Date: Saturday 6th April, 2013
Starting line-up: Gareth Stewart, Rob Sadler, Richard Gough, Hung Nguyen, Oli Watkins, Andy Strickland, Ben McGeown, Mark Bradley, Jonny Patterson, Jake Flower, Sabby Sabahatin
Subs: Andrew Noble, Greg Tett
Cubo’s final home game of the season ended disappointingly as they were beaten 3-1 by local rivals Tooting Bec. With Gaffer Watkins once again forced into tinkering with his line-up due to absences, the side looked light on attacking options. The Baby Blue Army made the worst possible start to the game when, with only a couple of minutes on the clock, an innocuous looking throw into the box was first missed in the air completely before bouncing up onto Sadler’s hand. A clear handball, even if the level of intent was negligent, leaving the ref with very little choice but to award the penalty which was confidently put away by the Bec striker. The changes made to the Cubo line-up were causing some organisational issues, whereas Tooting were looking far more comfortable in their shape. The away side were having the better of things and should have made it 2-0 but for some brilliance from Gaz in the Cubo goal. He did well to initially to parry a moving strike from the edge of the box but then also managed to get back to his feet quickly enough to somehow deflect the follow-up over the bar from 6 yards when a goal seemed certain. The big Welshman, understandably, wasn’t happy with the protection he was receiving in front of him and made this clear to his defence.
Cubo were looking uncharacteristically suspect defensively and were struggling to make headway against a physical Bec backline that was dominating anything that was flung at them aerially. The away side soon found themselves two in front when a nice turn by the Bec right winger took him away from his marker before he beat two half-hearted tackles to put him through on goal where he remained cool enough to slot home to make it 2-0 Tooting.
Cubo emerged for the second half and immediately looked more interested in the game, keeping their opponents pinned back, albeit without creating any clear cut chances but unfortunately the next goal, which you felt would be key in determining the outcome of the game fell to the away side. A diagonal ball to the back post found the Bec striker in acres of space and his intelligent pass across the box left his strike partner with a simple tap in to make it 3-0 Tooting. A real sucker punch for Cubo, who would have felt that the goal came against the run of play, though once again they were their own worst enemies with some more casual defending in their half allowing first the pass into the box and then the space for the striker when he received it.
The scoreline could have been even worse had Gaz not come to the rescue again when the referee awarded Tooting their second penalty of the game. This time the keeper went the right way and pushed the ball away before re-gathering the rebound. Cubo scored a consolation goal late on when Bradders reacted quickest to a scramble in the box to fire home to make it 3-1 and provide a glimmer of hope for the home side. The game could have got even more interesting had Tett managed to keep his lob down when through on goal with a few minutes remaining but his effort sailed over the bar and Tooting were able to see out the rest of the game to secure a deserved 3 points on the day.
Goal: Mark Bradley
Man of the Match: Gareth Stewart
Given their tough run-in gaffer Watkins will have ear-marked this fixture, against one of mid-table rivals, as one to take points from so he will be very disappointed to come away with nothing. The disappointment will be even more pronounced given the lacklustre display given by Cubo, who had the air of a side already on the flight to Marbella for their summer hols. Though poor defensively, the home side can take encouragement from an improved performance once the shape had been changed and still look capable of scoring goals when they move the ball.
Given the tight nature of the lower half of the league the Cubans will need to pick themselves up for this Saturday’s fixture against Virginia Water who have experienced a near wholesale turnaround since the change in management mid-season. A win there would go some way to easing any relegation fears and as such makes it a massive game for the Baby Blue Army.