AFC Cubo 2nd XI 3 v USP Diaspora 2nd XI 2

The first game of the season saw goals galore at Barnes Elms on Sunday as AFC Cubo and UCC Diasporas 2nd XI’s played out a five goal thriller.

On a hot and sunny day, both teams sought the early initiative by trying to get the ball to do the work, and despite some good early passages of play by both teams, it was a goalkeeping error which brought the opening goal. Joe Coffey seized on a poor goal kick by the suspect Diaspora number 1, taking control of the loose ball and stabbing it goalwards – 1-0 Cubans.

Conceding the goal drove Diaspora on and they began to see more and more of the ball. With 10 minutes left to play of the first half, a slick passing move down the left hand side opened up the Cubo defence, allowing the dangerous left winger to finish with power and accuracy at the near post. The first half came to an end without any further action, aside from Ollie Watkins taking a Copa Mundial to the forehead, which of course we all heard about at half time (and full time. Then again at The Red Lion. Then once more at The Dukes Head in case anyone missed it).

After some encouraging half time words and jelly babies, Cubo began the second half looking to take a grip on the game. However, it was Diaspora who picked up from the end of the first half as they continued earning the bulk of possession. On the 65 minute mark, Diaspora took the lead. This time, it was down the right hand side, as a clever ball over the top allowed the fresh-legged right midfielder time and space to pick out a cross, finding the ever dangerous centre forward who bulleted his header in from 3 yards. The goal brought a game changing substitute as Gorlitz made his debut from the bench for Egan.

With 10 minutes on the clock and Cubo looking for the equaliser, Diaspora broke again in numbers. They had scored from the left and right, so tried the centre this time. The substitute right midfielder got through and poked his shot goalwards, finishing coolly past Arnold. However, the Diaspora celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag. There was no more than a bookie’s biro in it, but it seemed like the right call.

Galvanised by some strong officiating, Cubo continued their search for an equaliser. It came when Joe Coffey popped up in the area with his back to the goal. With one touch and a turn, he managed to loop the ball over the goalkeeper from the edge of the area. A sublime finish worthy of drawing any game.

With minutes left on the clock, both teams set out about finding a winner. Diaspora seemed more concerned about complaining about the officials than chasing the winner, or defending a Cubo winner for that matter, and ultimately it cost them the points. With the clock ticking, Thethy broke down the right of midfield, sliding the ball through to Richard Crisp. Crispy’s ball in to the box was perfectly weighted, allowing that man Joe Coffey to finish first time for his hattrick. Euphoria throughout the Cubo team as they knew time was almost up.

The whistle blew for full time with no further controversy and thoughts could turn to the first Cubo social of the season. Not before man of the match Joe Coffey downed his Fosters in approximately 4 minutes 32 seconds. Top of the league…

AFC Cubo 2 v Chobham Burymead 2

Date: Saturday 19th September 2015

Venue: Barn Elms Sports Centre

Starting line-up: Gaz Stewart, Greg Tett, Ralph Wensley, Alan Clarke, Brad Wilkie, Ben McGeown, Marcus Torr, Elliot Connolly, Martin Ansell, Tom Simmons, Harry Tulip

Subs: Oli Watkins, Luke Arnold

Cubo entertained newly promoted Chobham Burymead at Barn Elms looking to build on their unbeaten September.  Typically there were a few changes from last week’s hard-fought point at Battersea with Marcus Torr and Martin Ansell returning to the side.  With the pitch looking in good nick and the sun shining the stage was set for a good afternoon of football.  Chobham started the brighter of the two with Cubo struggling to get to grips with the shape of the visitors.  Some sloppy defending saw Gaz Stewart forced into action early on, though the keeper showed safe hands to hold onto a well-struck shot from the edge of the box.  Cubo were then presented with a good chance to open the scoring when the Chobham keeper mishit a clearance leaving Ben McG with an open goal, albeit from 30 yards out.  As with last weeks efforts the gaffer was unable to hit the target and should have done better.  The game then saw the first of two real bits of class during the 90.  A diagonal into the box from Marcus was nodded down by Tom Simmons into the path of the onrushing Martin Ansell, who smashed a half volley into the top corner from the edge of the box.  A rocket of a finish to make it 1-0 Cubo.  With the away side slightly stunned from the goal, Cubo began dominating proceedings with Elliot influential in the middle of the park.  The score should have been doubled when another poor clearance dropped to Ben on the edge of the box but he rushed his finish, spanking the ball well wide.

Cubo started the second half with the second moment of quality when Martin broke down the left and pulled the ball back to Elliot just inside the Chobham box and he guided his finish into the far top corner, the ball settling in under the stanchion.  Riding high from the goal, Cubo really should have pushed on but instead they gifted Chobham a route back into the game.  A well struck free kick was parried by Gaz and tucked away by the Chobham striker who had reacted quickest to the second ball.  A real game changer of a goal as you felt that not even Chobham believed they’d be able to get back in the game before that.  From that moment on the game became frenzied as Chobham pushed on and Cubo consistently gave possession away.  Time and again Cubo were guilty of poor challenges, gifting their opponents free kicks in dangerous areas and continually bringing themselves under the cosh.  Even so the equiliser came as a surprise when a deflected shot crept under Gaz’s hands and trickled over the line.  2-2.  With the tide of the game having changed it was now Chobham who looked like they might win it, with Cubo defending increasingly nervously.  The game was completely end to end, with both sides having chances to win it.  First up Gaz had to make a tremendous save as a deflected effort threatened to loop over him but the big man somehow got a hand to it to push it over the bar when it looked goal-bound.  Tom Simmons then had a chance when Harry broke down the left and pulled the ball back but the striker’s effort lacked power.  Simmo got more purchase on his next strike having worked an angle for himself in the box but his effort glanced the wrong side of the post with the keeper left rooted to the spot.  When the ref blew the final whistle both sides appeared disappointed not to have won the points as another goal looked to be on the cards for either side.

A disappointing result for Cubo who really should have put the game to bed at 2-0.  The Cubans will have to be more clinical in future if they are to climb the table.

GOALS: Martin Ansell, Elliot Connolly

MOTM: Elliot Connolly

AFC Cubo 2nd XI 1-1 Mint Green Army Veterans – 01.11.14

Starting XI: Arnold, Jones, Hooper, Ingle, Golding, Thethy, Joyce, Cooper, Neville, Noble, Ward.

SUB: Smith.

The anticipated anarchic whispering was absent from the home dressing room at Barn Elms on Saturday as player/manager Tom Hooper was given the all-important vote of confidence by players alike following a tough start to the new season under his regime. Rumours of an imminent departure were fuelled by a revelation he has recently moved out of London and into Sussex. Hooper has since dismissed these claims and suggested his is “happy” where he is and asked that the media respect the privacy of himself and his family. Chairman Benjamin McGeown was unavailable for comment last night.

Despite the tricky start to the season confidence was high and a squad of 12 assembled to take on the relatively unknown quantities of Mint Green Army Veterans, themselves in a mixed vein of form having won two, lost two and drawn one to kick off their season in notoriously problematic Wimbledon & District First Division. Cubo’s squad was sparse and missing notable absentees including Watkins, Crisp, Spokes, Mulligan, Simmons and Lye but to name a few so with the limited resources available, Hooper shuffled the pack and ensured that Cubo had a strong XI to challenge a powerful looking MGA Vets side.

Another notable absentee was the typical November weather, instead replaced with mild sun and clear blue skies imitating the baby blue armies famous striped shirt. Goalkeeper Arnold was also missing and speculation of him oversleeping after an X-Factor marathon the night before were left unconfined as he arrived to join up with the team.

Hooper combined with a regular back 4 of Arnold, Jones, Ingle and the ever-present (except 1s duty) Mr Cubo Tom Golding. The 4-2-3-1 ensured that Joyce returned to partner Thethy in front of the back four with Cooper playing wide left, the FieldMarshall in familiar territory wide right and out-of-form Henry Neville; hoping to notch his first goal of the season; returning to his preferred situ in the number 10 role playing just off summer signing Sam Ward up front. The Birmingham lads vocal approach and passion was evident to all. He wanted this.

Critics have been quick to jump on Cubo’s slow starts in games this season and as it wasn’t long before the powerful presence of the MGAV front line looked to exploit the new CB pairing of Hooper and Ingle.  A mis-placed back header from Ingle needed quick thinking from Hooper to clear the ball out and into touch. Cubo needed to settle themselves and it wasn’t long before the powerful number 10 of MGAV beat  the offside trap and forced Arnold into a brave diving save at the feet of the attacker. With the noticeable height difference between the teams it was paramount that cheap free-kicks and corners weren’t given away by the Cubans.

The energetic Thethy and Joyce started to enjoy more free time on the ball and looked to play in Cooper and Field, both with sufficient ability & pace to burn off most full backs in the division. However it was Neville who was getting the most joy and continually found space in the pockets to turn and run at the back line of MGAV who seemed unsure how to deal with his flair, quick touches and intricate passing.  A couple of quick fire Cubo corners led to nothing and a clean sheet in the first 20 minutes was a mini victory for Cubo as they looked to bounce back from a humbling 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Claremont last week.

A cheap free kick presented another opportunity for MGAV who had started with intent to pick up another 3 points on the road. Arnold positioned the wall but was helpless as a sublime 25-yard strike was curled into the far corner as he agonisingly thrust an extended arm towards the ball. 1-0 MGAV. Unlucky as the Cubo number 1 had been dominant in the opening exchanges.

This would be a real test of character for Cubo who have failed to win once all season after conceding the first goal. Sam Ward continued to look dangerous and his pace and power was a constant worry to the MGAV back lines as Cubo pressed for an immediate equaliser.  The breakthrough came 10 minutes later after some great interlinking play from Hooper and Field; Joyce picked up the ball 30 yards out, waltzing past two challenges before curling a sumptuous left footed strike from the edge of the box into the top left hand corner; straight out of the Arjen Robben handbook 2014. 1-1.

Half time came and Hooper rallied the troops, smelling blood and highlighting the effect  of the Thethy, Joyce and Neville combo in creating chances in attack. Conceding goals has been a problem and Jones and Golding were in good form dealing with the attacking wide threat with relative ease.

Cubo kicked off away from the sun in the second half and pressed forward trying to impose their home advantage. The tall back four of MGAV looked to impose their size and strength onto the game but were failing to get much joy from Neville, Ward and Cooper. Noble; making his first start of the season was subbed after 60 minutes for another summer addition – Phil Smith. The blonde Gennaro Gattuso was put in the unfamiliar wide right role looking to make an immediate impact from deliveries, set pieces and getting into the box. With the game pressing on, Cubo upped the intensity and looked like a different team that limped through the final 30 minutes the week before. Fitness super-fan Tom Golding was up and down the flank and his clever play put Sam Ward through on goal; only for the match ball to be cruelly knocked away by a wayward football from another pitch. The most outrageous thing to happen at Barn Elms since the unveiling of Arnies split pants.

Then Cubo were dealt a sickening blow. Neville; who had been instrumental in most of Cubos good play picked up the ball and knocked it between the 2 centre backs, with perfect symmetry he was crudely hacked down by both. A absurd cry of “no foul” from the defenders but it was Neville who was left to deal with the consequences of a hefty pair of challenges. Neville was showing very little signs of movement and after 3-4 minutes on the ground and was clearly in some pain.  After the addition of some token ice spray,  he slowly trudged off the pitch holding his arm in extreme discomfort. Cubo were now forced to play the remaining 25 minutes with 10 men as they had done the week before due to Barry dislocating his knee at Claremont. It later transpired that Neville had shattered his collar bone and dislocated his shoulder. An 4 hour trip to A&E and with the follow-up operation completed on Sunday sadly means he will likely remain on the side-lines for the remainder of the season.

Even with 10 men, Cubo looked the most dangerous and Hooper had settled into the back 4 with ease. Chances were few and far between but the passion, drive and enthusiasm from Cubo shows there are good things to come from this team. The game finished 1-1 and Cubo will look to build on this with their forthcoming fixture away to Merchant. Plenty of positives to take from the game and the injury will tarnish what was a courageous performance from the baby blues.

Manager Hooper will look to the future with much optimism but knows this is only the beginning. With players returning from injury, a competitive and hungry squad will look to achieve the managers vision of finishing top four in this league.

MOTM: Neville; before he went off. Salty was also superb over the 90 mins; along with Joyce.

Project Clapham 2 v AFC Cubo 3

Cubans send Clapham boys back to the Projects      

Goals: Oli Perkins (2), Harry Tulip

MOTM – Elliot Connolly / Oli Perkins

Starting line-up: G. Stewart, D. Wall, H. Nguyen, O. Watkins, R. Wensley, B. McGeown, J. Patterson, E. Connolly, M. Ansell, O. Perkins, H. Tulip

Sub: R. Sadler

Cubo’s encouraging start to the season has hit the buffers in recent weeks with a couple of disappointing results in the league and a first round exit from the Cup at the hands of Reigate Priory.  As such the fixture with in form Clapham took on extra significance. The newly promoted side have started well in the Surrey Elite and Cubo were well aware of their quality having lost a pre season friendly to them back in 2013.  The recent availability issues continued with only one of last weeks defence named in the starting line up. However there were also some notable returning players with the South Wales Radio back between the sticks, ex-gaffer Ray Quinn back in the heart of the defence and Elliot Connolly coming back into the middle of the park.  The pitch was in mint playing condition with a stiff cross field breeze the only detracting factor.

The games first chance fell to the home side when a great delivery from the left found the Clapham striker in space in the box but he was unlucky to see his header strike the underside of the bar before being cleared.  Cubo then took the lead when Pogo was played into space on the left and he put in a peach of a cross in the ‘Corridor of Uncertainty’ (TM) which left Oli Perkins with a simple tap in at the back stick.  Up to this point Clapham had enjoyed the better of things however the Cubo frontline was looking dangerous whenever they got hold of the ball and it was a threat Clapham never fully dealt with. The lead was extended shortly afterwards when Martin whipped in a free kick which was never cleared and when the keeper parried the resultant shot Harry ‘one goal a game’ Tulip was on hand to make it 2-0. With the sun causing issues for both keepers, it was no surprise when it led to the third goal for the away side. Another good delivery from Martin was misjudged by the keeper, whose punch ended up looping back towards his own goal. Even with the keeper in no mans land Oli Perkins still had a lot to do with his back to goal and defenders surrounding him but his nonchalant back-heeled half volley was out of the top draw.  Clapham were understandably looking shell shocked at the score line having played relatively well for most of the half but it could have been worse had Harry kept his next effort slightly lower, instead the crossbar saved Clapham from a four goal deficit. The real difference between the sides was the Cubo frontline who were terrorising the home defence.  Clapham received a life line back into the game when some sloppy defending from Cubo saw the ball fall invitingly to the Clapham right back and he absolutely rifled a finish past Gaz, that was still rising as it hit the back of the net. With just minutes to play before half time the dynamic of the game could have altered dramatically when Vinod inability to clear their lines gifted a chance to the Clapham striker but Gaz put in an excellent bloke to maintains the two goal lead at HT.  Despite the late goal it was Cubo who emerged the stronger of the two in the second half keeping the home side penned in their own half and it was during this period that they really should have killed the game off. Without the fourth goal Clapham were always still in the game and when the referee awarded a penalty for a block in the box It looked like Cubo might be on the verge of throwing all of their good work away. Luckily Gaz saved the resultant penalty, pushing the ball away where hung completed the clearance. The save continues the keepers recent good record in penalty situations over the last 12 months. He compounded the save by taking a great catch from the corner that followed before the excitement of it all got too much for him as he wildly booted the ball off the pitch.  Cubo still ended up making life difficult for themselves when they allowed the Clapham left back to advance all the way to the edge of the box and under no pressure he unleashed an absolute rocket into the toppest of top corners. He will never score a better goal in his life.  The final few minutes were made all the more tense by this late strike but Cubo were able to hold on to secure a much needed three points that gets them back on track on the league.

A much improved display on recent outings, the only disappointing aspect being the failure to kill the game off at 3-1 which almost resulted in Clapham snatching a point late on.  Next week sees the Cubans make the long journey out to Yateley where they will be looking to keep the pressure on the top three against an out of sorts Yateley United.

Tooting Bec 2 AFC Cubo 2 11th October 2014

Cubo’s winning run came to a halt at Tooting Bec where they were held to a two all draw, despite taking an early two goal lead.  The away side got off to a great start when a kick from Arnie was flicked on by Harry Tulip leaving Rufus with a clear run on goal and his mishit finish megged the keeper to make it 1-0.   A second came soon after when a Sam Graves free kick from within the Cubo half sailed all the way through the Tooting defence and Harry Tulip fired a left foot finish into the bottom corner.  2-0.  Despite the lead Cubo were not looking particularly sharp, the goals having come from defensive lapses as much as any attacking verve and Tooting were definitely looking the more up for it of the two sides.  The pace of the Tooting frontman was clearly going to be the home sides biggest threat, who were looking for the long ball over the top at every opportunity.  When one of these long balls carried through to Arnie in the Cubo goal the referee decided that Sam had obstructed the striker whilst protecting the ball and gave Tooting a free kick on the edge of the box.  The Tooting right back duly converted with a well-placed strike to bring the home side right back into the game.  With their tails up and Cubo getting sucked into the kind of frantic game which suited Tooting, they pressed on and looked to have equalised with a shot that Arnie got finger-tips to before it struck the underside of the bar and bounced down on the line.  The man with the gloves then showed great awareness to spring back to his feet and clear the rebound for a corner with the Tooting striker bearing down on him.  Cubo were looking dangerous whenever they attempted to get the ball further up the field and should have had a penalty when Goughy was barged in the back as he went up for a free header in the box but the referee failed to award the foul.  The second half continued much as the first had ended with Tooting looking the more energetic side but Cubo looking dangerous whenever they moved the ball with any kind of precision.  The sloppiness for the away side was still on show in the second however and they were lucky to maintain their lead when a poor backpass gifted the Tooting striker with a one on one but his effort came back off the post and was cleared.  A let off for Cubo that they would not enjoy again when another poor backpass gifted the striker a second chance which he tucked away to level the scores.  With the scores level Cubo began to look after the ball more effectively and were looking the better team without creating any clear cut chances, Oli Perkins coming closest with an effort from the edge of the box that the keeper palmed wide.  Tooting had a late chance to nick the win but they failed to make the most of a 3 on 1 situation that they really should have made more of.

A frustrating game for Cubo who really should have made more of the two goal lead they were gifted, but this was a below-par performance from the boys in baby blue and a draw was probably a fair result in the end.  Credit to Tooting for showing the determination to get back into the game after the early set-backs, showing that they have recovered from their poor early-season form.

Goals – Rufus Shedwick, Harry Tulip

MOTM – Harry Tulip

AFC Cubo 2nd XI 1 – 2 Sporting Duet – Saturday 27th September

Team: Arnie, Flower, Grayson, Ingle, Goulding, Crispy, Salty, Joe, Phil, Sam, Tel

Subs: Tom S, Henners, Jez

After a dissapointing start to the campaign, Cubo 2’s headed to the Kings House Sports Ground looking to turn the tide with a good performance in the cup. The opposition were familiar foes in the form of Sporting Duet, a league rival from last year and an opposition Cubo swept aside with a convincing 7-1 thrashing in the last encounter.

In good conditions, the game got underway with both sides taking time to find their feet. An energetic Duet side made it difficult for Cubo to settle into their usually silky passing game. As the half progressed, both sides squandered chances to take the lead, with the Cubo back 5 putting their bodies on the line to try and keep the sides level going into half time. It was not to be, with the Duet winger cutting in from the right flank and rocketing one into the side netting.

1-0   Duet.

Not to be deterred, a resurgent Cubo side began to find their feet, with the cries of Manager T.Hooper for the team to “transition quickly through phases of play” finally starting to sink in. More opportunities began to come the way of Cubo, with winger Sam causing trouble for the Duet right back in the latter stages of the half. As the sides traded possession the half came to a close without any other notably incidents.

The half team team talk focused on the positives, with the Cubo side confident that they could get themselves back into the tie. With a slap on the back from T.Hooper, Cubo headed into the second half with purpose.

Almost immediately from the whistle, Cubo imposed themselves on the game, working the ball into dangerous areas & looking the more likely to score. When the breakthrough came, it was weight lifted from the Cubo side, with Sam latching onto Phil’s pass before coolly lobbing the ball over the Duet keeper.

1-1, momentum with Cubo

With the scores levelled, the midfield battle became crucial, with some crunching tackles from both sides flying in. When the ball rarely left the middle, the occassional chance came Cubo’s way, but the boys in baby blue were unable to convert these into a lead. One controversial moment sorry Tel cynically hauled back when clean through on goal, but the referee opted to just award a free kick on the edge of the box and show a yellow card.

With the sides looking evenly matched, both sides knew that the next goal could be the winner. It was then that disaster struck, a misplaced pass in the Cubo half put the Duet striker through on goal who drew the helpless Arnie before squaring for an easy tap in by his teammate.

2-1 Duet

The Cubo side again rallied, with subs Henners, Jez & Tom S all making positive impacts. The game had become more open, with Cubo finding more opportunities to score. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, with shots flashed wide when the opportunity came. A notable mention should be made to Cubo’s grit & determination in the second half, with some bruising tackles being put in. However, it was in vain, with the game coming to a close.

While the boys in baby blue will be disappointed with the result, they can take positives from the performance. For passages of the game they had dominated the opposition and looked dangerous in front of goal. Good performances from the bench will also please manager T.Hooper as the strength in depth currently afforded to the gaffer will be a hugh benefit come Ski Season and the annual availability crisis.

However, it is time to focus on the league, with 3pts needed to reassure the Cubo faithful.

AFC Cubo 2nd XI 0-2 Claremont – Saturday the 20th September

Starting Line-up: Arnie, Jingle, Tom G, Nick F, Oli Wats, Bradders, Dave W, Salty (c), Crisp, Boase, Cooper.

Subs: Phil Smith, Tel, Sam Ward.
Cubo 2s returned to Barn Elms for their first home league fixture of the campaign, entertaining an experienced Claremont side. After delaying the kick off whilst the visitors located their kit, the injured Hooper was able to name an extremely strong 14, with several good players left out altogether of the match day squad.
Cubo started the game brightly with Tom Golding looking to raid from left back, and Dave W and Bradders adding some quality to the midfield. However, the home side were a little to eager to get the ball forward to Milan who was leading the line against 2 strong centre halves – emulating Cubo’s partnership of Nick Flower and Oli.
The Cubans, looking resplendent in a brand new home strip, were without question the better side but they were unable to really test the Claremont keeper. A few balls across the six yard box and a half chance for Salty and Milan who both dragged their efforts wide of the goal meant at half time the scores were level.
Claremont started the second half in more positive fashion and took a deserved, but fortunate lead on the hour mark when after squandering possession a tad easily a counter attack led to a deflected shot lopping over Arnie who had no chance.
Cubo responded by moving Dave to right back to give extra impetus going forward from wide areas, but despite sliding in debutant Sam Ward in the right channel the Brummie marksmen was unable to direct his near post shot on target.
Despite the possession being pretty even, Claremont were looking increasingly assured and ended the contest after their substitute rode a number of challenges before firing in from close range at the second time of asking.
Luke Arnold, fresh from an impressive display the week before, continued his good form in goal with a superb double save as an increasingly desperate set of baby blue players left themselves short at the back in the hunt for a consolation goal.
Full Time: AFC Cubo 2nd XI 0-2 Claremont
Man of the Match: No votes were taken, but Arnie deserves recognition for 2 faultless displays from 2 in the Cubo goal.
A tough loss to take for a rebuilding Cubo team who more than matched a well drilled outfit for long periods. Overall there were plenty of positives to take, especially from the first half.
The way the team tired in the second half was a concern, and a little more composure and clarity of thought in possession, allied to more aggression in winning the ball back will make the difference in getting points on the board. This was showcased in the 1s win over Merrow and is a good benchmark to aspire to.

Imperial College Old Boys 1 – 0 AFC Cubo 2’s

Line Up – Arnie, Jez , Jingle, Oli W, Tom G, Salty, Phil Smith, Tom Simms, Boasey, Crispy, Milan

The 2’s opening fixture came against an Imperial College Old Boys side that had come off a very strong finish to the 13/14 season and were looking to pick up where they had left off. Saying that however, the 2’s had a very positive pre season and add to that the addition of a number of talented footballers this was going to be a close affair.

We started the game well and were passing the ball around nicely, an early chance fell to Boasey on the edge of the six yard box but a solid tackle by the ICOBs centre back averted any danger. That was the only real chance of the first half for Cubo.

The ball spent a lot of time in the middle of the pitch and Salty, Phil and Tom Simms were passing the ball around nicely and winning battles when called upon.

The only goal of the game came from a header and unfortunately it was not for Cubo, a good ball in from ICOBs right wing and a solid leap from the centre forward left Arnie with no chance and the ball looped over his out stretched right hand.

This is how it remained when the ref blew for half time.

Cubo came out the much better side in the second half, slick passing and creative play from the wingbacks meant that Cubo could really start to push up the pitch and get into threatening areas. A great free kick from Phil that narrowly missed ICOBs right hand post was the best chance of the second half.

As we moved into the final third, ICOB were looking to utilize their centre forwards lightning speed with long balls over the top of Cubo’s back four. The centre forward was able to get into threatening positions and Jingle was called in to make two outstanding clearances off the line in quick succession. Arnie also kept Cubo in the game with a number of excellent saves.

The game finished 1-0 to ICOB. It was not the start to the season we were looking for but there were a number of positives to take from the game, ICOB are going to be a team contending come the end of the season and we really came close to getting something out of the game. On to the next.

A man of the match performance from Tom Golding who put in a brilliant shift at left back.

AFC Cubo 2-0 Balham FC  – Sat 27th Sept 2014 Barn Elms

Starting line-up: G. Stewart, A. Clarke, H. Nguyen, R. Wensley, S. Graves, B. McGeown, E. Connolly, I. Clarke, J. Patterson, H. Tulip

Subs: O. Watkins, J. Boase, R. Gough

Cubo were able to name a relatively unchanged side for the visit of Balham FC, with the only change being returning Geordie marksman Harry Tulip, who came straight back into the starting line-up for the injured (on the piss) Rufus Shedwick.  Balham have had a prodigious few season, gaining successive promotions and have started extremely brightly in the Surrey Elite – their quality evidenced by a 1-1 draw with Abbey Rangers the week before.

The visitors started the brighter of the two sides with Cubo inviting immediate pressure on themselves by failing to clear their lines on a couple of occasions before eventually clearing the danger.  The threat Balham posed was apparent from the off, young, full of energy and technically very confident on the ball.  It was shaping up to be a long afternoon for Cubo.  Balham remained the more composed side in possession and they looked a real threat down the left hand side where their full back and winger were combining to good effect.  It was from this channel that the first chance of the game came from, the left winger breaking into the box, only to see his cross fly across the six yard box with no one on the end of it.  As the half progressed Balham remained the more composed side in possession, without really opening up the home defence, whilst Cubo were experiencing quite a bit of joy exploiting the space left by the Balham full-backs, who were essentially playing as wingers.  On a couple of occasions Martin was able to get in behind the Balham back line and put dangerous balls into the box which the Balham defence did well to clear.  Cubo were gaining a foothold in the game, with Elliot stinging the keeper’s hands with a well-struck shot from distance and JPat pulling a shot wide, before the home side eventually took the lead.  A throw down the line was flicked on by Martin to release an untracked Ben McG who had time to pick out Harry Tulip in the box and he made no mistake as he tucked it past the keeper at the near post to make it 1-0 Cubo.   Balham looked deflated by the goal, having enjoyed the lion’s share of possession they were no doubt wondering how they found themselves behind.

With neither side making any changes for the second half, the pattern of the game continued along the same lines as the first, with Balham enjoying possession and Cubo looking to hit them on the break.  With Cubo’s back four of Sam, Alan, Hung and Ralph enjoying strong games at the back Balham were running into a brick wall on the 18 yard line.  The next big chance of the game fell to Harry when Clarkey released him with a tremendous through ball with the outside of his boot.  Unfortunately the clumps of freshly cut grass contrived to see the ball get stuck under his feet as he looked to turn inside the recovering defender.  Luckily Cubo were not left to rue this missed opportunity when shortly afterwards a good phase of play saw the ball worked to Harry in the inside right channel and his lay-off to Clarkey was nonchalantly clipped into the top corner, via the underside of the bar, by the ex-gaffer.  A massive goal for Cubo and a real sucker punch to Balham.  Despite the two goal cushion there was still over 20 minutes to play, plenty of time for Balham to get back into it.  The away side shifted their shape round, pushing their most dangerous midfielder into an advanced role on the right and looking to hit long diagonals onto him at every opportunity.  Having been left slightly exposed in the first half Hung was once again up against it but showed all his experience and competitiveness to shut the threat down.  Balham were throwing everything at a tiring Cubo defence now and only some superb blocks, first by Sam and then by Elliot kept Gaz from being forced into action.  Late on Gaz was forced into saving a goalbound cross/shot with his legs, but this was the first save of the day that he’d had to make, testament to the job the defence had done in front of him.  Cubo might have put the game further beyond Balham but Boasey was unable to get the ball out of his feet and the recovering Balham defender was able to clear.  The last five minutes saw a bit of pinball in the Cubo box as the ball flew around without ever dropping kindly to a Balham forward, before the referee blew up for full time.

A very good result for Cubo against a very good side who will no doubt do well this season.  As opposed to last week where they had to go out and win the game, this result was built on defensive solidity across the park.  The back five of Gaz, Alan, Hung, Sam and Ralph set the foundation for Cubo’s attacking unit to do the damage at the other end.  Next week see’s Cubo take on last year’s title winners, NPL, in what will no doubt be a very tough fixture.

Goals – Harry Tulip, Clarkey

MOTM – Martin

AFC Cubo 3-0 Merrow   – Sat 20th September 2014

Starting line-up: G. Stewart, A. Clarke, H. Nguyen, R. Wensley, S. Graves, B. McGeown, E. Connolly, I. Clarke, M. Ansell, J. Patterson, R. Shedwick

Subs: R. Sadler, C. Pyke, Oli Perkins

Cubo bounced back from their 3-1 loss at Abbey Rangers with a morale-boosting win against Merrow.  The score line belies how evenly poised this game was for a majority of the 90 minutes, particularly during the first half where Merrow could claim to have been the better side.  Cubo struggled to get any rhythm in their game in the opening 45 minutes and, with the exception of Elliot Connolly, were very wasteful in possession.  Merrow looked a more dangerous side than the team that Cubo had taken 6 points off of last season and were only denied an opening goal by the linesmans flag when a freekick was touched in at the back post.  A big let off for Cubo, and one that would prove decisive.  Ten minutes into the second half, having missed a near identical opportunity at the start of the half, Clarkey burst into the box to latch onto JPat’s cross and placed his volley in off the post.  The home side were playing with far more intent and an improvement in ball retention in the Merrow half meant they were able to exert greater pressure on the backline.  With Merrow still reeling from the first goal, Cubo added a very well-worked second.  The ball was clipped in to Clarkey, who had made another good run from deep beyond the back four but this time instead of going for goal he back-heeled the ball into Martin’s path and he side-footed home to give Cubo a two goal cushion.  Despite an improvement in intensity in the second half Cubo were still guilty of being sloppy in possession which brought them under a lot of pressure.  Merrow were enjoying a lot of the ball and were able to pump a lot of crosses into the Cubo box.  Luckily keeper Gaz Stewart was in commanding form in his box and dealt with everything that came near his 6 yard box.   With Merrow pressing on there was always going to be opportunities on the break for Cubo and they added a third with 15 minutes to go when Martin beat his man out on the right before fizzing the ball across the box where the newly introduced Oli Perkins tapped in from 3 yards out.

A good win for Cubo in a game that could easily have swung the other way had Merrow taken one of their chances in the first half.  Luckily for Cubo a vastly improved performance in the second half meant that they were good value for the three points in the end.

Goals – Clarkey, Martin, Oli Perkins

MOTM – Elliot Connolly – showed good composure on the ball throughout to lay the foundations for the victory.