Date: Sat 17th March 2012
Starting Line-up: Neil Clark, Oli Watkins (c), Richard Goughardinho, Joe Darlington, Jonny Patterson, Hung, Ben McGeown, Ryan Shedwick, Chris Gray, Mike Cain, Andrew Noble
Subs: Tom Hooper, Paul Every, James McGeown
Gaffer Benny Mac was again able to select a very strong squad, even after the late withdrawal of talismanic frontman Simon Daunter with a shoulder injury, with sunbed Guru Mikey Cain replacing him to make his full debut for the 1’s. The last fixture between these two sides was a topsy turvy affair with the lead exchanging hands before Ripley snatched a last minute winner in a 3-3 thriller. With blond bombshell and chief peacemaker Michael North absent from the squad it was hoped that there wouldn’t be a repeat of the ugly scenes that marred the end of that game. The biggest shock of the day came upon seeing that the pitch had not been used for training by Barnes RFC and in fact had even been rolled! This unprecedented act of goodwill put Cubo in a good frame of mind for the 90 minutes ahead, safe in the knowledge that they would actually be able to play some football this week.
Ripley’s side appeared to be a more mature line-up this time round and it was clear from the off that they would be playing to their strengths by hitting their industrious front two early at every opportunity. The tactic almost paid immediate dividends when a contested header on the edge of the box dropped to the Ripley skipper with yards of space just inside the area. Fortunately for Cubo his powerful strike was straight at Clarky who dealt with it comfortably but it was an early warning sign. The first 20 minutes of the game followed this pattern with Cubo pegged back in their own half having to defend long ball after long ball. Despite the impressive Richard Gough winning countless headers, the Ripley front two were making sure that no header Cubo did win was won cleanly. With the Ripley midfield dominating the second ball there was very little respite for the Cubo backline. On the odd occasions that Cubo managed to get the ball forward there were encouraging signs that the quality of Mike Cain, Chris Gray and Noble would cause the Ripley backline problems. First some great pressure by Mike and Nobes saw them rob the ball from the centre half before Mike’s effort was brilliantly pushed round the post by the Ripley keeper. Minutes later, more pressure on the backline forced another error that put Mike through on goal but he was denied a debut goal by some superb work from the recovering defender who got back just in time to clear his lob.
Despite these chances Ripley were still dominating and the goal when it came was no surprise. A long throw into the box was flicked on to the back post where the Ripley striker popped up to head past Clarkey and give Ripley a deserved lead. 1-0 Ripley. As the half progressed more space was appearing around the pitch and with the midfield doing a better job of contesting the second ball Cubo were beginning to play with greater fluency. With Pogo getting forward down the left and the front line seeing more quality ball into feet there was plenty of cause to be optimistic at half time despite being a goal down. Cubo continued the second half where they had left off in the first, utilising the width of the pitch to get Pogo and Hung on the ball as often as possible. It was from this source that Cubo found themselves level five minutes into the half. Popping up out on the right Pogo clipped in an inviting cross which was met by a bullet header into the top corner by goal-shy player/manager Benny Mac. 1-1.
With the momentum behind them, a pumped up Cubo then made it two goals in two minutes. With Pogo again getting forward down the right his low cross was expertly guided home on the volley (outside of his leg peg if you’re asking) by the reborn goal-scoring midfielder Benny Mac. This boy is some player, my word. 2-1 Cubo. Ripley appeared shell-shocked, having seen their lead evaporate in the space of two minutes and it looked as if Cubo would go on to the win the game comfortably. However, with the home side dropping steadily deeper and failing to hold on to the ball Ripley gradually reasserted themselves and Cubo soon found themselves desperately defending balls into their box. Only some strong performances from Goughy, Joey D and skipper Watkins were keeping Ripley at bay. At the other end the front line, now featuring Every off of the bench, continued to create chances when the ball reached them. Mikey Cain will be disappointed not to have hit the net when Noble’s pull back from the left found him in a great position in the box. Unfortunately the sushi-munching Flavio from Manchester was unable to keep his effort down.
With the pressure building on Clarky’s goal Cubo again conceded a goal which they will feel they should have defended better. Another long throw was allowed to bounce in the box before making its way through to the Ripley striker all alone at the back post. He made no mistake with his finish, drilling his effort below the advancing Clarkey to level the game. 2-2. With time running out Cubo still found time to create chances to win the game, the best of which saw Every square the ball in the box to the supporting Hooper but the midfielder side-footed over from the penalty spot.
Final Score: AFC Cubo 2-2 Ripley Village
Goals: Benny Mac (2)
Man of the Match: Benny Mac
A disappointing result for the Baby Blue Army who, having got their noses in front really should have gone on to win the game having had the chances to do so. Despite the dropped points Cubo played some good football at times and with the defence putting in excellent performances under difficult circumstances there is plenty to be positive about going in to a very tough final three fixtures. Credit should also go to Ripley who came to Barn Elms with a clear game-plan which made life very difficult for the home side. Completely dominating the opening period of the game they showed great resilience to come back having gone 2-1 down.
Match Report: Benny Mac