, but the energy tempered quickly when we reached the warm up. Things were uncharacteristically quiet, which was immediately addressed in the pre-match talk. After the collapse of shape last week, there was a focus on keeping it together and making the opposition work hard at playing it round us. That being said, from kick off, the home side’s tactics completely bypassed any compact shape and went very direct.
Truth be told, the back 5 were dealing with it very well. Having the likes of McEnery and Samuels meant that we were in good shape to repel long diagonal balls, with a short pitch also meaning the ball could also be well swept up by Ingham, while the midfield 3 were forcing the opposition to move the ball quickly. Slade, however, were struggling to have much impact on the ball, with the fit and imposing opposition winning the majority of the work on the ground and using their extra height to win the aerial battle. The debut wingers were struggling to really impose themselves into the game, irrespective of how hard they were working, but the game was creeping a long in a bit of a stalemate. Really it was only going to be a mistake which would result in the deadlock being broken. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened. Another deep probing ball over the top made its way into the Slade channel, although well covered by captain Tyrie, but with the ball failing to trickle out, opted to play the ball back to keeper Ingham. Unfortunately the pass was under hit, and the Fletching number 9 was in immediately, sidestepping the stranded keeper and passing into an empty goal. GOAL 0-1.
That was really gutting, and probably a little unfair on the score line. Although Slade were second best in respect to the general play, the visitors’ goal was not really that threatened. Slade made their efforts to make amends with a free header from a corner from Tyrie, but unfortunately failed to trouble the rangy keeper. Before the referee could blow for half time, Neto had a good shot after a few good touches from the edge of the box, but once again the strike was too close to a competent keeper. Unfortunately one of the last moments of the half was the retirement of debutant Plouti, after picking up a knock on the thigh, replaced by Hillier. The half played out to 1-0 down for the second time in two weeks.
In summary, it was not a vintage performance by no stretch, although there was no real complaints in the effort applied. That being said, we were probably losing the lion’s share of 50:50’s and outclassed by a very tall outfit in the air. That being said, it would still have been nice to see more movement on the second and third balls. We were struggling to hang on to meaningful possession and misplaced passes and mistakes were starting to creep into our game. But at 1-0 down, we are very much in the game.
That being said, as happened last week, we made the worst possible start to the second half, as the hosts doubled their lead. Fletching continued their direct approach as they sent searching balls towards the Slade third, and their enterprising wingers making the most of the situation. A long raking ball was sent over McEnery into the Slade left channel, where the number 9 was in place to pick up near the by-line. His cross-come-shot deflected off the defender and span agonisingly over the keeper across the goal only to be nodded home from a few yards by the tall second half substitute. GOAL 0-2.
Worst possible start and the hosts double their lead, which was further compounded by the retirement of captain Tyrie, who was hindered by a back injury. Unfortunately the introduction of Saunders did little to change an important period of the game, as the opening 15-20 minutes of the second half made sure that Slade would be edged out of the game completely, adding three more goals in relatively close succession. Fletching’s third goal was as route-one as they come, and with the defence shouting offside, only one player was uninterested by the shouts, and that was the Fletching sub, who picked up the ball on the edge of the box and proceeded to half volley past a hapless keeper into the top(ish) corner. GOAL 0-3. Three quickly became four, as once again the Fletching strike force getting goal-side, and despite making his best effort, Bendall’s sliding tackle was in a different post code to the ball, and player went tumbling. From the kick, the second half substitute secured his hatrick, sending the keeper the wrong way and ramming home in style. GOAL 0-4.
Slade did have an excellent opportunity to peg back the home side, and bring some parity to the scoreline, also from the penalty spot. Tai was clumsily felled to the ground by a Fletching defender, which some believe was a little on the harsh side, but none-the-less a penalty. Step forward Andre Neto. Andre won’t forgive me for going into too much detail, but his spot kick perhaps one to forget. Fletching’s keeper was definitely on the tall side, easily 6’5+, so given his dimensions, low and hard was probably order of the day (says the guy with the worst penalty record in the club’s history). Unfortunately the kick was not expertly struck and with the keeper selecting the correct side, the kick was saved well, with the headed rebound sent comfortably over the cross bar. Just to rub salt in the wounds, and with Slade heads dropped a little, Fletching made sure by adding a fifth in almost comical fashion. From a goal kick, Ingham opted to play short to Samuels, but during a little bit of kidology indicating I was going to long, unfortunately it only resulted in fooling the full back too, putting him immediately in trouble. Samuels was duly dispossessed, and the lanky second half sub added his fourth goal. GOAL 0-5.
There was still a good 15 minutes left in the game, and in theory, goals to be had, but the team continued to rally, fronted by manager Hornsby and an encouraging cameo from Mark Saunders. Probably a mixture of good character by Slade and a drop in levels by the hosts resulted in no more goals being added. Only a point blank stop from Ingham stopped the goal thirsty sub from scoring a fifth from an overhead kick, 6 yards out. Truth be told, it was definitely a match to forget, but more importantly a lesson to be learned. Although the squad from last year is an upgrade, we definitely need to apply ourselves to ensure that we get the right results. Next week we get the opportunity to make amends against mid-table Division 6 Ditchling in the cup. That being said, there is plenty of character in this squad, and with time we will get it together, and the results will start to flow.
Man of the match this week was an easy choice, fresh from Portugal after a little break away, and a demonstration of experience and attitude. Tom Bendall epitomised the right attitude from kick off to full time; vocal, organised, determined. Long may his inclusion continue!
A quick message ahead of next week, good luck to Adam Steele who is tying the knot next week. If you’re not attending the big day, make sure you’re down to Victoria Rec this weekend for cup fever, kick off at 1:30pm.
Updated 13:52 - 27 Sep 2017 by Rob Ingham