AFC Cubo 2-0 Balham FC  – Sat 27th Sept 2014 Barn Elms

Starting line-up: G. Stewart, A. Clarke, H. Nguyen, R. Wensley, S. Graves, B. McGeown, E. Connolly, I. Clarke, J. Patterson, H. Tulip

Subs: O. Watkins, J. Boase, R. Gough

Cubo were able to name a relatively unchanged side for the visit of Balham FC, with the only change being returning Geordie marksman Harry Tulip, who came straight back into the starting line-up for the injured (on the piss) Rufus Shedwick.  Balham have had a prodigious few season, gaining successive promotions and have started extremely brightly in the Surrey Elite – their quality evidenced by a 1-1 draw with Abbey Rangers the week before.

The visitors started the brighter of the two sides with Cubo inviting immediate pressure on themselves by failing to clear their lines on a couple of occasions before eventually clearing the danger.  The threat Balham posed was apparent from the off, young, full of energy and technically very confident on the ball.  It was shaping up to be a long afternoon for Cubo.  Balham remained the more composed side in possession and they looked a real threat down the left hand side where their full back and winger were combining to good effect.  It was from this channel that the first chance of the game came from, the left winger breaking into the box, only to see his cross fly across the six yard box with no one on the end of it.  As the half progressed Balham remained the more composed side in possession, without really opening up the home defence, whilst Cubo were experiencing quite a bit of joy exploiting the space left by the Balham full-backs, who were essentially playing as wingers.  On a couple of occasions Martin was able to get in behind the Balham back line and put dangerous balls into the box which the Balham defence did well to clear.  Cubo were gaining a foothold in the game, with Elliot stinging the keeper’s hands with a well-struck shot from distance and JPat pulling a shot wide, before the home side eventually took the lead.  A throw down the line was flicked on by Martin to release an untracked Ben McG who had time to pick out Harry Tulip in the box and he made no mistake as he tucked it past the keeper at the near post to make it 1-0 Cubo.   Balham looked deflated by the goal, having enjoyed the lion’s share of possession they were no doubt wondering how they found themselves behind.

With neither side making any changes for the second half, the pattern of the game continued along the same lines as the first, with Balham enjoying possession and Cubo looking to hit them on the break.  With Cubo’s back four of Sam, Alan, Hung and Ralph enjoying strong games at the back Balham were running into a brick wall on the 18 yard line.  The next big chance of the game fell to Harry when Clarkey released him with a tremendous through ball with the outside of his boot.  Unfortunately the clumps of freshly cut grass contrived to see the ball get stuck under his feet as he looked to turn inside the recovering defender.  Luckily Cubo were not left to rue this missed opportunity when shortly afterwards a good phase of play saw the ball worked to Harry in the inside right channel and his lay-off to Clarkey was nonchalantly clipped into the top corner, via the underside of the bar, by the ex-gaffer.  A massive goal for Cubo and a real sucker punch to Balham.  Despite the two goal cushion there was still over 20 minutes to play, plenty of time for Balham to get back into it.  The away side shifted their shape round, pushing their most dangerous midfielder into an advanced role on the right and looking to hit long diagonals onto him at every opportunity.  Having been left slightly exposed in the first half Hung was once again up against it but showed all his experience and competitiveness to shut the threat down.  Balham were throwing everything at a tiring Cubo defence now and only some superb blocks, first by Sam and then by Elliot kept Gaz from being forced into action.  Late on Gaz was forced into saving a goalbound cross/shot with his legs, but this was the first save of the day that he’d had to make, testament to the job the defence had done in front of him.  Cubo might have put the game further beyond Balham but Boasey was unable to get the ball out of his feet and the recovering Balham defender was able to clear.  The last five minutes saw a bit of pinball in the Cubo box as the ball flew around without ever dropping kindly to a Balham forward, before the referee blew up for full time.

A very good result for Cubo against a very good side who will no doubt do well this season.  As opposed to last week where they had to go out and win the game, this result was built on defensive solidity across the park.  The back five of Gaz, Alan, Hung, Sam and Ralph set the foundation for Cubo’s attacking unit to do the damage at the other end.  Next week see’s Cubo take on last year’s title winners, NPL, in what will no doubt be a very tough fixture.

Goals – Harry Tulip, Clarkey

MOTM – Martin


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