Horsley v AFC Cubo – 20th August 2016

Team: Woodhead, Torr, de la Haye, Wensley (c), Frost, Connolly, Harris, Cooper, Perkins, Ansell, Tulip

Goals: Tulip (2) Perkins (1)

Cubo’s 2nd away game of the season took them on another long away trip to Horsley FC, who have dominated the league and cup for the past 2 seasons.

The match report writer’s curse from the previous week had well and truly struck however, and Cubo found themselves on the wrong end of legendary player Satal ‘Salty’ Tethy’s stag weekend amongst other excuses, meaning managers Harry Tulip and Oli Perkins only had 11 players to choose from, which included no recognised goalkeeper.

After frantic whatsapp messages and hopeful emails, centre half Pete Woodhead agreed to go in goal for the 1st half, a selfless act that epitomised the ethic of the club. Despite not having a strong squad Cubo were still able to name a strong side, with de la Haye moving back into the defence, Harris moving into midfield and Perkins moving back to his role up front looking noticeably fatigued from 30 holidays in the space of 2 months.

Cubo knew the game would be 90 minutes of hard graft especially with no subs and a stand in goalkeeper needing extra protection from his back 4, but were well aware that anything could happen if they kept a clean sheet for the first 20.

Horsley started brightly with some neat interplay down the left side allowing for the occasional space in behind, which was swiftly swept up and dealt with. The first 15 minutes were in stark contrast to the opening game at Yateley, with the Cubo defence looking assured on the ball and looking to slow the game down with some good passing across the back line. Gradually, as expected, Cubo began getting into the game, with Tulip getting in behind the slightly shakey-looking right back on a few occasions and Perkins winning numerous free kicks which were then ballooned over.

Horsley’s main threat was constantly coming from the number 9, who had previously caused Cubo nightmares on the wing in seasons gone by. He was finding the odd half yard in his new role up front but was well marshaled by Wensley in particular.

In a half of few chances, key moments were Charlie Cooper repeatedly getting the better of and frustrating the opposing central midfielder twice his size, winning free kicks and giving them away without letting his mouth run, much to Horsley’s frustration. Another was a superb last ditch tackle by Wensley, stretching for the ball in the penalty box to deny a straight run at goal from the number 9 – a tackle which felt like a goal.

Cubo took the lead with 10 minutes left, as Elliot Connolly, taking an increasingly dominant role in the game, held on to the ball in an advanced position on the left side and threaded a ball through to Tulip, who paused for a moment before drilling a left footed shot in off the post from a tight angle, 1-0 Cubo and well deserved.

Moments later however, Cubo were undone on a good counter attack from Horsley, as the energetic right winger pulled a ball back across the box, which was finished by the no.9, harsh on Cubo and harsh on Woodhead and the defence in particular, but well deserved for the Horsley striker.

Another positive half time team talk found all players agreeing that each player needed to save his energy, not over-commit and continue playing the counter attacking game. Woodhead’s awareness that he was slowly morphing into Manuel Neuer came with an agreement to play the full game in goal, and Cubo began the half knowing they’d have to dig in and fight for the first 10 minutes for the game to open up again.

That they did, and the game began to ebb and flow before Cubo took the lead once more, again it was Connolly feeding Tulip, but this time with a delightful 30 yard angled through ball that was weighted perfectly for the right back to lose track of his location completely and Tulip to blast Cubo into the lead left footed once more. Cubo continued to knock on the door with Simmons and Perkins threatening from long range, but again Horsley pegged them back, with a cross in the strong wind causing confusion in the box and finding its way into the net via the back side of the Horsley striker.

That didn’t hold back Cubo, and with the defence remaining strong and spreading the ball quickly, the front 3 were able to find space and opportunity to keep chasing the lead. Excellent work from Torr and Frost to find their way forward allowed Perkins to almost score from 3 yards out, and Simmons to hit some dangerous shots from distance.

But it was South West London’s premier party boy who found the winner, after collecting the ball on the 18 yard line, Perkins jinked past 2 players before crashing a shot off the diving keeper, he collected the rebound and made no mistake from 2 yards to send Cubo towards what was surely the win.

A late casual save from a 30 yard thunderbastard from Woodhead showcased the calmness he’d had all day and Cubo saw out the game to win 3-2, a fantastic result given the circumstances and a great start to the season, the legs did ache on Sunday though.

Despite conceding 2 goals, the defence not only held their positions well, but they dug in and found themselves exploiting space in behind in the wind with some great long balls from de la Haye and Wensley, and excellent attacking runs by the full backs.

The midfield duo of Harris and Cooper put their bodies through the pain to match Horsley’s aggression, allowing Connolly the space to dictate the pace of every minute – not many midfielders in the league are capable of doing so.

And the front 3 had great balance, with mention to Simmons in particular for holding the ball up well and conserving his energy despite being a lone wolf for much of the game.

Hero of the day however goes to Pete Woodhead, for stepping up when he was most needed, and giving a ridiculously calm display which made his team mates forget he wasn’t a goalkeeper. Back to centre half next time though (or is it?)

MoM – Tulip just shading Connolly for the honours


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