FREDS welcomed Bure Park to Alfredian Park on a fine Sunday morning.
Without Guy Woolley, Jacob Haines and Joe George, the green and white hoops had to shuffle to accommodate different players with different abilities and find a way. But find a way they did.
The FREDS started brightly enough, with Roan Stillion and Matthew Goodman acting as pivotal midfielders, protecting the back four out of possession, and looking to orchestrate attacks when in possession. The two were invited to get on the ball at every opportunity, break midfield lines with passes to the Hitman's feet, or spit balls out to the wing-backs.
Matthew Lambe provided good width down the right hand side. The makeshift wing-back adapted well and brought a much more attack-minded approach to the role.
Engaging a wing-back in the build-up affords the FREDS an opportunity to transfer numbers from the first two thirds of the pitch, and add them to the second two thirds whilst retaining possession, with a view to building and sustaining a threat.
As you move up through the leagues, you cannot just pop a ball behind and hope you're faster, and that be all you have. So it's time to add patience and a little more sophistication. Yes, the objective is still to get behind, but only after transferring numbers, and moving key defenders from the areas you want to penetrate.
Wantage were awarded a penalty, which would have settled them early, but the Bure Park keeper was smartly down to his bottom right-hand corner to smother the shot.
After the interval, against the run, Bure Park scored a goal with a speculative lob from wide right. It proved a difficult flight for the keeper to follow, and the hooked cross dropped from the skies and bounced just inside the far post.
Chances were hard to come by in response. Without an additional yard of pace and numbers in advanced positions, through balls were fruitlessly employed. And other times, passes unable to penetrate because the FREDS hadn't conspired to move or unsettle the Bure Park defence.
But the green hoops were game. Roan Stillion latched onto a loose ball in the penalty box after a FREDS corner and struck it just inside the upright to level. 1-1.
Belief started to course through veins, and suddenly numbers looked to get forward. Levelling was a rush, and Wantage were in a hurry to add. The FREDS were getting in behind, and not having to depend on speed to do it.
Penny dropped - spirit raised. James Hirst and Matthew Lambe combined to overload wide right and put crosses in. Hitman Hall received one, sidestepped defensive attention and smashed the ball high into the corner. 2-1.
James Hirst threatened to get in behind again. Matthew Lambe did, but was pulled back by the keeper after he had rounded. Keeper dismissed! Penalty! Lamby stepped up. Saved. And a really good save too.
Matthew Goodman was then gifted a free volley behind the rearguard, but was unable to put his laces through it. Difficult with slip-on boots, but you know what I mean.
2-1 wins a game of football, and the FREDS did just enough to secure all three points inside the eighty minutes.
Lewis Jordan, Matthew Lambe, Alex Rose, Matthew MacDonald, Will Beynon, Roan Stillion, Matthew Goodman, Alex Grimes, James Hirst, Christian Marsh, Jonny Hall, Ed Porter, George Santacana-Melvin