Project Clapham 3 – AFC Cubo 0

Date: Saturday 26 March 2016

Venue: Southfields Academy 3G

Starting Line-up: Luke Arnold, Salty, Tom Golding, Oli Watkins, Ben McGeown, Elliot Connelly, Ryan Carolan, Ian Clarke, Dave Stevens, Oli Perkins, Tom Simmons

Subs: Gaz Stewart, Joe Coffey, Harry Forte

Cubo’s Easter bank holiday celebrations were put on hold as they crashed to another defeat to high-flying Project Clapham who strengthened their title challenge with a 3-0 victory.

Selection issues saw another new look back line with Chairman Watkins partnering Ben McG at centre half, Pogo and Salty completing a back four with the combined age of 132.

In midfield Elliot returned to the centre of the park following his high altitude training break, alongside Ryan Carolan and Dave Stevens who made another appearance having just recovered from the post-traumatic stress of the Xmas defeat at Horsley.

Clapham started well, despite fielding a relatively new look side, looking after the ball well and showing the confidence of a side that has recently won 12 games on the bounce. What you don’t want to do against a side in that kind of form is gift them easy goals.

Unfortunately for Cubo, they failed to take this approach and Clapham could hardly believe their luck when a simple headed pass back slipped through the keepers hands and dropped over the line. 1-0 Clapham. The strangeness of the goal was compounded by the injury to our keeper which held the game up for 5 minutes and saw Gaz Stewart put on the gloves. Gaz was soon called into action when a cross from the left made it’s way to the back post and the big Welshman put in a superb block from the Clapham winger.

The game was then held up again when the Southfields pitch claimed it’s second victim of the day, this time the Clapham centre mid went down clutching his knee and was he was carried from the pitch it did not look good for him.

Cubo were gradually beginning to establish themselves in the game but an over eagerness to play the final pass meant that they were giving the ball away far too cheaply, whilst Clapham continued to look the more assured side in possession of the ball.

Clapham’s left winger was giving Salty a tough time out wide where he was being isolated in one on one situations time and again, however the greying veteran stuck to the task and with the help of Watkins was able to minimise the threat.

The absence of any pace in the Cubo centre half pairing was not stopping them from playing a high line and this policy came unstuck when the Clapham number 9 made a well-timed run and was given all the time in the world to pick his spot past Stewart to make it 2-0 half way through the 1st half. Slightly harsh on Cubo who had been looking increasingly dangerous up to this point.

Cubo continued to press forward and thought they had reduced the deficit when a cross shot from Carolan was nodded home by Simmo, however the linesman raised his flag and following some discussion the referee upheld his decision. This felt like a key moment in the game as at this point it still felt like it could go either way if Cubo could haver got their noses back in it.

Coming out for the second half Clapham were clearly happy to sit back and play on the break, gifting the initiative to the Cubans. Despite showing greater patience in their approach play the Cubans were still struggling to get behind the home sides defence and for all the neat approach play the Clapham keeper was not forced into making a save.

With the defence playing a high line and the midfield pushing on there was always a chance of getting caught on the break and when it happened the game was effectively over.

A break down the right saw the Clapham winger escape a couple of tackles before Gaz parried his effort back out to the onrushing Clapham number 7 who hooked home to make it 3-0.

A frustrating goal to concede from Cubo’s perspective and one that took the edge out of the game. Cubo continued to push forward and started to create chances with Oli Perkins going close and Elliot picking out a great run by Salty which initially left him through on goal before his touch escaped him.

At the other end Gaz pulled off another brilliant one on one save to preserve the away sides dignity before the referee gave the Cubans a chance to restore some respectability to the scoreline from the penalty spot. Unfortunately skipper Oli Perkins put the ball high and wide in a mirror image of Pogo’s miss earlier in the season to spare the keeper having to dirty his gloves.

Another defeat for the Cubans who will be disappointed that the scoreline did not reflect how closely contested the game actually was. There were some key moments in the game which may have swung it in a different direction but credit goes to Clapham who edged it and showed greater cutting edge when going forward than the away side.

Clapham now go into a title run-in which see’s them play 11 games in 7 weeks, whilst Cubo will be looking to end this bad run they find themselves in and restore pride in their final 5 games of the season.

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