Crescent Rovers 2-3 AFC Cubo

Date: Sat 5th November 2011, 2pm KO

Venue: Wallington Sports & Social Club

Starting line-up: Jacko, Hung, Gough, Sadler, Hoops, Pogo, Ben M, Bradders, Ryan S, Daunter, MTM

Sub: Trev Moody

A recent report revealed that rugby clubs expect 25% of their squad to be missing due to injury at any given point in the season.  Obviously rugby clubs haven’t factored in accountancy exams and girlfriends needing to be taken to their first firework show in London (no names on that one – Joe ‘Diamond’ Darlington), otherwise this figure would have been significantly higher.  Still, at least we don’t have to deal with a load of flip flop, Jack Wills wearing posh boys p1ssing off to go skiing in the New Year….

With 10 players out and no regular keepers available Cubo were once again forced to juggle resources to get a full team out.  Jacko stepped in nets (the 3rd ‘outfield’ player to do so in the last 3 weeks) whilst Bradders, Trev and Hoops were brought into what was still a strong squad.

The change of fixture meant that Cubo faced the side that had comfortably beaten them 3-1 a few weeks ago back at Barn Elms.  If they were to get a result this time, much would depend on how quickly the new backline of Hung, Goughy and Sadler were able to gel as a unit.

Starting the half with the slope in their favour Cubo made the brighter start with the excellent playing surface facilitating some slick passing interplay that immediately saw Ben McG released in space outside the Rovers box, though his shot was too central to seriously test the keeper.  With both Daunter and MTM holding the ball up well Cubo’s midfield were being given the time to get forward and it was clear Rovers were struggling to pick the runners from midfield.

The first real chance of the game came when Goughy’s slide-rule pass bisected the centre of the Rovers defence, releasing MTM through on goal.  The Taff Target Man’s left foot snapshot looked goal bound as it flew high to the keeper’s right but somehow he managed to push it wide with an acrobatic save.  The pressure was mounting and Cubo got the goal they deserved when J-Pat put in a great corner which Goughy forced home for his third of the season.  1-0 Cubo.  Given the fitness regimes employed by some of the side it was inevitable that the Boys in Baby Blue wouldn’t be able to maintain the pace they had set in the first 20 minutes and so it proved.

A deterioration in the quality of passing and the work off the ball, which had been so impressive, slowed the more the home side began to dominate affairs.  Rovers right back was doing a passable impression of Cafu with his over-lapping runs and most of the danger was coming from his ability to create an overlap on Cubo’s left hand side.  The manner of the goal when it came was extremely disappointing from a Cubo perspective.  A rare decision to penalise a player for unsportsmanlike behaviour (Daunter screaming his name for the ball whilst 5 yards away from it) saw numerous Cubans preferring to argue the toss with the ref rather than get themselves organised defensively and this allowed Rovers to move the ball into the box where a rash challenge by Goughy gave the ref an easy decision to make.  The resultant penalty was stroked away confidently to bring the scores level.

Cubo continued to play the better football with J-Pat in particular looking dangerous whenever the ball reached him on the left.  A succession of crosses were well defended by the Rovers backline.  Just as Cubo looked like reasserting themselves they found themselves 2-1 down.  A lucky break from a deflection saw the Rovers right winger gifted the ball inside the Cubo box.  He composed himself well to cut inside a couple of desperate challenges before slotting home.  2-1 Crescent Rovers.

Coming in at half time Cubo had every right to feel aggrieved to find themselves behind in a half they had dominated. However as has been the case this season, they had brought most of the pressure on to themselves by giving the ball away sloppily in dangerous areas, a trait which has been punished far more often by the quality in the Surrey Elite.  Despite the scoreline the dressing room was confident that on the first half showing they had enough in the tank to go on and win this game.  The half time bravado was soon put back in its box when Rovers immediately won a free kick in a dangerous area outside the box, which Cubo only survived with some desperate defending.  Definitely not the start the gaffer was hoping for!

In a stark turnaround it was Rovers who were playing all of the football in the second half with both full backs now pushing on to good effect, stretching the Cubo backline.  Sadler, Gough and Hung were putting in sterling performances at the back but time and again dangerous balls were being delivered into the box and Cubo could consider themselves lucky not to go further behind on a couple of occasions when only wasteful finishing from the home side kept the score down.  The introduction of Trev into the midfield saw Cubo gain a better grip on Rovers marauding full backs and with a better defensive shape were able to put together some attacks of their own.  The first of these saw good link up play between Daunter and Ben McG release MTM through on goal.  Unfortunately for him the Rovers defender managed to make a great recovery tackle just as he was about to pull the trigger to put the ball out for a corner.  However Cubo’s luck was in as from the resulting corner the referee finally penalised the Rovers centre half for the wrestling which he had been guilty of all game and awarded a penalty.  Returning front man Daunter made no mistake with his pen firing high into the net to make it 2-2.  As Cubo had in the first half Rovers appeared to feel aggrieved that despite playing the better football it was they who had conceded.

With Cubo sensing an unlikely 3 points the game became extremely stretched with gaps appearing all over the pitch.  Rovers introduced the big striker who had caused Cubo so many problems at Barnes and he was immediately into the action.  Receiving the ball in the box, the ball appeared to be glued to his feet as he twisted and turned though some desperate defending saw a combination of Pogo and Goughy get the ball clear.

With only a minute on the clock Rovers again worked a good position down the right before the ball was drilled across the six yard box, ricocheting around the goal line it looked certain to end up in the back of the net.  With bodies flying in from every angle it was difficult to see what was going on until Jacko emerged with the ball in his hands.  Superb keeping from the stand in, showing great bravery with the studs flying.  Not content with this he quickly released Hoops who carried the ball forward before laying off to Bradders who in turn played the ball on to Daunter who was clear through in the right hand channel.  With a lack of match practice telling he didn’t have the legs to carry it all the way through, instead holding the ball up on the edge of the box before squaring to the supporting Bradders who curled a sumptuous finish into the top corner to leave the Rovers keeper rooted to the spot.  3-2 Cubo.  A brilliant break-away goal with a brilliant finish from the closet Gooner.

With less than a minute on the clock Cubo thought they had it won but there was still time for a sharp intake of breath as they gave away a cheap free kick 35 yards out on the right. With Rovers sending up their big men and introducing another big man from the bench the stage looked set for an almighty aerial defensive effort from the Cubans.  However, instead of putting the ball in the box the Rovers man bizarrely chose to try an inventive dink over the wall, which he over-hit, allowing Hung to gratefully shepherd out for a goal kick and full time.

Goals: Goughy, Daunter, Bradders

Man of the Match: Bradders

Match Report: Benny Mac

A fine win for the Cubans who made amends for the poor performance in the home fixture. The make-shift back line were impressive throughout and deserve credit for the way they kept their shape in their first game together.  Most pleasing though were the performances of the boys who came into the side, particularly Bradders who not only scored a belting winner but also put in a big shift in the centre of the park.