After securing Division 1 survival last weekend (subject to the implications of the League adding 2 teams to Premier B), Bar returned to the Wilberforce Road Sports Centre for the final time this season. They faced off against a Cambridge University side in excellent form, having beaten three top half teams in their last three matches. Potters Bar were down to just a 13-man squad, with several key members out of action. Nevertheless, they looked to play with freedom and take the attack to the strong opposition.
Coach Simon Spencer’s pre-match team talk warned of the windy conditions facing both sides on a blustery morning. Aerial balls would be difficult to defend and communication could be lost like a careless whisper in the gusts of Storm Hannah. As usual, Spence set out everything he wanted from the team and with depleted numbers Bar would look to contain and deploy a counter attacking approach.
Cambridge University started strongly and controlled the ball well for most of the early proceedings. Full backs Josh Edge and Hugh Kenney-Herbert had to be resolute in defence to keep out some blistering first half attacks. Their distribution was also (mostly) excellent and Harvey Edwards was able to capitalise with two fantastic through balls to captain Mark Turpin. The latter of these was an aerial that set Turpin one on one with the goalkeeper, who did well to block a pushed shot heading for the bottom right hand corner. Maverick Ed Whybrow was up to his old tricks mid-way through the first half, receiving a green card for introducing himself to the umpiring team.
Cambridge broke the deadlock with some slick play through the centre releasing their right winger free in the D. He was able to square the ball to another Cambridge attacker who squeezed home from 6 yards out. Soon after Bar found themselves 2-0 down. A short corner that was slipped left was finished calmly with a first time slap to the right hand side of the goal.
On the brink of half time Potters Bar found a way back into the game through none other than Tom Clarke. After some weeks away from the action, Clarke latched onto an Ed Whybrow through ball inside the D. He glided past his man and (Wham!) rapped it past the keeper with a reverse stick strike. Flawless! Absolutely flawless.
Coach and skipper urged the team to keep the faith going into the second half. The hope was that Bar could stay in the game long enough, finish their chances and steal a result from the 16-strong student side.
Unfortunately the numbers advantage was to prove a pivotal factor in the second period. 15 minutes into the half, a Cambridge attacker miraculously kept a ball on the pitch during a quick counter attack. He was then able to play the ball from the ground to a teammate who finished from close range into the back of the net. Soon after, midfield playmaker Graham Abrey found himself in the book with a yellow card. Another rapid Cambridge counter attack left Abrey praying for time to get back and challenge. His robust tackle left himself and his opponent on the floor and Bar down to 10 men.
Cambridge piled on the pressure and once again burst forward. A weaving run left Josh Edge facing a Cambridge attacker bearing down on him. Edge scythed down his opponent and a penalty stroke was awarded. The striker dusted himself down and flicked the ball into the top left hand corner; goalkeeper Tom Miller was perhaps unlucky not to prevent the goal with his stick. 4-1.
Potters Bar did have chances to get back into the game. Harvey Edwards flashed a reverse stick strike high and wide of the target. Mark Turpin managed to get on the end of a Josh Edge through ball but was unable to control the pass. Coach Spencer was bound to be unhappy too at the wasting of multiple short corner opportunities.
The result was made certain with a fifth for Cambridge. A huge aerial from the 6’8” centre half sliced Bar’s defence open and defensive kicker Kenney-Herbert was unable to prevent an easy tap in. Bar did have one more try just before the final whistle with a strike from Ed Whybrow flashing past the left hand post.
Bar remain 7th in the league going into the final game of the season. They face 8th place Cambridge City next weekend, where a win will secure their position.
Final Score: Cambridge University 5 – 1 Potters Bar (HT: 2-1)
Goal Scorer: Tom Clarke
Team: Miller, Edge, Kenney-Herbert, Li, Seaman, Elms, Abrey, Whybrow, Turpin (c), Edwards, Tenwick, Clarke, Patel
MVP: Simon Tenwick
TFC: Ed Whybrow