Lineup: Hutchinson, Torr, Wensley (Dickens), de la Haye, Seymour, Shaw, Cross (Brooks), Peel, Guttridge, Perkins, Tulip (Male)
Goals: Torr (2), Tulip, Perkins
Cubo welcomed last season’s Championship runners up to the Aspire on a noticeably colder October afternoon. After each side enjoyed close 2-1 successes at home in the corresponding fixture last season, and with both teams locked on 17 points – the expectation was that we were in for another close encounter.
A few absentees in defence saw previous 1’s Captain and recently married Ralph Wensley slot into centre half alongside de la Haye for his first game of the season, with manager Torr moving to right back and Seymour completing a new look defence at left back.
Pre-match chat was all about getting back to winning ways, not panicking as a team and individually getting back to the level seen in September. The first 5 minutes however were all Holloway, with the central midfield threats finding pockets of space and testing the Cubo goal with a few long range efforts. Gradually Cubo began to find their rhythm however, finding passes along the back line and affording Tulip and Perkins a few occasions to test their full back out. It was Matt Cross who sparked what was to be a dominant first half – collecting the ball in central midfield, Cubo’s no.7 drove forward with strength taking 3 Holloway players with him, before unleashing a powerful deflected shot just outside of the post. Moments later, Perkins threaded a fantastic ball through to Tulip after a typically mazy run, and the winger controlled and blasted a shot at the side netting. 0-0 but all Cubo who were enjoying wave after wave of attack.
Midway through the first half, Cubo were awarded a free kick on the attacking left side after some good persistence from Tulip and Peel. Peel stepped up and delivered a beautifully whipped ball to the back post and following loud shouts of ‘MARCUS’ – the manager planted a bullet header in the goal to put Cubo 1-0 up. After taking inspiration from Harry Maguire’s legacy in the World Cup, the titanium-headed Cuban had already notched his 3rd goal of the season. After another set of chances, it wasn’t long before Cubo had their 2nd – Tulip received the ball out wide left and following the usual stepover, sent a cross into the box for Guttridge which was nervously cutout back into the same wide position, and with neither Holloway defender reacting quickly Tulip was able to scoop the ball in between both players and draw a clear cut penalty. Cubo’s co-manager stepped up and calmly slotted home to put the baby blue army into a well-deserved 2-0 lead. An excellent, disciplined performance to a man and one of the best 45’s seen from the club in a long time with Holloway barely getting into the Cubo half.
Half time had been all about not panicking and continuing to play with assurance. However, it wasn’t long before Holloway were back in the game, following a long ball forward, a quick game of head tennis resulted in a loose bouncing ball at the edge of the box, and Holloway’s right winger drilled a brilliant volley past the outstretched hand of Hutchinson to make it 2-1. With the bit between their teeth the game had now taken a different vibe, and Cubo were now in a defensive mindset. Frustratingly for the Cubans the equalising goal was soon to follow, and once again it was a well-executed volley from Holloway’s midfielder, who banged one in from 20 yards over the head off Hutchinson – and what felt like the first two shots on target had resulted in a square game.
This season’s Cubo are made of strong character though, and despite Holloway being in the ascendancy the home team were quick to get back on top with the marauding runs of the wingers and advanced midfielders causing problems. Something had to give and eventually it did, as another pearler of a corner from Peel found the head of Perkins who bravely got in front of an inevitable smash from the keeper to put Cubo 3-2 up. Plans to get on top just like the 1st half were quickly dashed however when Holloway’s right back found free space to swivel superbly in the box and plant a header over Hutchinson. Yet again the scores were level and the game had turned into an absolute cracker.
Both teams continued to push and it was ultimately the home team whose attacking prowess from set pieces made the difference. Yet again it was Peel (following a brilliant save from the goalkeeper to stop one curling free kick from the no.10) – whose deliveries had been different class all day – crossing in another outswinging corner and there was only one steel-encrusted cranium that the ball was going to find. Torr’s header smashed into the goal, 2 goals for him, 3 assists for Peel and the game all but won. Some excellent last minute defending and added energy from Cubo’s subs brought the points home, and a batshit crazy 2nd half ended with Cubo finding themselves in 3rd place in the league, 3 points off the leaders. A superb performance full of character against a very good Holloway team who will be right up there whenever the return fixture falls.
MoM – Torr. Cubo’s tungsten-headed leader just shaded the votes this week, defending well, attacking well and scoring well. Peel was just behind, selflessly providing 3 assists even though he may lose a top scorer bet with the manager, and allowing the club to forget about his terrible kit-washing skills.