Thurrock were keen. I think the match started a few minutes early for perhaps the first time ever. In no mood to hang around despite only having 9 players starting. The 1’s were away in Clacton you see and they had players who needed to get finished and get on the road for their priority promotion push.
So in a whirl off we went. Paul Colman nearly missed the start what with having to pull on various items that hold his body together. Against 9 we piled it on. Attack after attack, wave on wave. Most of the play was good apart from the object of the exercise. We found the task of putting the small orange ball into the wooden, metal, netty thing very difficult indeed. Simon Hill had a go, I had a go, Forbie had a go, Harvey Ashton had a go, Henry MacDonnell had a go, Brady Doyle had a go, Harry Lewis had a go, Shae Nelder had a go. All adding up to the square root of bugger all. To the fair in amongst all that lot were some decent saves (only a few). But Thurrock was proving to be the Bermuda triangle for Academy finishing skills. Chance after chance. I took the team through our extremely limited short corner repertoire (note to self – think of more in the summer). No joy. We dominated the first 30 minutes. But then the cavalry. Seems like a couple of players got diverted from early set off to Clacton to fill the breech. Having spent the first half entirely in the Thurrock half – I do mean literally playing attack v defence the game changed. We were lucky to end up going in 0-0. Thurrock got their act together and missed a great opportunity. Kris Spurling doing great work – what is they say about great goal keepers and the greatest skill being concentration?
So half time. We noted that this game had changed a more even fight would follow. I asked the midfield to have a deeper starting position, offer shorter passes to our defence and break from deeper, in theory we would be harder to pick up, we had all got to high in our dominance (probably in a hockey and emotional sense of the word). The quickest half time in history – Clacton is quite a drive I barely had time to finish my fizzy cola bottle. Lucas Curley Sanchez resolved the lack of digestive time by taking his back onto the pitch – not sure I approve.
Off we went, and Thurrock started pressing and we spent a good few minutes getting to grips with the changed shape of the game but we settled into another phase of dominance. Not as dominant – we needed to be aware of a counter attack threat but dominant nevertheless. More shots and short corners, still nothing to show. I never feared the draw as pointless as that would be for all parties, I feared the loss.
But then Forbie brought his considerable experience to bear. On his advice I move slightly to my right before slipping the ball to him high left. The space created and he made no mistake. Relief all round.
Thurrock tried to get the goal back and had their chances. We retained an overall dominance but Jack Payton, Paul Colman, Carter Trett and on a few occasions Kris Spurling were up to the task.
There was still time for the games stand out moment. Thurrock breaking, their star player in possession in midfield and a decent chance building. Enter Lucas Curley Sanchez, one clean tackle later and the Academy countering. Wonderful stuff from a player I hope is learning that contribution to a team performance is measured in more then just goals. It was a moment that won him man of the match and Savage for the week.
Ian Forbes then did his defensive short corner work, quite literally putting his body on the line and was caught ‘a midships,’ the injury delay must have been frustrating for those about to embark on a drive to Clacton. I’ve seen players walk off the pitch, I’ve seen players helped off the pitch, I’ve seen players carried off the pitch. I’m not sure quite how to describe Forbie’s pitch exit – it fits into an entirely new category. That was Forbie’s day over. Henry MacDonnell did some terrific work filling in a sitting on Thurrock star man for the remainder of the game.
Relief at the final whistle. Another three points puts us into the territory where we have more points then last season (adding back in our deducted 7 points) and that is a terrific performance. One game to go. Kris Spurling gave an emotional post-match speech as he reverts back to his role of goal keeper coach for the Academy. His works means James King joins us for the last game of the season with zero pressure. Thanks Kris.
The Team: Kris Spurling Carter Trett, Paul Colman, Jack Payton, Henry MacDonnell, Gary MacDonnell, Ian Forbes, Brady Doyle, Harvey Ashton, Shae Nelder, Simon Hill, Harry Lewis, Lucas Curley Sanchez.
Man of the Match: Lucas Curley Sanchez.
Post Match Note: Thurrock 1’s won 9-0 in Clacton and secured promotion from Div 5SE.