Hutchinson, Laing (Tierney), Torr, de la Haye, Davies, Shaw, Connolly, Cross (Peel), Guttridge, Chadwick (Tulip), Perkins
Goals: Own goal, Tulip
With an unbeaten September under our belts, Cubo looked to start October in the same manner against a young and energetic Spartans Youth, who got the better of us during pre-season.
On a miserably wet Saturday afternoon it was going to be key to get on top early and during the first five minutes it looked as if that may be the case, with Cubo putting some early pressure on the Spartans goal following a number of set pieces. Sadly, that was pretty much the only positive thing to say about the Cubo start and the following 15 minutes were something of a nightmare. After being dispossessed in midfield just outside the box, the Spartans striker began what would be a prolific 15 minutes for himself, slotting home well from 20 yards out to put the opposition one up.
Cubo hoped for a quick response but just couldn’t get going or hold onto the ball for more than a few passes, partly down the high pressing from Spartans and partly down to sloppiness from ourselves. After losing the ball in a dangerous position again, the Cubo defence were outnumbered and the Spartans right winger was able to pick out the clinical striker who, with his second shot of the game, scored again from the edge of the six-yard box. Now 2 nil down, it should have been time to regroup and shut up shop but the Spartans third followed shortly after following a longball over the Cubo back four was chased down by the high on confidence Spartans striker and was able to block Hutchinson’s clearance before cooly finishing from a tight angle into the open net.
The first quarter of this game could not have gone much worse for Cubo, but after such a strong start to the season there was still belief and plenty of time to get back into the game. The first meaningful Cubo chance was carved out after exploiting the right hand channels with Chadwick getting behind the defence before putting the ball across the six-yard box where Perkin’s couldn’t quite get enough contact on the ball and saw it slide past the far post. Cubo kept pressing and knew that a goal before half time could change the dynamic of the game completely, and it looked as if that would be the case after a deep wide free kick from Connolly wrong footed the Spartans keeper who could only palm the ball into the top corner. The referee seemed to have allowed the goal until, after what seemed like a long time deliberating, blew his whistle and disallowed it, claiming that Guttridge had impeded the goalkeeper. The referees whistle shortly followed to put an end to a half we can forget and hope is not repeated this season.
After a frank conversation in the changing room amongst the entire team, Cubo came out for the second half looking to start quickly and aggressively and that is exactly what happened. Our midfield began to see more of the ball and the pressure began to grow on the Spartans back four. There seemed to be a period where it was Cubo attack followed by Cubo corner over and over again, with our best chance falling to Perkins who lifted the ball over the bar as the ball fell to him at a set piece.
With the clock ticking and Cubo still goalless, it was time to inject some pace and energy into the game, with Peel and Tulip replacing Chadwick and Cross. Tulip immediately looked sharped and had success against the Cubo right back, while Peel started picking up the ball in some dangerous pockets of space. The Cubo goal eventually came with 25 minutes to go – Tulip collected the ball out wide and squared up the Spartans full back and cut inside before firing the ball across the six-yard box, where the outstretched leg of the Spartans centre back diverted the ball into the back of the net. Now there really was a belief that we could get back into this game and that belief grew even further after a flick on from a Cubo corner hit the arm of a Spartans defender and we were awarded a penalty. Tulip stepped up and calmly slotted into the bottom left hand corner to make it 3-2 with 15 minutes to go.
As the minutes ticked by, Cubo saw several half chances pass by and one great save by the Spartans keeper in particular kept them ahead going into the final few minutes after an exceptional touch / turn by Tulip. The game then slowed down to a halt following a very poor challenge on Perkins by the Spartans number 6, who was lucky to escape only a yellow card. A final chance nearly fell to Torr, who was narrowly beaten to the ball by a Spartans defender after Guttridge rounded the keeper and pulled it back across the box. Unfortunately, this was to be the last chance of the game and it finished 3-2 with Cubo coming away with nothing. This really was a game of two halves and despite the very poor start to the game, Cubo can be buoyed by the way they came out in the second half and took the game to Spartans. We have a tough set of fixtures ahead but if we can play like that consistently for 90 minutes in these upcoming games, we continue to be challenging at the top of the table.
MoM – Harry Tulip: starting on the bench after landing from Japan less than 24 hours earlier and changed the game, adding energy, pace and final product.