AFC Cubo – Surrey Elite League CHAMPIONS 2018/19

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What a season! What a club! AFC Cubo are the champions of Surrey and South West London’s step 7 football league.

An unbelievable season in which the early weekend momentum simply carried on, with just a couple of bumps and scrapes along the way. Here’s what happened:

Pre-season and August

The club gathered at Archbishops Park for pre-season training in good spirits, welcoming some new faces including Matt Cross & Barney Tierney, and Mitch Seymour who we snared back from Battersea. They played part in some of the early friendlies against Spartans and the 1’s v 2’s annual game (comfortably won by the 2’s). With the team feeling fresh, confidence was high heading to Spelthorne for game no.1 with a strong team including Tom Golding who had impressed in pre-season and stepped in to left back. A dominant performance saw us run out 5-2 winners, with new signing Matt Cross catching the eye as well as the general team fitness. Fast forward to bank holiday weekend, which is usually the death knell for the season, and it felt that way in the 2nd half against Battersea, who took advantage of an off-colour albeit weaker squad to win 4-1 with some late goals. But Cubo responded in one of the defining games of the season, heading to unknown quantity Farleigh Rovers on bank holiday Monday, with a small squad, and a couple of lads late-arriving due to travel mix ups. A tense, tight game saw victory sealed with a superb Jordan Guttridge strike into the top corner, giving Cubo 6 from 9 and a solid platform to build the season on.

September

A promising season become more of a reality, with 10 points from 12 in a productive start to Autumn. A depleted side comfortably overcame Ripley with a brilliant 2nd half goal from Harry Peel on a hot afternoon, before travelling to bogey team Chessington KC, where an early Tulip goal was cancelled out by perennial nemesis Sterne – Cubo playing the game for 60 mins with 10 men and almost nicking it late on. Another defining game followed, with early season pace-setters Westside arriving at the Aspire only to be met with an on-fire Oli Perkins, who destroyed the team almost single-handedly with his best ever performance in a baby blue shirt, as Cubo ran out 2-1 winners and edged to the top of the table. The month was rounded off by a solid team performance, coming from behind to defeat Horsley 5-2, the game seeing Elliot Connolly score his final goal for the club.

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October

In contrast to the previous month, October was much more on the ‘erratic’ side, beginning with a poor 1st half performance in the pouring rain at Spartans, that saw us go 3-0 down and just generally not play our best stuff. Despite this, a late flurry of attacking following the intro of Peel & Tulip saw us get the game back to 3-2 and nearly go on to draw or even win it – but this was very much a wake up call that we couldn’t afford to switch off. This was followed by a trip away to Staines and again, one of those weekends where the squad was depleted, but the character showed, with Jack Hutchinson’s infamous ‘IF YOU AREN’T AFRAID TO SMASH A C*NT‘ speech at half time inspiring Rob Davies to pop up with a vital header at the end to grab a point. October 20th saw the club head back to Chessington again in the league cup, this time to try and gain revenge for the semi-final defeat the year before. It wasn’t to be however, with Henry Chadwick’s early goal cancelled out by a dubious penalty and a long range pile driver. The game also saw the beginning of Rob Davies’ up & down season with referees, as he was sent off for hand balling on the line. 2-1 defeat and Cubo were out of the cup again. The final game of the month however was another key one, as a scintillating first half performance against Holloway started to lay the foundations for the rest of the season in how the team would set up, in a game dominated by the Peel assist / Torr heading combination that saw Cubo’s answer to Harry Maguire grab the winner at the end and reinvigorate a season that was in danger of faltering.

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November

Cubo carried on the good form, heading to NPL and putting in a disciplined performance that saw Tulip grab a brace, Hutchinson stand-in Touaita save a penalty and the Cubo defence keep their first clean sheet of the season for a 3-0 win. The game was also notable for seeing Guttridge get a goal that had evaded him for some time – more on the importance in a bit. The following week we welcomed Worcester Park to Southfields, as well as a monsoon that threatened to defeat the all-weather pitch of the Aspire, leaving huge puddles on one side. An edgy game in the difficult conditions threatened to leave Cubo frustrated after a rare Hutchinson error, until a late pitch-long sprint from Cross and subsequent brace from Tulip brought a 3-1 win and a great result. The following week couldn’t be a bigger contrast – the Cubans ran out thirteen-nil winners against West End Village, with Tulip even finding time to miss a penalty. Guttridge, who had struggled to find the goals his performances deserved up to then, bagged 4 goals, Cross and Peel bagged hat tricks and Perkins and Chadwick grabbed some too. A record performance and in all honesty, it could have been more. Three wins out of three did not become four out of four however, as an off-colour Cubo salvaged a 1-1 draw the following week against a good Merrow side, with secret weapon Torr popping up with crucial points yet again in the late stages.

December

A tricky month saw only 2 games played but both against rival title challengers. The first saw Chessington play at the cage, with an incident-packed game seeing a very strange refereeing performance contribute to a stop-start game, despite both teams being very similarly set up with attacking formations. Rob Davies was sent off again, though this time the red was questionable following tough foul. KC’s no.9 Stern scored the crucial winner after earlier being lucky to avoid his marching orders. This game also saw previous Player of the Year and Captain Elliot Connolly play his final game, jetting off to New Zealand to start a new life with the mrs. A week later Cubo travelled to South Croydon to face Westside in another game that was ruined by torrential weather, with the pitch effectively a slippery bog which meant 0-0 was the only outcome. The game was notable for one thing though, and that was a 10/10 performance from keeper Hutchinson who had started to notch a steady amount of clean sheets. End of 2018, and the Baby Blue Army had work to do to keep pace with the leaders.

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January

We kicked off 2019 with another very tough game at home to Merrow, the side who arguably deserved to win he return fixture in Guildford. But a superb, measured performance from the team saw 3 goals scored without reply, one of which was a brilliant team effort to win the ball back and counter attack following a half time plan. The game felt like a turning point in how we could contain teams at home and dominate in attack, and was also one of T Shaw’s best games of the season which always results in a win. The big game followed, going up against Battersea Ironsides in the local Earlsfield derby – 2-0 down but well in the game, Cubo got it back to 2-1 via Tulip (who played around 60 mins after a tough hit on the leg) and then had a glorious chance to level it up via Chadwick, only for a long free kick to break Cubo hearts that missed every player and trickled into the net. A 3-1 win for the home side and it felt like the momentum had been taken away. The following week we went to Worcester Park, and another professional performance saw us leave with he points, but the game was notable for ending Tulip’s season, with a horror tackle hitting him in the same place as the bad one the week before, breaking his leg and spraining his ankle, just as Jordan Guttridge had started to pull away in the goalscoring charts. Another professional dispatching of NPL the week after kept our hopes alive with Cross, Perkins and Guttridge adding to their goal tallies in a great performance, introducing #FindyBall

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February

After a week off, a dodgy but prolific performance against Spelthorne Sports saw all of the front 3 bag goals as well as Tierney who was showing a knack for getting on the scoresheet. The game was another example of us not being at our best but being strong enough in front of goal that we could get away with it. The following week though, as we went up against title rivals Spartans Youth, a dominant performance was the polar opposite, as every man on the pitch did their jobs (including T Shaw whose car was being broken into at the same time) and the frontline again bagged their goals, with Guttridge starting to become a major player in the league top scorer race. Spartans had no answer and revenge was served for the defeat in Brentford, the defence and Hutchinson racking up another clean sheet for their 6th in 12 games, a massive turnaround and testament to the strength in depth and performances of the defensive unit as a whole led by captain de la Haye. The title race was back in our hands, but the following week it all unravelled again, as conditions and nerves got the better of us in the worst performance of the season down at bogey pitch Ripley, where Torr was finally sent off for his shit chat and Rob Davies fell foul of the referee again – a 5 game ban effectively ending what had been a topsy-turvy season. 2-0 Ripley and just a very unusual game that didn’t suit the team, but credit the opposing side who were rejuvenated.

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March/April

In response to having the wind knocked out of their sails, the baby blue army had an incredibly tricky tie to follow it up away at Royal Holloway – big contenders last season and always a tricky tie. A resilient performance with crucial goals from Tom Shaw, Oli Perkins and Own Goal saw us win 3-2 and if anything, kept the entire season alive. That shift in mindset was massive, as we then went on an unreal run, scoring 20, conceding 2 and steamrollering towards the title. An 8-0 demolition of Farleigh Rovers saw a number of players grab braces including Peel, Cubo’s playmaker who had started to grab the run-in by the balls, the 8-0 was a total contrast to the 2-1 earlier in the season, showing how much one team had progressed and the other regressed as the months had gone on. A tricky tie away to bottom side West End Village the following week was set up for disaster in gale force winds that ruined the game (and the dugouts), and after easing to a 13-0 win in November, this time Cubo maintained the recurring professionalism to win 2-0 and avoid a few scares, racking up another clean sheet for the resolute back line and keeper. A superb 6-1 win at the fortress Aspire against Staines Lammas, with all players again putting the shift in and Chadwick and Cross turning in MoM performances, this was all without getting out of 3rd gear. Goal of the game? T Shaw with a 20 yard nutmeg slotted finish.

And finally, the last game of the season saw us go to Horsley, survive a dodgy penalty decision and put in another superb shift, this time in 5th gear constantly throughout the game and Peel fittingly closing off his productive season-climax in style by putting in one of the performances of the season, and Matt Laing, who is now basically Cafu, putting in another brilliant shift at RB. Every man on the pitch epitomised the effort throughout the season, and there was shared acknowledgement from the opposition that they’d faced a good side. Post-match celebrations were muted with Battersea coming from behind to win, but the following week, we were present to watch Staines Lammas do us a huge favour by thrashing the Ironsides and handing Cubo the title. WHAT A BLOODY SEASON!!!!!! GET IN!

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Special thanks to Tony Perkins & BDO for sponsoring the team, enabling us to train and use Southfields, without you it wouldn’t have happened. And thanks to the man who turned the admin around – #FindyBall forever.

Managers Picks – Key Games

Tulip

Farleigh away – Monday morning on August bank holiday is never good for availability, but such is the strength in depth we were able to get a team out with a sub – even though Farleigh had about 25 players. Two players going the wrong way wasn’t ideal at the start either! But we found ourselves 1-0 up through Tulip and then 1-1 undeservedly for much of the game as we could have been 5-0 up and everyone was pretty leggy, but we ground it out and Jordan scored a great winner. It was a GREAT feeling coming away from deep Croydon with the win, and results like that matter so much when you end up winning the league. Thanks to the chairman for stepping in in goal and making a great save

Merrow home – really tricky tie against a team who nearly beat us a few weeks before. We had to start the year well, and to score 3 goals whilst working as a collective to cut out Merrow’s playing from the back worked wonders. The goal where we pressed as a team, T Shaw nicked the ball, Peel backheeled it into Jordan who slotted home was quality. Then to keep a clean sheet, including an unreal Hutchinson save from a free kick, was just great. This wasn’t a result from previous season’s where we just happened to win 3-0, it was a dominant team performance following a heavy Christmas.

Favourite GoalsJord Merrow as above. Crossy 1st game of the season where about 10 players bounced off him, and slabhead Torr’s winner against Holloway

Torr:

Holloway Home – off the back of two disappointing away results, a loss to Spartans and a draw to Staines Lammas, we needed to bounce back to keep in touch with the leaders. We were rampant in the first half, playing our best football of the season so far with Cross and Peel finding space and regularly driving forward – 2-0 up at half time with both managers scoring. The second half started similarly but then Holloway scored 2 screamers against the run of play – in previous seasons we’d have let our heads drop and roll over but we responded immediately through Perkins. 5 minutes later we conceded a rare goal from a corner, 3-3 and a score line that didn’t justify the performance. With the clock ticking down, Peel had an unreal free kick tipped over and it didn’t look like it was our day. But then he whipped in the resulting corner straight onto Torr’s head which powered past the keeper to win us the game. This game showed the quality of this team (particularly in the first half) and the character & never give up attitude that has developed this year. It set up a run of 13 points from 15 before we got to the Christmas schedule – quality.

Holloway away – Yet again we faced Holloway after a disappointing result, this time a loss against strugglers Ripley, and one which felt at the time as if we’d blown any chances of winning the league. We now knew that only 5 wins in the 5 remaining games would give us a chance come the end of the season. Suspended manager Torr took on sole managerial duties and told the team to forget about the previous weeks performance and play with some freedom. Again it was topsy turvy, we dominated the first 30 and went 1-0 up, minutes later Holloway levelled up and shortly after made it 2-1. The team came off at half time angry and frustrated at letting them back in and go ahead undeservedly. The second half was a nervy affair but we made it all square through a rare goal from Shaw (let’s ignore the keepers mistake). We knew we had to push for the 3 points but it didn’t look as if the goal would come, especially after Peel hit the post. But we didn’t stop and after great work from the ever tireless Chadwick down the right, the ball fell to Guttridge who unselfishly squared it to Perkins who tapped into an empty net with 5 left. Cue Fergie & kid style celebrations on the sideline between Torr and Shaw! The game wasn’t over yet though, with a long ball and set piece onslaught from Holloway bringing the best out of Hutchinson who made some unbelievable saves to ensure we got the three points. The team spirit was clear to see and the buzz in the changing room afterwards was a polar opposite to the week before. Results that weekend went our way and the title race was well and truly back on, and more importantly the belief we could do it was back.

Favourite Goals – Oli’s penalty in last 5 minutes vs Westside which topped off his performance and a huge 3 points. Peel‘s goal vs Horsley in last game for the importance of the goal and the quality of it in such a big game

Season stats – appearances, goals and clean sheets.

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