Date: Saturday 12th September 2015
Venue: Battersea Ironsides FC
Starting line-up: Gaz Stewart, Greg Tett, Brad Wilkie, Alan Clarke, Ralph Wensley, Ben McGeown, Chris Pyke, Ian Clarke, Oli Perkins (c), Ryan Shedwick, Harry Tulip
Sub: Oli Watkins
Following last week’s tremendous 3-1 win against title contenders Balham Cubo entered another local derby with some much needed confidence after what has been the Club’s worst ever start to a season. Patchy availability and an absent manager throughout August have not helped the cause but with wedding season finally out of the way a more positive autumn beckons. Despite the absence of Elliot Connolly and last week’s hat-trick hero Martin Ansell, Cubo were able to name a strong squad with the gaffer strolling back into the midfield and Gaz Stewart returning in nets.
Playing down the hill in the first half Cubo found themselves pegged in by last year’s runners-up, whose unflinching commitment to getting the ball in the mixer doesn’t get the credit it deserves. In previous seasons Cubo haven’t dealt with this well but with Gaz Stewart in commanding form, claiming anything that came near his six yard box and the rest of the side showing real sharpness the crowd were treated to the sight of Battersea going short on a throw-in, unbelievable scenes.
As the half wore on Cubo grew into the game and looked dangerous when they were able to move the ball across the pitch. Brad Wilkie in particular was getting forward well from full back and one burst down the right saw him whip a cross in to the back post that Shedders was just unable to get a foot on. The full back was involved again shortly afterwards when a corner dropped to him on the penalty spot however with the goal in front of him he was unable to direct his volley on target. The goal came shortly afterwards when a Oli Perkins corner was nodded back across goal by Shedders and Harry Tulip, making an emotional return to his previous club, had time to control and finish to give Cubo the lead. Out of respect for his previous employers the Geordie marksman celebrated conservatively, though he was seen discretely kissing the Cubo badge on the way back to the halfway line.
Even with Cubo slightly on top at this stage, Battersea’s ability from set-pieces makes them a very dangerous opposition and it was only through the sharpness of Alan Clarke and Ralph Wensley who were doing a great job mopping up any flick-ons that prevented Gaz Stewart from having to make a save. Before the half was over there was still time for Brad to do his best Cafu impression, storming down the line and unleashing a rasping half volley that rippled the top of the net, and the returning Ben McG should have done better when a Tulip cross picked him out at the back stick only for the gaffer to shin his attempted shot straight back to the striker on the touchline.
Having played with the slope in the first half Cubo were bound to be up against it in the second half and this proved to be the case. From the off Battersea were camped in the Cubo half and it was a case of backs to the wall defending for the boys in baby blue. However with the Cubo backline continuing to excel in dealing with the aerial ball, beyond claiming crosses Gaz was not forced into a save until the 70th minute when the Battersea striker managed to get away from his marker and get a shot off which the big Taff parried round the post. At the other end there was plenty of space for Cubo to attack but with the exertions of the game catching up with them the quality of pass was not there to release the front men. Time and again Cubo won the ball back before gifting possession back to the home side in a very frustrating period of the game.
With 15 minutes to go it looked as if the game was going to be put to bed when a long throw into the box was flicked on by Oli Perkins and Harry Tulip reacted first and got boot to ball at full stretch but could only watch as the ball rocketed off the outside of the post. With the game entering the final ten minutes the referee was increasing being called upon to resolve petty arguments around the pitch and it was rare for the game to flow more than a minute without some sort of foul being awarded.
With the home side chucking men forward the pressure was building but with no clear changes being created it looked like Cubo would be celebrating a repeat of last season’s victory here. Unfortunately this was not to be, a long ball over the top saw Gaz Stewart’s clearance ricochet off of the Battersea forward who was left with the simple task of tapping the ball home to level things up with six minutes to go. A gut-wrenching goal to concede for the Cubans, and particularly for the previously flawless Stewart. The final six minutes were played out without any further incident other than another wild left-footed strike from Ben McG when much better options were available.
Probably a fair result in the end based on the balance of the two halves, though Cubo will feel disappointed that they did not secure the three points having led for so long. Another positive result though against a side who are always very tough opponents and will no doubt be in the mix as the season progresses.
Goal: Harry Tulip
MOTM: Ralph Wensley