Line-up: Hutchinson, Seymour, Laing, de la Haye, Frost, Shaw (Brooks), Cross, Peel, Chadwick, Perkins (Cooper), Guttridge
Goals: Own Goal, Shaw, Perkins
Looking to bounce back after a disappointing result last time out versus league strugglers Ripley, Cubo faced Royal Holloway Old Boys, in a fixture that usually produces both goals and excitement.
With Torr suspended following his sending off against Ripley, he was able to focus solely on management duties and was able to pick from a very strong squad. The chat in the changing room prior to kick-off was to forget about the week before and try and match the performance shown vs. Spartans, making the pitch big and trusting ourselves to play the football we know we can, with intensity, urgency and quality.
The game began in exactly the manner that had been discussed, with Perkins seeing a lot of the ball down the left and Peel & Cross pressing the Holloway midfield superbly, regularly winning the ball back in dangerous areas. The first chance of the game deservedly fell to Cubo, after a scramble in the box following a set piece and several shots blocked, the ball fell to Perkins on the six yard box who was able to divert the ball into the back of the net. Unfortunately, the celebrations were cut short with the Holloway linesman raising a late flag and the goal was ruled out (although Cubo were adamant that two Holloway defenders had been stood on the line). Credit to Cubo, they did not start to feel sorry for themselves and continued as the better team, stationed in the Holloway half and this pressure soon paid off after Peel won the ball back 10 yards from the Holloway box and played the ball out wide to Perkins – he was able to square up the Holloway full back and get to the byline before pulling it across goal and seeing the attempted clearance from the centre back loop over the goal keeper and into the bottom corner, 1 nil Cubo.
The plan was now to keep piling on the pressure and not letting Holloway get back into the game. This plan, however, was short lived as a ball over the top of the Cubo defence minutes later was only half cleared before the ball was played into the box, where a coming together between de la Haye and the Holoway striker saw the referee point to the spot – the big Holloway striker stepped up and slotted the penalty away to bring the scores back level. The remaining 20 minutes of the first half saw Cubo struggle to get back to the level at which they started the game, with the high press being turned on several occasions, leaving Shaw and the back four exposed on the counter. With around 10 minutes of the half left the tricky Holloway centre midfielder found himself through on goal down the right-hand side and closed down on Hutchinson before slotting through the goalkeepers legs from a tight angle to give Holloway the lead going into the half time break.
Heading back into the changing room, the Cubo team were somewhat shocked that they were losing, particularly after the strong start to the game. The call was for the team not to panic and to believe that if we matched that level of performance for the next 45 minutes, we would come out on top and turn the scoreline around. The team headed back out for the second half knowing that this would be a season defining half of football and nothing less than 3 points would do. With the game back underway, Peel and Cross started to see more and more of the ball, switching play regularly out to Perkins and Chadwick. Although, chances were scarce, it was clear to see Cubo had got back to the level f performance seen at the beginning of the game, again camped in the Holloway half and there was little concern on the faces of de la Haye and Laing at the back.
Around twenty minutes in to the second half, a Cubo corner was taken quickly to the edge of the box, where Shaw found himself in a few yards of space. Not known for his long distance shooting, most in the box expected Shaw to clip a ball into the danger area, but instead he got the ball out of his feet and had an effort on goal – although well placed, the pace on the ball made the goalkeepers save look relatively simple, however, the ball slipped between his gloves and trickled across the line giving Shaw his first goal of the season and Cubo a way back into the game. The game was now on a knife-edge, Cubo knew that they had to carry on pressing for the win and this did provide some extra space for the Holloway attackers to pick up, resulting in Hutchinson being tested on a couple of occasions, with one excellent save to note in particular from a 30 yard volley that looked destined for the bottom left-hand corner.
As the game moved towards the final stages, it looked as if the game may be heading towards a draw. Cubo made a change, replacing Shaw with Brooks to try and aid the midfield pairing of Cross and Peel, who did find himself with a few yards of space just inside the Holloway box and saw his effort across the keeper agonisingly come back off the post and back into play. Luckily for Cubo not one player decided to give in and settle for the point, with Chadwick in particular finding some energy in those legs of his and started marauding down the right flank – his efforts were rewarded as with 5 minutes to go, he got to the by-line and was able to pull the ball back into the box, causing chaos as the one Holloway player cleared it into another and the ball feel to Guttridge with his back to goal six yards out. Guttridge had the awareness to spot Perkins across the goal and unselfishly played it across to him, leaving an open net for him to slide the ball into, making it 3-2 Cubo and sending Torr and Shaw onto the pitch in their celebrations.
With 5 minutes of injury time added on, it was now time to dig deep and hold on and Torr brought Cooper on for Perkins to try and sure things up.t Holloway found themselves with multiple set pieces and the delivery each time was excellent, testing the Cubo defence time and time again. Cubo were able to deal with most of the aerial bombardment, but their were a couple of nervy moments, as one corner resulted in the ball crashing into the Cubo net only to be ruled out for an infringement in the box by the referee, and then with a minute to go another corner landed on the head of a Holloway player and looked destined to break Cubo hearts and bring the scores back level – step up Hutchinson, who was able to pull off a remarkable save, tipping the ball onto the bar before the ball was cleared away to safety. Seconds later the final whistle was blown and Cubo had come away with a very deserved and hard fought 3 points, – each and every one of the Cubo players should be proud of the way they carried on going right to the final whistle.
Results elsewhere went our way, meaning that with 4 games to go the title challenge is still on. All Cubo can do now is take each game as it comes and keep putting the points on the board and pressure on those below us with games in hand.
MoM – Matt Cross. His second half display in particular of controlling and dictating the midfield meant that he was the winner by some distance this week.