Line-up: Hutchinson, Seymour, de la Haye, Laing, Seymour, Shaw, Brooks (Tierney), Cross, Chadwick, Perkins, Guttridge
Goals: Guttridge, Cross, Perkins
A cold, blustery, winters afternoon greeted the Cubans as they returned to the Aspire Cage, up against an NPL side all too familiar in the art of taking points off the top 6. Cubo knew anything less than a win would threaten mid table obscurity rather than challenging for the title, such is the nature of the league this season.
A fast start from Cubo saw NPL on the back foot early on and although a few passes were going astray, the boys in baby blue certainly looked in the mood.
20 minutes gone in the first half and Cubo had their first real opening. A typically tenacious Tom Shaw burst through the heart of the NPL midfield and back line saw him all alone and 1v1 with the goalkeeper. Shaw’s attempt to pass it into the net forced a smart save from the NPL no. 1 and groans from the home fans, agonising at their star man for not finishing off what would have been the perfect start.
But the breakthrough did arrive 10 minutes later after Perkins drifted in from
the left hand side, dinking the ball, over the vulnerable back 4, into Matt Cross’s path. Taking it in his stride Cross lifted the bouncing ball effortlessly over the onrushing keeper to give Cubo the lead at the half.
Although they were 1 up, Cubo were not about to rest on their laurels emphasised by Andrew Findleton’s positive, anxious tones in the dressing room at half time. The Caretaker’s tactics seemed to be working well, yet Cubo had been exposed a couple of times by tricky wingers and a lumbering yet effective centre midfielder.
Findleton’s astute adjustments paid dividends in the second period as Cubo saw less of the ball but were doubly effective. A compact, organised back line, thwarted anything that resembled an NPL onslaught in the second half. Brooks continued to break up play and distribute with Guttridge threatening repeatedly on the counter.
And it was the Cubo number 9 who doubled the lead on the hour. Cross had time and space to slide a perfectly weighted pass through to Perkins who drove towards goal with only the keeper to beat. Perkins, unselfishly, yes, UNselfishley, laid the ball back to Guttridge who, no doubt shocked at the uncharacteristic generosity, steadied himself and stroked the ball home into an unguarded net.
Cubo continued to carry out a controlled regulation of NPL attack’s. Davies and Chadwick had successfully tamed the energetic left winger with Mitch Seymour, for a second week in a row, forcing a miserable afternoon for the young number 10 on the right. DLH and Laing remained as composed and destructive as ever.
Energy added to the midfield in the shape of Barney Tierney meant Cubo were even sharper on the counter. A burst of pace from Tierney down the right left the NPL back line for dead. He pulled the ball back to a waiting Guttridge who saw his shot saved by the keeper into the path of Perkins, who planted the ball under the keeper for Cubo’s 3rd.
Cubo’s professional, organised and high octane performance earned the away side an audible dressing down after the game with spirits in the Cubo camp remaining high.
A trip to the lovely town of Ripley this coming Saturday will not be easy, with conditions and exposed pitch perfect ingredients for a potential banana skin. Cubo will have to continue their good form to avoid dropping points against the struggling home side.
MoM: Jordan Guttridge was outstanding in his hold up play and work ethic for the afternoon but the back line and Goalkeeper Jack Hutchinson can be proud of their well deserved clean sheet.