Date: Sat 19th Nov 2011, 2pm KO
Venue: Raynes Park Sports Ground
Starting Line-up: Neil Clark, Bobby Sadler, Mark Sutton, Oli Watkins (c), Richard Gough, Hung, Ben McGeown, Mark ‘Gunners till I die’ Bradley, MTM, Paul Every, Simon Daunter
Sub: Michael North
A gloriously crisp autumnal day set the scene for Cubo’s league fixture against their local rivals and cup conquerors Tooting Bec. The day was brightened further by the arrival of the new merchandise (most of it anyway…), which was met with solemn nods of approval from all in the changing room. The return of newly RIP’d keeper Clarky meant that Cubo were able to name an established keeper for the first time in a month, a source of confidence despite the sterling work of Sutton and Ben McG in recent weeks. With Every making a first start since his injury and Northy making a brief appearance in the country between holidays, the squad had a strong look about it on paper.
Tooting had shown in the first fixture between these two sides that they were a very capable footballing side and they started the game in a similar fashion with the fluidity of their midfield causing Cubo particular problems. With the home side outnumbering Cubo in the key areas of the pitch and finding space at will a tactical change was called for. Going man for man Cubo were able to apply greater pressure on Tooting’s backline with positive results. Cubo’s greatest source of joy was down their right side where Sadler was seeing more of the ball than most, unfortunately they were unable to provide the quality in the box to really punish Tooting. A well worked move saw Daunter released out wide but again his cross was easily dealt with by the Bec keeper.
At the other end Tooting continued to look dangerous with the big Bec targetman drawing a number of free kicks in dangerous positions which saw a succession of crosses being delivered into the Cubo box. It was only thanks to some stout defending that the game remained goal-less, with the Cubo backline showing the kind of determination not to concede that characterised last season. In a half high on tension but low on quality, Cubo thought they had taken the lead when MTM flicked the ball through to Every whose lob appeared to hit the back of the net. Unfortunately the ripple of the net was caused by the back tracking defender with the ball bouncing just over. Coming in at half time Cubo could be encouraged by the fact that despite the dodgy start, where they were in fairness given the run around at times, the change of shape had had a positive effect and the increased pressure on the Bec backline showed they were likely to give up chances.
Cubo made an immediately positive start to the second half by winning a corner on the right hand side. Sutton’s delivery when given the opportunity in the first half had been of a high quality and this one was no different, giving Daunter a great opportunity to attack the ball. An easy finish was only prevented by the Bec keeper who bravely came out to collect at the expense of a clattering by Cubo’s answer to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Clearly fazed by the challenge the keeper was not right afterwards, having to forgo his goal kicks to a team-mate and this may have played a part in what was to come. Soon afterwards the high pressure tactics paid dividends when Bradley forced the Bec defender into an error which saw the ball drop to Every in the box and he fired past the keeper, who perhaps could have done better, to make it 1-0 Cubo. A fortunate goal but one which recognised the shift in the games momentum.
The goal had the effect of galvanising both teams with the game taking on a cup tie feel as the ball shifted from end to end. Cubo appeared to be going for the second goal which would probably tie the game up but at the same time leaving themselves open to conceding at the other end. They were thankful to Clarkey when a long ball released the Bec striker clean through on goal but his effort was well saved by the Cubo keeper. In an effort to settle the game down Northy was introduced in the centre of the park, making an immediate impact with a massive header from a goal kick that rocketed straight back to the keeper. His second touch was just as decisive, clearing the Bec right backs legs from under him as attacked a cross into the box. The ref had no hesitation in awarding the penalty. Clarky has shown his penalty saving tekkers on numerous occasions in the past and was inches away from adding to the list of spot kick saves but could only get fingertips on the ball as it beat him to his right hand side. 1-1.
With the home side galvanised by the equiliser and having the benefit of shooting downhill the odds appeared to be on them going on to win the game. However the high line that Every had exposed in the first half was their downfall again as Northy picked the ball up in the middle of the park before releasing MTM in the right hand channel and he made no mistake with a low finish across the keeper and into the corner. 2-1 Cubo. With 20 minutes still to play and signs of fatigue throughout the side it was clearly going to be a tough final stretch for the Baby Blue Army. The cause wasn’t helped by Cubo’s inability to hold onto the ball when they got hold of it which meant that their backline faced a fairly constant stream of pressure. Whilst the quality may have been lacking there was nothing to fault in the work-rate with Every, Sutton and Bradley putting in outstanding shifts to stop Bec building attacks of any quality. With Watkins, Hung and Goughy again excelling at the back Cubo were able to see out the final period to secure another 3 points.
Final Score: Tooting Bec 1-2 AFC Cubo
Goals: Every, MTM
Man of the Match: Paul Every (notable mention to Sutton who missed out on MOTM by one vote having made the schoolboy error of voting for his closest rival, only to see Every then place his vote with a non-contender).
A great win for Cubo who were made to put in a real shift by their opponents, whose position in the table does not reflect the talent in their ranks. Some stoic defending from Cubo was complemented by a real cutting edge up front that allowed them to nick two goals from two of the limited clear cut chances they were able to create. Another encouraging performance, particularly given the problems Tooting caused Cubo in the first 15 minutes, the ability to adapt to a side playing with a fluid shape will serve Cubo well later in the season.
Match Report: Benny Mac