Lineup: Hutchinson, Davies, Wensley, de la Haye, Laing (Frost), Connolly, Peel, Shaw (Cross), Tulip (Perkins), Guttridge, Chadwick
Cubo welcomed their official bogey team Chessington KC to the Aspire for the 6th time in 2 seasons, looking to finally get a win against the team who have knocked them out of the cup twice and a team who are clearly now rivals for the title. With Torr away viewing elephants, Tulip had a wealth of strong players to choose from, and on what was club legend Elliot Connolly’s final game for the club, the trendy mancunian took the arm band and lined up alongside Shaw in central midfield.
As with any game between these two sides, the game was incredibly tough across the pitch with both teams showcasing attacking prowess and defensive organisation. The game itself hit an early flashpoint following a strong tackle from Shaw on the opposing central midfielder, who definitely came off worse in what was in many of the home side’s view a fair challenge. Following some handbags the game restarted and it was Cubo, and in particular Tulip who had two good early chances to put the Cubans ahead. Both times he beat his man on the edge of the box, but both times he shot either wide or over. Shaw then found himself in the book following what seemed another fair but firm challenge, the referee deciding this time he would book the midfielder, which felt very harsh and basically shut down Cubo’s combativeness in central midfielder with the Yorkshireman having to tread carefully from then on.
With Laing shutting down the dangerous Marcel on the left wing, the game was clearly going to be defined by one or two key moments or one or two incidents.
An increasingly erratic refereeing performance got even more confusing when Chessington’s forward chased down a high-bouncing ball against the onrushing Hutchinson, who comfortably claimed the ball first before being roundhouse kicked in the shoulder by the striker. With the keeper down receiving treatment for a huge gash in his shoulder, the handbags started up again and with the striker Sterne admitting guilt (though clearly not deliberate), the referee decided to not even book the forward to the amazement of the Cubo team. Despite the game being played in a tense, but positive manner, the referee indicated that he would happily keep blowing his whistle to break up the play and a number of confusing decisions followed including a needles booking for Wensley.
The 2nd half continued in the same vein, end-to-end with no clear cut chances for either side. But around the 70 minute mark, a Chessington counter attack following what looked like a foul on Tulip resulted in that man Sterne smashing the ball past Hutchinson from 6 yards – 1-0 Chessington and a potentially huge moment in the season took the wind out of Cubo’s sails. The introductions of Perkins, Cross and Frost added some much needed impetus for Cubo who began attacking again. But the game was all but over as a contest when Davies put in another tough tackle and received a straight red.
A 1-0 win for Chessington saw Cubo’s foothold at the top of the league become dislodged but the home team felt genuinely hard done by and also extremely pissed off at an unnecessarily erratic refereeing performance.
MoM: There was no question it was a Guinness to down for Elliot Connolly, who actually had a typically solid game in midfield. The pint though was to honour 4 and a half superb years at the club. After winning player of the season in his first year, Connolly has had spells as the club captain but could always be relied on to dictate the tempo of a game, play the right pass and remain completely unflustered by everything that went on around him. The club are very sad to see him go and wish him all the best in his new life in New Zealand, a part of the world where Cubo often lose good players who get whipped.