Date: Saturday 7th January 2012
Starting Line-up: Gaz Stewart, Eddy Jackson, Goughy, Rob Sadler, Tom Hooper, James McGeown, Mark Bradley, J-Patterson, Ben McGeown, Andrew Noble, Simon Daunter
Subs: Chris Gray, Oli Watkins
Cubo started the New Year sitting in a very respectable 2nd place in the league (albeit having played quite a few games more than most of the sides around them in the league) and looked to continue their good form against mid-table Abbey Rangers. The first fixture between these sides had ended 0-0 after a very even game which saw Cubo produce their best 45 minutes of football of the season in the first half before falling away in the second half where the home side probably felt they should have nicked it. With skipper Oli Watkins returning from his mid-season vitamin D boosting session in Australia and Chrissy Gray getting a rare respite from babysitting duty Cubo were able to name a very strong bench.
With the pitch showing signs of wear and tear following the mickey mouse kickabout that the groundstaff had scheduled prior to Cubo’s game, a game of passing football was never going to materialise. The early exchanges were testament to this as both sides struggled to get the ball down on the bumpy and sticky surface. The first chance fell to the home side when Noble broke through a tackle to leave himself clean through on goal. The Rangers keeper did well to get off his line to block Noble’s effort but the ball span up nicely for Ben McGeown though his blocked volley was never on target. His subsequent efforts to pick up the loose ball led to him picking up a dead leg which he never recovered from and saw him replaced by Chrissy Gray after 25 minutes.
The change coincided with Cubo’s best patch of the game. Having struggled to get the ball down on the deck in the opening period J-Pat and Bradders were beginning to find their range spreading the ball to Jim and Hooper on the flanks. The first goal came soon afterwards when J-Pat picked out Daunter on the right touchline, who beat his man before delivering a peach of a cross to the back stick where Noble was at full stretch to direct his header past the Rangers keeper to make it 1-0 Cubo.
With their tails up Cubo added a second soon after, more good work down the right side involving Sadler and Hooper led to Chrissy Gray putting in a block which put Noble clean through on goal. The big man made no mistake this time round, slotting his finish beneath the onrushing keeper, 2-0 Cubo. The home side continued to dictate affairs with James and Hoops able to get forward with good effect. The only threat to the home side appeared to be the Rangers keepers wind assisted kicks which were causing Cubo issues, leading to a couple of hairy incidents. That being said, aside from some good takes from corners, Gaz Stewart had remained relatively untested in the first half, though unfortunately he was picking the ball out of his own net with the half time whistle approaching. A well worked move by Rangers saw Cubo’s backline pulled out of position and a nicely weighted pass released their striker who steered his finish past Gaz to give Rangers the ideal fillip before half time.
The goal changed the dynamic of the game completely as Rangers emerged in the second half reinvigorated, whereas the home side looked a pale imitation of the side who had raced into a 2 goal lead. With the festive period appearing to catch up on some of the Baby Blue Army the game was becoming increasingly stretched, leaving Noble and Daunter isolated up front and creating plenty of space for Rangers to play in. Rangers were pushing their full backs on to good effect and the space being afforded to their big centre midfielder was allowing him to dictate affairs.
Cubo were playing a dangerous game and almost paid the price for it when the ball broke to a Rangers player whose effort had Gaz but not the post beaten. With the away side pouring forward there were chances for Cubo to put the game to bed but time and again the ball was given away cheaply. The introduction of Watkins to the backline helped to steady the ship, the skipper making his first touch a real statement of intent – going straight through the Rangers striker. Despite this Cubo’s inability to hold on to the ball meant that the ball was continually coming back at the backline who were not being given the time to get out of their own third.
The goal had an air of inevitability about it when it came and was symptomatic of the second half. Possession was given away cheaply allowing Rangers to work the ball into the box, and with Cubo failing to clear their lines Rangers levelled the score with a minute left on the watch.
A fair result overall given Rangers dominance of the second half. Whilst the pitch made playing football difficult Rangers showed in the second half that it was possible to look after possession and Cubo will need to learn to protect leads better than that if they have any intention of maintaining their league position. Despite the disappointment at throwing away a two goal lead, especially given the timing of the equiliser, there were some positives for the home side, particularly in the 20 minute period before half time where they looked threatening every time they got the ball down and they will hope to produce this in greater spells in next weeks fixture against in-form Reigate Priory.
Final Score: AFC Cubo 2 -2 Abbey Rangers
Goals: Noble (2)
Man of the Match: Noble
Match Report: Benny Mac