AFC Cubo 1-0 Yateley Green

Venue: Barn Elms

Date: Saturday 2nd March 2013

Starting Line-up: Gareth Stewart, Oli Watkins, Richard Gough, Hung Nguyen, Eddy Jackson, Rob Sadler, Joe Darlington, Jonny Patterson, Ben McGeown, Ryan Shedwick, Mike Cain

Sub: Andy Strickland

For the second time in 3 weeks Cubo hosted the incumbent league leaders, albeit at the slightly less luxurious surroundings of Barn Elms following the luxury of decent changing rooms and fully operational showers enjoyed at Alleyn’s a fortnight previously.  Unlike Horsley, with whom Cubo were fairly well-acquianted Yateley Green arrived as something of an unknown package though their position in the league suggested they would be a decent outfit.

As has been the case more often than not this season, gaffer Watkins was forced into making several changes from last weeks side (maybe no bad thing given the poor performance), with the annual selection crisis that is known as ‘ski season’ hitting the club hard.  On the morning of the game things did not look good.  Andy Strickland’s return flight had been delayed and he wasn’t to arrive until half time, his replacement, Jacko, hadn’t been seen since Friday afternoon and rumours of a 4.30am text to the gaffer pulling out of the game were beginning to circulate on various social media outlets.  Fortunately Jacko roused himself heroically from his late night exertions to start on the left, though this still left Cubo without a linesman and thanks must go the Yateley sub who filled this role for the first half.  With the number of changes Watkins was forced to name an untried midfield with Joey D and J-Patt stepping in to fill the berths usually occupied by Clarkey and Bradders.

The first half was a cagey affair with both teams working hard to earn a foothold in the game. The decision to move Joey D into midfield was looking like an inspired one as the rangy Evertonian was doing a passable impression of Patrick Viera in his pomp, dominating the aerial battle and putting in some telling challenges.  It looked like he may even break the deadlock (which would have made it an improbable 3 goals this season…) when Mike Cain broke down the right and squared across the box but some superb defensive work by the Yateley midfielder saw the ball taken off of Darlo’s toe just as he pulled the trigger.  Yateley’s biggest appeared to be the long throw into the box but Gaz Stewart was in confident form coming to claim anything delivered into a dangerous position there was not much joy to be had on this front.  Cubo were having the better of the battle around the park and forced a series of corners which were causing Yateley real problems.  Cubo will feel they should have scored from at least one of the excellent deliveries that Mikey was putting in to the box but all they had to show for it was a Goughy header cleared off of the line.  At the other end Yateley reminded the home side of the threat they posed when some intervention by the tree behind the goal caused confusion in the box and only a great save by Gaz Stewart and some desperate blocks prevented the away side from going ahead.

The second half continued in much the same fashion with both sides scrapping for possession without every using it with enough quality to build any pressure on the opposition goal.  Yateley’s biggest threat continued to be the long throw into the box and they almost scored from this when Cubo failed to clear their lines and a great strike by the Yateley striker looked destined for the top corner before cannoning to safety off of the underside of the bar.  This let off for Cubo was to prove even more decisive as it was the home side who took the lead shortly afterwards.  Another dangerous Mike Cain corner was headed goalwards by Goughy, and when his header was cleared off the line, Rob Sadler was the first to react and his shot was deflected in via Ryan Shedwick.  1-0 Cubo.

Having taken the lead Cubo should have looked to exert greater control on the game, especially with Yateley chasing the game and leaving gaps at the back.  However, due to an allergy to holding on to the ball the backline, led by Watkins with able support from Hung, Goughy and Gaz were forced into defending countless deliveries into the box from throw-ins and free kicks.  The amount of long throws into the box must have reached a count of 15 as the attacks rained in on Gaz’s goal.  However through a combination of sterling defending, some wasteful finishing by Yateley and a slice of luck Cubo held firm.  When the ball did stick in the Yateley half there was clearly chances to be had and Mike looked like he was going to seal the win when he worked a shooting opportunity on to his favoured foot in the box but unfortunately the tell tale signs of his recent ‘roid abuse were clear to see as the ball exploded off of his foot, landing somewhere outside the M25.

A few more tense minutes of defending had to be endured before the Baby Blue Army could celebrate their best home win of the season.  A tough and scrappy game against a well-organised Yateley side who will feel that with the amount of pressure they were able to exert on the Cubo backline they really should have come away with something.  However, credit must go to the backline and Gaz Stewart in nets who really stood up to the challenge of the aerial bombardment, no doubt aided by the harsh lesson they received at the hands of the masters of the long throw the week before.  A solid all-round performance for Cubo, and just reward for the improvement in the past few weeks which has been a far better reflection of the Cubo of previous years.

Man of the Match: Joe Darlington – picked in an unfamiliar central midfield role the soon to be married Germanic Brummie was a strong presence throughout and did a great job anchoring the midfield, even almost scored a goal he could genuinely put his name to!

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