Slippy Slade slide through to the next round
Another dramatic day in Slades season as they come from 3-1 behind to win 4-3 against spirited Crawley.
A fresh and damp day at Crawley. With a few late pull outs, notably Hard Man (Kev Balcombe), Ice Man (Dave Riley) and player of the month Mad Dog Marc Sutton the team had to be reshuffled. The pitch was very soggy and didnt have a lot of give. Particular concerns over Neil Shelley sinking and never making it out alive were raised before the game. "HMS Bison, going down" Matt Collins quipped. Amusing.
In the early stages there were chances at both ends. Firstly John Boddy made an excellent deep run that was picked out superbly by El Hornsby. JB shot low with the outside of his right foot but the keeper managed to turn it around the post for a corner. One of many magnificent saves from him in the game.
Up the other end the closest Crawley come to scoring was when Rich Smith was beaten to the ball and with the goal at the Crawley players mercy, man of the moment Matt Hornsby slid in like Spanish Superman and somehow managed clear the ball off the line for what looked like a certain goal.
Just as Slade started playing well the breakthrough came for Crawley in the 41st minute when the ball was hooked in. 0-1. Slade almost replied instantly when Karl Boffey looked to have the ball in the net but Crawleys excellent keeper somehow managed to get down low and palm the ball over the bar. Save of the season contender. Half time.
The second half started in controversial circumstances. John Boddy was scythed down on the halfway line which the referee inexplicably decided was a fair tackle. Crawley quickly burst up field while we were arguing about the decision and ruthlessly made it 2-0 after a nice dink over Rich Smith.
With Crawley seemingly in control Slade looked for a bit of magic. Step up Sean Trend. The man with the Tyrannosaurus gait picked the ball up in the centre circle on 52 minutes, skipped past a couple of players, then drove through their centre back and left back at pace. The man mountain of a goalkeeper was the only player stopping him and a goal of the season contender. Unfazed he shot low into the bottom corner. Magic. 1-2. Slade were now back in the game but only 6 minutes later it looked we had given ourselves too much to do, when Crawley made it 3-1 after an excellent turn and 20 yard drive from their striker.
Straight from the restart Sean Trend put Jacob Everett through with an incisive pass but the keeper came out and blocked superbly again. The gaffer then decided to make an inspired change by going with 3 at the back - El Hornsby dropping into the centre of defence and Matt Collins and Jack Larkham as wing backs.
Normal teams would be thinking that it might just not be our day today but not this Slade team. There are goals in this team and a never say die attitude. However, we did need a stroke of luck to get a foothold in the game. That came from an unlikely source when, in the 69th minute, the Crawley left back tried a back pass from 20 yards which nestled perfectly into the bottom corner. 1-2. 10 minutes later Slade drew level. Paul Weir played in the lively but under the weather Jacob Everett who nipped past the full back with ease and fired in a trademark low drive from a tight angle. 3-3. The gaffer then decided to change back to 4-2-3-1 despite protests from the captain and head coach.
In the 80th minute Jack Larkham had the ball in the back of net the only for a late flag to go up. The gaffer lost his head and sprinted down the touchline in complete anger and threw unwarranted abused at the lino - who then offered to crack the Little Ginger Coconuts shell in. Apologies again to the lino if you are reading this! Nozinhio is going to be inducted into some anger management courses in the off-season.
Slade were well and truly on top now with Crawley sitting deep and inviting pressure. in the 85th minute a big hoof by Rich Smith sent Karl Boffey through on goal. The big man burst onto the ball and coolly slotted into the corner of the net. Jubilation. 4-3!
Special mention to much maligned Matt Hornsby. The Spaniard was also under the weather but played superbly in the centre of the park (and even centre half) to deservedly claim man of the match. We might even stock the medical kit with some Lemsip just for him, if he keeps performing like this!
In the post match press conference Head Coach Jack Larkham said: "On a personal note, it was great to get 90 minutes under my belt. Although the conditions didn't make for a great footballing spectacle I felt that after our second goal we were always going to go on and win it. Credit must go to the gaffer for an inspired tactical change, and great individual performances from Rich Smith in goal, Matt Hornsby, John Boddy and Jacob Everett made the difference. The only downside was having my first goal of the season cruelly snatched away from me, although it was almost worth it just to see Norris' reaction."