Last kick of the game cost Slade three points in bottom of the table six pointer
After a 3 month hiatus, the match report is back! Due to a combination of poor results and a short career in recruitment, reporting duties return as the Amber Army look to start 2018 in the best possible way! In summary of the last few months, the strong squad numbers slowly declined as some of the wet stuff hit the deck, with a bright start to the season also dwindling. However, the first team started to have a real Norris look about it, and a fantastic last ditch win against second placed Balcombe and a plucky draw against bogey side Rothefield when 2-0 down. Life in the reserves has been a little more hard going, conceding far too any goals, with little coming back the other way. With the originally bursting squad sized downsized due to injuries and a long standing vacancy in the goalkeeping department meant there was the regular call up of Giles Ward, and even a cameo appearance for First Team favourite Dave Goffin.
With 2017 a little bit of a disappointment, it put more emphasis on having a good start to 2018, much more as a platform for the rest of the year, as the club looks to turn good will and intentions to good results on a football pitch. With the wet conditions, and Victoria Rec reminiscent of a reservoir than a place of footballing magic, Paul Norris worked tirelessly throughout the week, with help from Matt Hornsby and Duncan Brooker, to ensure that we could get some football down at neighbouring Buckingham Park. Now, to cast your mind back to October, where the reserves had to relocate temporarily due to a booking clash, a strong reserves side was turned over with a flat and toothless performance against Polegate, eventually losing 7-0. Let’s hope we are able to make amends this week.
This week, Portslade reserves welcomed Roffey’s third team to the South Coast, in the latest chapter of the Mid-Sussex Division five. There has been some resent history between the two clubs, with Portslade hosting today’s visitors in a pre-season friendly, which resulted in an entertaining 4-4 draw. Since then, both clubs would have perhaps wished for better form on the pitch, with the pair holding up division 5, with only two wins out of 19 so far this season. However, with both Roffey’s first team (Sussex combination league 2) and their second team (Mid-Sussex Division Championship) games falling foul of the weather, they had the option to call on 85 players at their disposal.
Slade themselves once again had a challenging week, with both team managers industrious throughout the week to put together competitive squads. With the second team no more than 9 players strong on Friday night, it took some hard work, but both sides able to eventually field strong sides. Slade were thrilled to be able to name a recognised goalkeeper for only the 6th game this season, and welcome back Scot Rob Johnston between the sticks. A familiar back line meant we were was able to also welcome back Gatwick’s finest left back, Ollie McEnery, with a strong albeit familiar back line of Mark Sanders, Giles Ward, and Dougal Tyrie, now free of back problems which hindered him for several months. Player/manager Matt Hornsby marshalled in midfield opting for an orthodox 4-4-2, joined by Rob Ingham who was overcoming a hamstring injury sustained the previous Monday. Top scorer Andre Neto took up the left, with ever-present Nick Samuels on the right. Jon Stubbs and Kornelius Plouti made the little-large strike duo, with Tom Hillier’s and Jon Farrant on the bench.
As ever with unfamiliar surroundings, preparations are not always optimal, but with all players in attendance well in advance of kick off, and nets appropriately put up, the team was able to go through a solid warm up. The collective message before the game was ‘2017 was below our usual standards, but it is now gone and 2018 starts here’. The game held a high degree of significance due the position and form of both teams. Both camps were aware that a win would give some much needed momentum to a stalling campaign. With that in mind, it was important that a good performance full of endeavour was executed. From kick off, early exchanges were as ever a little scrappy, which was not surprising considering the conditions, and Roffey were making early inroads, however the defence remained vigilant and Johnston swept up any loose balls. In all honesty, the Ingham hamstring injury was somewhat curtailing the midfield presence, meaning Roffey were able to dictate the space and had the freedom to pick passes from deep. It would be one of these situations, which would result in the opening goal. The Roffey number 9 had Ward’s number in the early exchanges, with one of these direct long balls directly in the path of the number 9 – a direct duel with Ward. Fair to say that the diminutive striker won that battle as he lifted the ball over the advanced Johnston. Despite getting some fingers to the ball, the ball still managed to squirm into the open goal. GOAL 0-1.
Before the goal could become a worrying sign, Slade were able to immediately hit back. Forrays into the opposition half were pretty sporadic and toothless in the opening 10 minutes, but Neto was able to make some space inside the box on the left hand side, and when it seemed as though he had taken the ball too wide, he managed to magnificently drill the ball into the bottom corner, with the keeper only able to watch. GOAL 1-1! Immediate goal, and perfect timing too. The early Roffey goal no doubt was initially a worrying sign, as we really didn’t want to be chasing the game too much, especially with the team being goal shy of late and the Roffey striker menacing, but the reply meant that we was able to stunt the Roffey confidence before they could get away. Unfortunately the solace didn’t last for too long as Roffey managed to poke their nose ahead once more. Once again, the visitors were stretching the defence, which at times was looking a little vulnerable, and another direct ball over the top was enough to give the pacey number 9 with another opening, which was comfortable finish past the Scotsman. GOAL 1-2.
This was the last action for Ingham, as he trudged off for Hillier, but it also ended the spell of Roffey control, and the start of an incredible resurgence. With the crippled Ingham now on the side lines, it meant that Stubbs could come back into midfield, Hillier out to the right, and Samuels up front. This allowed us to maintain our intended shape, but meant we still had the presence and power up top, and the steely determination and presence in midfield in Stubbs. This meant that Slade were now winning the midfield battle, and pushing possession much further up the pitch. In fact, Slade were winning their battles all over the pitch, with Hornsby and Stubbs comfortably controlling the middle of the park, and the likes of Samuels, Hillier and Plouti finding space in wide areas and regularly gaining possession from the Roffey defence. In fact, the once effective Roffey midfield was quickly running out of ideas and giving away possession all over. It was then perfect timing for Slade to once again get back level. After some sustained pressure in the visitors half, the ball was played into the heart of the goal, but after some bouncing around the ball dropped invitingly to Samuels who made no mistake and stroking the ball into the far corner. GOAL 2-2!
From this point, it would be all Slade as they pushed Roffey further and further back. Tyrie was marshalling the defence, and any rare moments onto the Slade back four, he would be there to not only break up the attacks, but to also carry the ball into midfield and turn defence into attack. Slade managed to push on into a winning position, through Samuels again. Hillier found Samuels on the right hand side, and the rest was all him. The burly striker makes short work of his full back, going past him as if he wasn’t there, hone down on goal, and poke past the keeper who was resembling a rabbit in headlights. GOAL 3-2!
A well-deserved lead, but Slade were not ready to declare just yet for half time. Before the half came to a close, Slade were able to extend the lead further, this time from an excellent strike from Neto. A swift attack, with the Roffey defence on the back foot, Samuels managed to play the ball on the inside of the back pedalling defender, straight into the path of the Portuguese, who struck first time with the outside of his left foot into the far post of the goal. GOAL 4-2!
With little or nothing left to report in the half, Slade head into half time two goals to the good. It was the first time we arrived at the break in the lead for some time, and a feeling probably not to familiar, but the job at this point was only half done. We were winning everything all over the park, controlling defensively and menacing in attack. The first goal of the second half would still be very important, as a two goal lead is always a risky score line. The players head out for the half and made the perfect start. With the pattern of the game still in the same vein as the first half, Samuels was able to counter attack on the Slade right, and with Neto eying up his hatrick burst into the box screaming for the ball. The ball was unfortunately short, but the defence made a mess of it, in the end deflecting into the Portuguese path, almost offering an open goal, which he duly put away. GOAL 5-2!
It has been sometime since we last had a three goal advantage, probably not since April 2016 when we put 5 past Antsy Sport & Social. There was an air of relief and comfort in the players, as they were enjoying this advantageous position, which in turn probably resulted in the start of our own decline. Although Roffey were not in the game, they clearly still had some players that could punish us. Not long after the fifth, Roffey managed to pull one back, almost out of nowhere. With the strikers taken out of the frame, the midfielder decided to take matters into his own hand. Advancing on the back four, he struck a shot from a comfortable distance finding the bottom corner, giving Johnston little chance. GOAL 5-3. Surely, nothing more than a consolation. But with lots of time still left in the game, still lots of time for more goals. While Roffey had a spiteful edge to them going forward, they were still very vulnerable at the back. A Slade corner from the right seemed as though it would be comfortably cleared, only for the Roffey defender to strike the clearance against his own player, ricocheting into the path of the goal hungry Neto, where he was pleased to thump the loose ball into the roof of the net from 6 yards, aided by a slight deflection off the keeper. GOAL 6-3!!
Surely game over? I think at this point there was about 20 minutes left, so it was all about game management. Unfortunately what happened would be enough to give you sleepless nights. There was an element of tiredness which was creeping into the Slade legs, as the pitch condition continued to deteriorate and become heavier. Roffey never really let the score line get them down, and continued to press for goals, with another fine effort from outside the box finding one of the corners of Johnston’s goal to pull the game back to two goal difference once again. GOAL 6-4. Sanders at this point had to leave the field of play, citing a niggle, with straight swap in, Jon Farrant.
Roffey continued to press, but for a moment of controversy, which brought them ever so closer to an equaliser. Once again, a strong back line was holding firm, and Roffey were continuing to probe outside the line. The influential Roffey midfielder found a yard of space somewhat centrally, dispatching a shot which once again found its way past Johnston. GOAL 6-5. But, ho! What is this? Linesman’s flag is up! (Yes it was mine). So when the shot was struck, a Roffey player was stood a yard offside, and it seemed he jumped out of the way of the ball, theoretically blocking the goalkeepers view. The referee consulted myself, and decided to go ahead and give the goal as no other players appealed. Easy way out? Granted, no players appealed, but given how new this rule is, hardly sitting promptly in the instinct of the players. With less than 10 minutes to play, it was going to be backs against the wall stuff to try keep hold of all three points, but just to make matters worse, Hillier was dealt an injury and could no longer continue. With no more available subs, it was a case 10 men trying to hold onto the now slender lead. Roffey huffed and puffed, and it seemed that we would hang on for an important win. 90 minutes passed, 91, 92…. It wasn’t until the match had reached the 95th minute that a free kick was conceded 25 yards out from goal. The kick was struck sweetly and looked destined for the bottom corner, only for Johnston to stretch with every sinew to deflect the ball with his fingertips onto the square post. Unfortunately it would be the Roffey sub that was on hand first to slot the ball into the open goal. GOAL 6-6.
The ultimate kick in the teeth. It’s never nice to concede in the final kick of the game, but with losing a man in the final stages, and clear tiredness growing in the legs of the Slade players, there was a degree of expectation. It was hopeful that we would be able to hold on in the final 10 minutes, and there was a moment when we thought that we might, but alas it was not meant to be. A true humdinger of a game, and a real treat for any neutral passing through Buckingham Park that afternoon. With so many goals scored, it is always a challenge to highlight any one individual. The Roffey staff on the side of the pitch were regularly lauding the presence and ability of Dougal Tyrie (ironically was MOM against Roffey last time out), and the likes of Samuels whom adapted to changing circumstances well whilst weighing in with a few goals of his own. However, it could only be one man. The last time a player scored 4 goals in one game to my memory, was Dean Rhodes against Hove Park Tavern in a 10-0 romping, and today Andre Neto matched that feat in style. Not renowned for his defensive capabilities, but as sharp as a samurai sword in front of goal. After a relatively slow start to the season, the diminutive striker is coming into some great form, which included a last minute goal a few weeks back for the firsts, and demonstrating how deadly his left foot is.
When this match report is out, the second team game this week has already been called off for a waterlogged pitch, and the first team going down to fellow south coast rivals 4-2 in Eastbourne. Non-the-less, an opportunity to take some time to reflect, and prepare for what will likely be a home game next week. Remember, training is still on every Wednesday at 19:30, so look forward to seeing as many of you there as possible.