Bank Holiday Blues for Matt's first match in charge
A first fixture on a Bank Holiday away at Buxted with an early start was not the ideal introduction to Premier Division football for Matt..............................
If we could pick and choose our fixtures, this would have been well down the list of those favoured. To assemble a squad for the first game on a Bank Holiday involving leaving soon after 9am was a tough call. This was made even more difficult when owing to circumstances beyond anyones control, Manager Matt found himself trying to find a keeper at 7am and all to no avail.
With other withdrawals, a squad of 15 soon became 12 and Matt had to pick up the gloves to fill the void while the pack was hastily shuffled to form a starting line up.
On arrival, the pitch was looking good but was understandably very firm while the cool start on the coast was replaced by a steep rise in temperature on moving inland which was only going to increase as the match progressed.
The team welcomed three debutants with Ben Williams slotting in at left back and Jack Parker and Andy Nicholls bolstering the midfield. All put in good shift and can be pleased with their contributions.
As for the match, this was generally a scrappy encounter which was not too surprising given the circumstances and conditions. It was all even-stevens early on with chances in short supply and neither keeper too troubled.
In keeping with proceedings, Buxted took the lead with a goal after 20 minutes from a deflected shot from an attempted block by Matt Collins which left our makeshift stopper with no chance. Other than that, the back four comprising of Ben, Tom Bendall, Matt Collins and captain Jack Larkham were coping reasonably well although one break saw Matt make a creditable save at the feet of an oncoming forward and Tom made a couple of crucial challenges where good timing was essential.
As the half progressed and we look to level things up, the midfield started to impose themselves and ask questions of their own. Jack Parker in particular was showing up well through the middle while Ollie in a rare first team start was finding some space wide on the left. Also adding to his 1st Team appearances was the evergreen Daz Tai who did well in the holding role allowing JB and the others licence to probe further forward.
Half time arrived with us still 1-0 down. With a slight slope and gentle breeze at our backs there was plenty of cause for optimism.
The second half followed a similar pattern although we were seeing a rather higher percentage of the ball (55% against 45% - I made this up, I was concentrating on the line...honest). A couple of decent chances came our way with Liam in his lone striker role a thorn in Buxted side. One drive by Jack P saw his low drive beaten away by their keeper while another flew just past the far post.
Defensively, we were looking good but half way through the half a hopeful cross into the box eluded Matt and a soft header saw the ball drop unhindered into the empty net. 2-0 down and a hill to climb.
Credit to all concerned, heads didn't drop and we continued to try and get back into the game despite the rising temperature.
Nick Samuels came on for the tiring Andy Nicholls and he had a half chance where a little more composure might have born fruit instead of troubling the fields beyond. Similarly, Ollie had another opportunity laid on by Liam but didn't trouble the keeper.
JB, who had kept going impressively was rather unluckier with a drive from 20 yards which flew narrowly over the angle of bar and post.
For all this effort some reward was deserved and this came albeit rather too late when Liam applied a neat finish into the bottom corner following some good approach play.
The final whistle followed soon after and a 2-1 defeat confirmed.
No doubt an afternoon of 'what might have beens' and 'if onlys' but on reflection there were positives, not least the contributions of the debutants.
I gave Man of the Match to Jack Parker for his considerable efforts to drive the team forward while Matt belatedly gave it to Matt Collins who was impressive in a less familiar centre back role and provided him with most welcome protection.
It is early days, plenty of time to put this defeat behind us.