Lineup: Hutchinson, Tierney, Laing, Torr, Davies , Shaw, Connolly, Peel (Cross), Tulip (Guttridge), Chadwick, Perkins
Goals: Tulip, Perkins, Chadwick, Torr?, Connolly
Cubo looked to round off an unbeaten September by welcoming Horsley FC – back in the league after a 1 year hiatus – to the Aspire Academy on a hot and sunny autumn afternoon. Recognising a few familiar faces from the previously dominant treble winning side, the Cubans knew it would be a tough game and recent results for the oppo indicated so.
An incredibly strong squad saw Tierney drop back in at RB, with Laing stepping in for the previously ever-present de la Haye alongside Torr. The unofficial ‘best looking central midfield’ in the league remained unchanged, whilst Tulip just edged Guttridge for a starting position as part of the front 3 to offer extra width after both were absent from the previous game.
Both sides started brightly but it was Horsley who enjoyed the lions share of possession, with the central no.8 finding time and space, but with two strikers dropping deep to receive the ball, there was rarely any danger beyond Torr’s backline. One or two openings for the front 3 of Cubo showed potential to beat their men on pace, but it was Horsley who had the best chance of the opening 20. Horsley’s ‘Taz’ found himself in the 18 yard box, edging the ball past Laing who almost brought him down, but credit to the striker who kept going, playing the ball across the goal and following a brief goalmouth scramble, Cubo had Chadwick to thank for lunging himself in front of the ball and saving a certain goal.
Moments later, Horsley’s right winger pounced on some brief hesitation in the backline to find himself through on goal, slotting the ball past Hutchinson into the side netting to put Horsley 1-0 up, and given the strong reaction to the goal from both home and away players, it was a clear that we had a good game on our hands between two good teams. As they’ve done so often this season, Cubo didn’t panic – growing into the game with time afforded to the full backs and central midfield to start shifting the ball. Perkins and Peel both had shots on goal with Perkins in particular finding himself able to control and run at the defence. One such attack from Chadwick and Tierny saw the ball pulled back to Peel, who in attempting to get the shot off was tackled, cannoning the ball off Perkins’ face and on to Tulip who controlled and slotted home to make it 1-1. Not the prettiest, but after turning up one gear Cubo found themselves looking sharp.
The second half began with a markedly different tone from the Cubans who suddenly found much more time and ability to shift the ball quickly against a clearly fatigued Horsley. It wasn’t long before Tulip, collecting a pass from Connolly, knocked the ball and burned past his right back to slot in for Perkins who made no mistake in tapping home for 2-1, more chances followed for Torr and Perkins but Cubo needed another to kill the game off. Whilst appearing to knock the wind out of Horsley’s sails, the away team quickly found themselves back on level terms after some superb skill from Horsley’s striker, spinning Torr on the touchline and pulling back for Taz to make it 2-2.
The managers made swift substitutions to bring new energy into the game, and Guttridge made an instant impact, collecting the rebound from peel’s shot, before controlling and crossing for Chadwick to get ahead of his man and make it 3-2. Shortly after, Chadwick found himself beating the offside trap to cross for the still-forward Torr who claims to have made the final touch to take his tally for the season to 2 goals. After a long deliberation between linesman and referee (rumour has it the referee was just aghast that Torr would claim it as his own), the goal was confirmed and Cubo had all but sealed the win.
The 5th goal didn’t take long, as Connolly was gifted the ball following a miskicked pass from the Horsley goalkeeper who had found himself playing right back momentarily. The cultured midfielder controlled and slotted home with his left foot for his annual goal. The goal was given an extra poignancy later in the week with Connolly announcing he will be moving to New Zealand in the new year, after taking inspiration from the love, care and attention that Cubo old boy Martin Ansell was able to devote to his Mrs on the other side of the world since leaving the baby blue army.
The result left Cubo joint top of the table, with a very difficult run of games to come in a busy October, but no bigger obstacle than what this very good team have overcome this season.
MoM – Chadwick’s running, goals and assists tied for MoM with Connolly who dictated the entire game from Midfield.