Date: Saturday 14th January, 2012
Starting Line-up: Bushy, Lye, Ingle, Dallamore, Rushall, Jepht, Pickett, Turner (C), Field, May, Neville.
Sometimes losing a football match can seem rather like breaking up with a long-term girlfriend (stay with me here). You can do all the right things, work hard, produce great moments and be truly convinced that everything is going to turn out ok. Yes you’ve had some adversity, but who doesn’t? And you’ve come out stronger. You’re certain that you are on the path to something special and then before you know what’s happening someone blows the whistle and tells you it’s all over. You’re devastated, shocked, angry and upset. You need an easy lay to take your mind of it (bottom of the league next week) but this was the big one, and it didn’t turn out as you’d hoped…
And so it was that the baby blue army gathered at a chilly Wandsworth Park to face their destiny, a game against top of the league Kiwi who they’d beaten earlier in the season to start a run of results that had seen Cubo win 4 out of 4. A victory against the New Zealanders would see Cubo a fraction off top spot with a game in hand, defeat would throw them straight back into the mix of four or five teams hunting down second place.
A stirring pre-game speech from Manager Rob Jones left the Cubo boys buzzing, and straight from kick off a through ball from Ingle set Neville free down the left. His early cross was headed clear, but the early intent was highlighted.
Cubo were pressing high up the pitch early on, although finding it hard to get into their normal passing rhythm due to a distinctly sub standard pitch. This suited Kiwi’s direct style of play, and they were taking every opportunity to hit their front men early with long balls, although they were being dealt with admirably by the cemented centre back pairing of Dallamore and Ingle.
Then a ball played out to the left saw Neville draw a foul from the Kiwi right midfielder. An inswinging free kick from the Cubo wide man wasn’t fully attacked by a strangely static Cubo attack, but the ball bounced back out to captain Matt Turner. He “controlled” the ball brilliantly with alternating touches off his chest, shin and thigh as he ran towards the goal line, but somehow saw the ball roll inches past the post from 3 yards.
Next, a break from Kiwi saw their striker pick up the ball in the wide left channel and feed a sumptuous (that’s right) pass across the pitch, evading both Cubo centre backs, into the path of the second striker. Fortunately for Cubo his finish was lacking and Bushy was barely tested.
Cubo rallied and despite the awful pitch were trying to play good football, they were squeezing up the flanks and putting pressure on the Kiwi backline. Paul May in particular making himself known to the Kiwi centre backs by chasing hard into the channels, creating more space for the Cubo midfield three of Lukas, Jeph and Turner.
A ball inside from Neville to Jeph saw the midfielder shoot wide from 25 yards, and then a foul from a kiwi midfielder on a rampaging Turner drew a free kick just to the right of the box, 25 yards out. Lukas stepped up and bent a peach towards the top corner, but the Kiwi keeper showed great athleticism at full stretch and kept it out.
Then the first hammer blow. As another Cubo attack broke down in the kiwi half, the team in all white broke. The rangy centre forward poked the ball beyond Dallamore and was just able to get there before the stretching Cubo centre back, he took a touch and slotted the ball past Bushy. 1-0 Kiwi.
Cubo continued to dominate territory in their search for an equaliser, whilst excellent controlled defending from the back four saw that Kiwi posed no further threat. However, a clear-cut chance couldn’t quite be fashioned, and at half time the baby blues went in 1-0 down.
A confident half time team talk highlighted the team’s belief that this game was far from over and that a goal would surely come. The Cubo boys came out for the second half and again tried their best to get hold of the ball and spread the play wide to the flanks for Neville and Field.
A succession of free kicks were drawn from the frustrated Kiwi boys and balls were being played in, but the chances weren’t quite falling for the attackers. Kiwi weren’t offering much in attack at all, preferring to compete hard in the midfield and defence. Every time the ball was pumped forward it was either headed clear or swept up by the confident Ingle and Dallamore.
Then the killer blow. A corner from Kiwi somehow saw the ball fall directly at the feet of their diminutive (yet tricky) centre forward. He was tightly marked by Ingle and with his back to goal, but produced a backheel through Ingle’s legs and into the net from a couple of yards. A great finish.
Cubo couldn’t believe they were two down, and were clearly downhearted that they hadn’t had such a lucky break of the ball in the opposition box all game despite their efforts. But they didn’t give up. Then, the glimmer of hope. A long ball played into the box from a free kick on the right saw yet another scramble for possession, this time as the ball looped free it was Jeremy Lye who got his head to it and steered it into the bottom corner! 2.1…
With 20 minutes to go Cubo smelt blood and a clearly fearful Kiwi sat deeper and deeper as the Baby blues pressed for the second that their territory and effort had deserved. But just as momentum was gained, a clearance from Kiwi bounced up and struck Lukas in the chest. The ref blew for a handball and the incensed midfield playmaker said something along the lines of, “No I don’t think so ref, it hit my in the chest, don’t be so silly.” The ref didn’t tolerate that sort of filth and brandished a red card. Disaster for Cubo.
However, and they deserve huge credit for this, the tide of the game did not shift now they were a man lighter. The defense were called on more often, but were once again impermeable, with Bushy not needing to make a single save and overall Cubo continued to press hard for the equaliser.
Another ball into the Kiwi box saw May with a slight opening but his right foot shot went over the top. Corner’s from Neville were becoming more frequent, although he lacked some of his usual quality and couldn’t find the Cubo would be headers. Then another bent free kick curled dangerously towards the Kiwi goal but the deflection saw the ball whistle just wide of the post. Another free kick from the right caused pin ball in the Kiwi box once again but this time Neville’s curled shot bent just over the bar.
A final turn and shot from Neville, bent wide from the edge of the box and the ref blew for full time. The Cubo boys had gone down by two goals to one against Kiwi who had pulled away at the top of the league.
Final Score: Kiwi FC 2-1 AFC Cubo 3rd XI
Goal: Geremi Lye
Cubo were left scratching their heads how they hadn’t got anything out of the game and I think even the most hardcore Kiwi supporter had to say that they were hanging on for much of the second half. But hanging on was all they had to do and they will be happy to avenge their defeat earlier in the season.
Cubo will no doubt be back, and carry the anger from this game into the remaining fixtures for the season. They should still be there or thereabouts when all is said and done at the end of the campaign.
Man of the Match: Difficult as the effort shown by the entire team in the second half, especially when going down to ten men, was outstanding. However the winner was James Ingle who put in another dominant display at the back and never looked in trouble the entire game.
Match Report: Henry Neville