Starting Line-up: G. Stewart, A. Clarke, D.Wall, S. Graves, R. Gough, B. McGeown, E. Connolly, I. Clarke, J. Patterson, R. Shedwick, M. Ansell
Sub: R. Wensley
Cubo’s unbeaten start to the season came to an end at high-flying Abbey Rangers who underlined their title credentials with a very solid performance. Despite a few absences gaffer Benny Mac was still able to name a very strong side with Dave Wall coming in to replace Cubo stalwart Hung Nguyen. The game began cagily with both sides employing very similar systems that saw a congested and very competitive midfield area. Abbey were playing with a very distinct gameplan which bore fruit after fifteen minutes when a long throw into the box was flicked on by the lone frontman and the onrushing Abbey midfield tucked away at the second attempt after Gaz had saved his initial effort. A sloppy goal to concede from Cubo’s point of view but they soon found themselves two down when another the striker, who had deceptive aerial prowess, won another header and the Abbey number eight again latched onto it before side footing home. Another disappointing goal to concede, particularly as it appeared that the goalscorer fouled his marker to reach the ball in the first place. Cubo now faced a very tough task against a very well organised Abbey who’s two goal cushion meant they could afford to sit in and look to hit Cubo on the break. Abbey’s sitting in meant Cubo were enjoying a lot of possession but was a lack of cutting edge in the final third where the home side restricted Cubo to one strike from outside the area that sailed over the bar. The second half continued much as the first had left off, with Cubo enjoying plenty of possession without really looking like opening Abbey up. The Cubo’s best chance of getting back into the game looked like coming from a set-piece and they thought they had pulled one back when an initially cleared corner was put back into the box and Alan flicked home but the goal was disallowed for offside. With time running out Cubo then felt they should have had a penalty when the ref blew up for a foul on Rufus that appeared to be inside the box but only a free kick was granted. A frustrating decision for the away side. The game was struggling to get any sort of momentum as the referee became increasingly happy to blow up for any sort of contact and a number of yellow cards were issued for infringements that at first sight looked rather innocuous. Cubo finally got a lifeline when a free kick was headed past his own keeper by the Abbey centre half but any hope was quickly extinguished when Abbey broke away to make it 3-1. Cubo had been living dangerously at the back in an effort to get back into the game and when the Abbey sub sprung the high line, he had ample time to coolly side step Gaz and slot home to finish the game.
A tough game for the Cubans against a strong and well-organised side. The late goal may have skewed the score-line but it was a fair result on the day. Abbey have made a strong start to the season and on this evidence will certainly be in the mix for the title come April time.