Battersea Ironsides 1-1 AFC Cubo

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

Battersea Ironsides 3-2 AFC Cubo

Date: Saturday 23rd Feb 2013

Starting Line-up: Gareth Stewart, Hung Nguyen, Jonny Patterson, Oli Watkins, Richard Gough, Jacko, Ben McGeown, Ian Clarke, Andy Strickland, Jake Flower, Mike Cain

Subs: Rob Sadler

Cubo’s recent run of good form came to an abrupt end at the hands of local rivals Battersea Ironsides.   The corresponding fixture between these two sides at Barn Elms saw Battersea emerge as 2-0 winners with the baby blue army unable to cope with their opponent’s renowned set-piece prowess.  Unfortunately knowing what is coming does not necessarily mean you’ll be able to prevent it from taking place, and it was to be the case here.  A solid start by Oli Watkins’ men playing uphill and against the wind was undermined when a long throw into the box was met by Battersea’s biggest aerial threat and Gaz could only watch as the ball looped over him and into the net.  1-0 Battersea.

Despite falling foul of the exact threat that had been highlighted in the changing room Cubo responded well and levelled the scores before half time.  A searching pass from the half way line by Jacko released in-form Mikey Cain whose shot across the keeper was parried to the on-rushing Jake Flower who was left with a simple tap-in.   With Gareth Stewart coming from his line to deal with much of the aerial bombardment Cubo had good reason to feel optimistic going into the second half where they would have the advantage of playing with the slope.  In accordance with the decision was made to push a man forward in anticipation of exerting more pressure on the Ironsides backline.  However, this change in fortunes did not materialise as a combination of profligacy in possession and aggressive pressing by the home side prevented Cubo from building any pressure.

If Cubo needed any reminding of the threat that Battersea pose, relentlessly, it came shortly after half-time when a cheap free-kick was conceded 40 yards from goal.  A teasing delivery yet again saw the Battersea midfielder rise highest to head his, and Battersea’s, second of the game.  Having worked so hard to get back in the game playing against the elements in the first half, to go behind again whilst playing with them was a real body blow.

Perhaps still reeling from the second goal, Cubo found themselves yet again undone by a set-piece.  Another cheap free-kick 40 yards from goal was only partially cleared before being smashed in to the roof of the net from 10 yards by the Ironsides striker, a great finish.  Finding themselves two goals down and playing poorly, the only bright spot for Cubo was that they had 20 minutes to get back into the game.  Unfortunately it did not look it was going to be their day.  First another parried Mike Cain strike (….and Mike, to clarify, a parried shot does not count as an ‘assist’) was blazed over the empty goal by Clarkey when it looked easier to score, before Jacko fired against the bar from a tight angle.

With the clock ticking down Jacko found space down the right and his lob over the keeper was poked over the line by Jake Flower (making a cumulative total of a yard for both goals) to make it 3-2 with 2 minutes to go.    Unfortunately this wasn’t long enough to create a meaningful chance and Battersea were able to celebrate securing the double over the Baby Blue Army.

A disappointing result for Cubo given their recent form but if truth be told they never really looked like putting in a performance to match those of recent weeks.  Sloppy passing in midfield had much to do with it but credit must go to Battersea who worked hard across the pitch to prevent Cubo building any kind of rhythm and remain arguably the most potent side in the division from a set-piece situation.

Man of the Match: Gareth Stewart

Goal: J. Flower (2)

Battersea Ironsides 3-1 AFC Cubo

Date: Saturday 31st March 2012

Starting Line-up: Neil Clark, Oli Watkins, Ed Jackson, Bobby Sadler, Jonny Patterson, Ryan Shedwick, Mark Bradley, Lucas Pickett, Paul Every, Sabby

Sub: Ian Clarke

The absence of various members of the squad as we enter Stag Do season meant that Cubo put out arguably their smallest side of the season, against the side probably most geared up to exploit this failing.  The first game between these two sides was a hard-fought affair with some desperate defending by Cubo in the second half securing a 2-1 win that had given them hope of securing 3rd spot in the league.  Results over the past two weeks had meant this was no longer in Cubo’s hands but a win against their local rivals would give them some hope of still achieving this goal.  Skipper Oli Watkins won the toss and in accordance with a pre-match vote choose to play against the slope in the first half.

With the blustery wind eventually settling behind the home side, the Baby Blue Army would have to be at their best defensively to confound the elements and a side well-stocked with aerial prowess.  Battersea’s game plan was clear from the off with the ball being punted long for their forwards to contest in the hope of winning field position.  With big throwers available on both sides of the pitch, any throw-in less than 35 yards from the touchline was treated as a corner with the big centre-halves trundling up from the back.  Whilst crude, the tactic proved immediately effective when a long throw from the left was nodded home by the Battersea centre mid (or the ‘that boy with the trampoline on his forehead’ as Ryan referred to him as).  1-0 Battersea.

Cubo were trying to play football but the wind and hard ground meant that the ball was rarely on the deck long enough to do this.  The home side continued to bombard the Cubo box and it was no surprise when they added a second.  A well-delivered corner from the left was emphatically headed home by the Battersea centre-half to give his team a two goal lead.  2-0 Battersea.  A shell-shocked Cubo looked like they might be on the end of a hiding if the game continued in this vein.  Fortunately for them this wasn’t the case and as the half progressed they gradually began to assert themselves on the game.  With the returning Mark Bradley to the fore Cubo upped the tempo on their opponents, realising that preventing the Battersea defence settling would be key to getting back in the game.

The first glimpse of goal for Cubo came when Sabby was released in the left hand channel but the burly front man dragged his effort with his weaker foot wide of the goal.  Cubo’s best chance of the half came following a goal mouth scramble which saw the ball fall at Every’s feet in the box but his goal bound effort was well blocked.

Half Time: Battersea Ironsides 2-0 AFC Cubo

Having weathered a storm in the first half Cubo had the elements on their side in the second half and immediately had their hosts on the back foot.  The first effort of the half saw the Battersea keeper beat away a rasping volley from the edge of the box from Bradders that the midfielder did well to keep on target.  The Battersea backline had looked solid in the first half when given the time to get organised but with Cubo upping the tempo and moving the ball with far greater effectiveness gaps were beginning to emerge.  Some neat work in the box then saw Watkins blast a good chance wide before Cubo got the goal they deserved.  Ryan had been getting some joy down the right hand side throughout the first half and another neat interchange allowed Every to work the ball across goal, making its way through a crowd of players and leaving Pogo with a simple tap in from a yard out.

With the momentum behind them and only a goal needed, the odds on Cubo getting an equiliser seemed staked in their favour.  On top of this the pace of the game appeared to be taking its toll on the Battersea midfield who were no where near the dominant force they had been in the first half.  Cubo continued to dominate but a combination of sturdy defending by the home side and a slight lack of quality in the final third from Cubo meant that the home keeper remained relatively untested.  With Cubo pushing for an equaliser they were always going to expose themselves on the counter.  First Jacko was caught dallying on the ball as the last man, allowing the Battersea striker a clean run on goal.  Luckily for Cubo he scuffed his attempted finish miles wide when he really should have scored.  Second time round the away side were not so lucky.  When the same striker nicked the ball off Clarkey to give himself a clean run on goal again, he decided against trusting his shooting boots and squared to his supporting team-mate who slotted home into an empty net.  3-1 Battersea.

Final Score: Battersea Ironsides 3-1 AFC Cubo

Scorer: Jonny Patterson

Man of the Match: Paul Every

Whilst not quite as gut-wrenching as last week’s result against Horsley this will still go down as a vert disappointing result for Cubo.  A slow start and inability to deal with the aerial bombardment they faced in the first half gave them a mountain to climb in the second.  Despite an impressive second half performance where Cubo showed a determination to play football that almost brought them back into the game.  With a bit more cutting edge in the final third you feel that they would have come away with at least a point from the game.

Match Report: Benny Mac