What do you do after a 7-0 defeat? Sort it the f**k out! To be fair, when it goes that bad, you know things can’t really get much worse. As Slade look to pick themselves up from the worst defeat since….well since last season, we are pleased to return to familiar surroundings as we welcome Ansty Sport & and Social to the Theatre of Wet Dreams™.
Last week was nothing more than a blip, and an opportunity to pick things up. Today’s opposition started the season in decent form with two big wins, but has since been undone by four consecutive defeats. One would imagine that given the sequences a good game should follow. What could possibly go wrong? Well one thing that could go wrong, is there would be no referee allocated for the game? Well with the Mid-Sussex league being 16 referees short for the week, it meant that some games would suffer the unfortunate, and have to field their own referees. With Dougal Tyrie somewhere north of Carlisle (Scotland?), and the usually reliable stand-in, Cliff Emberlin, uncharacteristically absent, it meant there was a lot of work in getting this game ahead. After some desperate Facebook recruiting, and a few acquisitions and drop outs, Slade were forced to rely on the old faithful with Trevor Payne taking up first team linesman duties, and Slade chairman making his refereeing debut for the second team game.
Once again, Slade were able to field a strong side, which in theory should help us wrestle control of the game and a good result. But as theories go, last week demonstrated that they don’t always play to form. With Ben Graves a late withdrawal, Big Bear Westgate was called up to the first team, and with temporary step in Ingham going with a referees whistle, it was an opportunity for Regan Rider to make a rare start. This week Tom Bendall, possibly emotionally scarred from last week’s game, was absent, which meant that Jordan Nicholls could return back to a more central role after being trialled at full back, partnered with Ryan Petto. Nick Samuels continued at left back after some sterling performances, with Mark Sanders making his debut at right full back. Slade decided to go with a 4-3-3 after an underwhelming performance last week, and personnel. Second team manager Hornsby and Daz Tai were joined in midfield by Jon Stubbs, which left Genardo Campbell upfront, flanked by Tom Hillier and Portuguese Andre Neto, either side. On the bench, Jon Farrant, Rob Bennett and latecomer Rob Johnston making up the bench.
The mood in the camp was good considering recent form, and the lads motivated for a good result. Warm up was pretty text book, albeit still a little short on the quality side, but good enough to get the lads prepped for kick off. After winning the toss, Ansty opted to stay as they were and Slade kicked off. The game as ever was scrappy, as both sides tried to wrestle the initiative, but immediately the bigger pitch starting show as a bonus for the home side. Now the trend in recent weeks is that the reserves would go 1-0 down to a set piece. Why break tradition? Once again, the set piece, Slade’s Achilles heel, would go on to punish some more uncoordination during a corner. Both Petto and Rider heading for the same ball, which resulted in both missing, and the ball landing on the head of an unmarked Ansty player into an empty goal. GOAL 0-1.
The familiar scene of being 1-0 down, question is, what would happen next? Last week, it resulted in an avalanche of goals, but this week Slade responded positively. To be fair, we were probably the better team in the opening quarter hour, but momentum and possession doesn’t always result in goals or wins. It was a case of digging in, and trying to do more of the right kind of stuff. The game was still scrappy in the middle third, but Slade were winning the lion’s share of 50:50 balls, which was a big improvement on recent weeks. It was actually against the run of play that resulted in the second goal of the game, which was also an equaliser. A deep free kick was played over the top of the Ansty backline by Petto, which was fortunately held up by the long grass in the final third, and into the path of Campbell. Campbell carried the ball along the by-line, drawing the keeper to the front post, where the Slade number 9 pulled back into the path of Neto who slotted home from 6 yards. GOAL 1-1!
First Slade goal in two games, and a good one at that! It was a well-deserved and overdue goal too. It also meant that Slade were now carrying momentum into the remainder of the half. Slade continued to push on to try get ahead in the tie, as we were winning the majority of the battle in the middle while the likes of Samuels and the front three were causing trouble in the opposition half, with the best other chance of the half coming from a Neto cross, which Hornsby sent narrowly over. The middle three were working ever so hard covering a fair amount of territory whilst winning the battle. We were actually turning over possession in the final third, which was putting the visitors under pressure. Unfortunately promising positions were forced away by a resolute and panicked Ansty defence. None of the control or territorial advantage was able to wrestle the advantage which meant the game would come in a half time. Half time 1-1.
The conversation in the break was nothing more than to keep doing the same, with only minor tactical changes. These included just making sure that the attacking wingers were not getting too ambitious during the defensive moments, and being more controlled and patient in the final third. The first half didn’t provide too much of a challenge for the part-time referee, but unfortunately as a tight game moved on towards the full time, things got a little tetchier. With Rob Johnston now arrived, he replaced Rider. The second half of the game kicked off at pedestrian pace for both teams, and it took some time for the second half to lift off. When it did, Slade were arguably shaded the possession and territory. Defensively, things were relatively comfortable with Petto reading the game well, Sanders making a strong claim to keep the right back slot – displaying excellent concentration and application, and Samuels mirroring recent weeks form, smashing through the midfield with bustling runs causing all kinds of problems in the opposition half. Slade were continuing to arrest possession from the opposition in their defensive third, and with no subs to call on, there would only be an expectation that they would tire. On the hour mark, Campbell bowed out to give a rare outing for Rob Bennett. The inclusion of Bennett brought some added quality into the middle of the park, as he applied some energy and driving enthusiasm into open play. Slade almost managed to get themselves ahead as an early contender for goal of the season raised its hand. An excellent passing move starting from the heart of midfield sent the ball down the right channel where Hillier sent an exquisite cross into the heart of the goal where Neto sent agonisingly over. As mentioned, the play was getting a little bit tetchy, and some clumsy fouls creeping into the game, as both teams looked to get the advantage to earn three points. At the start of the game, it was hopeful that a refereeing decision would not decide the game, but with little over 10 minutes left, it became a real possibility. Another great cross from the Slade right from the boot of Hillier was just about to be met by manager Hornsby, but a blatant push in the back, which was not even met in protest by Ansty players, meant that Slade earned a great chance to go ahead. Truth be told, shortly after the foul, Neto actually turned the rebound home with a nice flick, only for the referee to spoil his party. After Stubbs last net buster, there was no question, as the midfielder sent the keeper the wrong way and slotted home. GOAL 2-1.
From 1-0 down, Slade manager to squeeze their noses ahead. As ever, this injected urgency into Ansty, as they pushed on for an equaliser. Slade on a whole were making good use of the large pitch, and despite my wishes that Slade would hang on, I could not ignore the number of clumsy fouls being thrown in. Unfortunately it would be one of them fouls which would go on and open the door for Ansty to draw level. On the Ansty right, a couple of heavy and loose challenges provided this referee no option than to award a free kick on the edge of the box. From that kick, and after a little bit of bouncing around, was eventually turned home, and into the goal. GOAL 2-2.
The time on the clock was 90 mins, so somewhat even more frustrating. Of course there was nothing more than a few more minutes of added time left to play, and Slade had both won it and lost it in the last 10 minutes. A bitter end to a better performance, and the points shared between the teams. It was a pleasing response to a poor performance, and a hope that this is a step in the right direction. I’ve said this before, and it has been so far met with a significant failure in the following game. We have a cup game next week, away to Willingdon, so it is only another opportunity to get things right in back to back games. In the last season that the teams met, we were dealt two 4-3 defeats, which included a fightback from 3-0 down, only to lose in the final minutes.
Man of the match this week was a very tough call. A few names to mention, Tom Hillier continuing to improve, and responded well to a period of time on the bench. Darren Tai, rolling back the years, being in the centre of everything today, both defensively and attacking. But this week, Nick Samuels is putting together a run of excellent performances, despite arriving at the death each week. In short, the opposition just could not live with the powerful winger. One by one they tried to snub him out, but one by one they failed. He provides the team with attacking intent, but also provides defensive security. May his form continue.
Updated 13:34 - 23 Oct 2017 by Rob Ingham