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

AFC Cubo 2-3 Project Clapham

Date: Sat 7th February 2015

Goals: Harry Tulip, Ben McGeown

Cubo once again found themselves on the wrong end of a tight game in a local derby against newly promoted Project Clapham.  With pitch conditions making it difficult to play much football it was the away side who started the brighter keeping the home side pegged back in their own half.

The first chance fell to Clapham when a long ball saw the left winger through on goal, however a superb last ditch tackle by J-Pat prevented a clear goal scoring opportunity.  Cubo grew into the game with Chris Pyke finding himself in some good shooting positions only to see the ball end up in the same patch of woodland behind the goal both times.

Cubo’s best chance of the half fell to Harry who was released by a long pass into the left hand channel. The Alan Pardew loving Geordie accelerated away from the full back into the area but the angle was tight and the keeper was able to party his effort to safety.

Clapham a biggest threat was coming from their set-piece, which were being delivered with quality on every occasion. Cubo had received a couple of warnings before a contested free kick was whipped into the box and headed home from six yards out giving Brad in goal no chance.

The home side struck back in the second half when an Ian Clarke corner was nodded in from two yards out by Harry Tulip.  The Cubans would have backed themselves from this position having started the better of the two sides but they were soon behind again when another contentious decision by the ref saw Clapham awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. Brad could once again only watch as the ball was curled into the top corner to make it 2-1.

The score was extended when Pogo was adjudged to have handled a cross that he had little chance of moving out of the way of and the Clapham skipper tucked it away with aplomb.  A real sucker punch for the Cubans.

A late goal by Ben McG following excellent work down the left by Harry Tulip made the last few minutes interesting but Pykey was unable to keep his late header beneath the bar.
A tight game that could have gone either way. Cubo will rue the dropped points but it was Clapham who scored at the decisive points in the game to reverse the scoreline from the first fixture between these two sides this season.

Bookham FC 3-1 AFC Cubo

Date: Saturday 21st September 2013

Starting Line-up: Bradders, Sadler, Gough (c), Grayson, Jackson, McGeown, I. Clarke, Shedwick, Ansell, Coates, J. Flower

Subs: Golding, Utting, Sabby

Cubo were left empty handed following their poorest performance of the season in a game in which they struggled to impress at either end of the pitch. Having dominated the early stages of the game with good possession football, Cubo were wasteful in front of goal and were duly punished when a defensive error allowed Bookham to slip in and put the hosts in front.

Cubo struggled to respond to the shock of going behind and had their deputising keeper to thank for keeping the deficit down to one as he produced an incredible double save following more sloppy play. The boys in baby blue were still creating chances but continued to be wasteful in front of goal and it was left to Rob Sadler, careering forward from full back, to level the scores with a calmly taken finish following a beautifully weighted through ball from McGeown.

This was the point at which Cubo should have pushed on and turned their superiority into goals, but more sloppy play led to them conceding just before half time as they went in 2-1 down.

The second half continued much as the first had, with Cubo working themselves into good positions without producing the final ball. They were again punished with ten minutes to go as a long free-kick found its way into the back of the net. It was a bitter pill to swallow for the visitors who were targeting three points from the game but deservedly left with nothing. Cubo’s players will know that they must sharpen up their performances in future weeks if they are to start moving up the league.

Final Score: Bookham FC 3-1 AFC Cubo

Goal: Sadler

Assist: B. McGeown

Man of the Match: Martin Ansell

AFC Cubo 1-1 Yateley United

Date: Saturday 14th of September 2013

Cubo were again left with a feeling of two points lost after conceding a late equaliser for the second week in succession. Against last season’s champions, the Baby Blue Army produced a lacklustre first half performance during which they relinquished possession far too easily and invited pressure from their opponents.

Cubo struggled to gel at all on the ball in a first half in which they failed to create any meaningful chances and which saw Yateley dominate for large periods. On more than one occasion Cubo were thankful to the big noisy Welshman in goal for some excellent saves, most notably a stunning one-handed effort down to his right when unsighted from a close-range header. Although wasteful in possession, Cubo were defensively solid and matched their opponents physically and Yateley were lucky to end the half with 11 men after their central midfielder escaped with only a booking following a ‘series of indiscretions’.

Cubo were much-improved in the second half and deservedly took the lead when Clarke turned on a long throw inside the box and the ball ran to the ‘fitter’ Flower who produced a superb snap finish into the top left corner. After the goal Cubo were able to retain possession much better and seemed to settle into their football, moving the ball around the defence and midfield with added sharpness.

An excellent defensive display, spearheaded by the outstanding man of the match and soon-to-be engaged Oli Watkins stepping in for the absent skipper, looked to have earned Cubo a well-deserved victory until their curse of conceding late struck again. It appeared to be a foul on Stewart when he was challenged for a loose ball, but the referee allowed play to continue and the subsequent shot found its way via a Grayson boot into the Cubo net.

It was a devastating blow for Cubo who had looked on course for three points. Again, concerns will be raised about the inability to keep the ball and to convert possession into chances. However, they will be buoyed by an excellent defensive display and a more positive second half performance.

Final Score: AFC Cubo 1-1 Yateley United

Man of the Match: Oli Watkins

AFC Cubo 2-2 Abbey Rangers

Starting XI: Biscuit Tett, Rob Sadler, Rich Gough (c), Joey D, Joke Pat, Ian Clarke, Mark Bradley, Rufus Shedwick, Nick Coates, Martin Ansell, Terry Spokes.

Subs: Alan Clarke, Paul Every

Cubo were within whisker of pulling off an unlikely three points in their first home game of the season against a much-improved Abbey Rangers side. There were only seconds left when a ball pumped forward from Abbey found its way through to the striker to push the ball beyond a helpless Biscuit to deprive the boys in baby blue of what would have been an impressive if not undeserved victory.

For large parts Cubo were second best in this game against an Abbey side that knocked the ball around better and seemed to get to grips more quickly with the overgrown surface. Cubo had taken the lead against the run of play after ten minutes when J Pat coolly converted a penalty awarded for a foul on Joey D in the box. Unable to withstand the continuing onslaught from Abbey, the scores were level when some sloppy defending allowed the Abbey winger to run unopposed onto a through ball and slot the ball easily into the net.

Perhaps thankful that they were still in the game at half time, Cubo improved significantly in the second half although they remain concerned by their inability to keep the ball under pressure. Cubo were rewarded for their improved perfomance on the hour when the energetic Alan Clarke released the excellent Coates to cross for another star performer, Ansell, who had seemed to have held onto the ball for too long before calmly finishing in the corner of the net for a superb first goal for the club.

Cubo did well to maintain the pace and were denied what looked like a certain penalty for a foul in the box on Ian Clarke. The job looked to have been completed with some resolute defending from the excellent Joey D and an outstanding performance from Captain Richard Gough, capably aided by great goalkeeping by the deputising Biscuit. However, the last kick of the game dealt Cubo a cruel blow and left them with a feeling of two points lost rather than one gained.

Final Score: AFC Cubo 2-2 Abbey Rangers

Man of the Match:

Puretown FC 1-6 AFC Cubo

Team: Gaz Stewart, Rob Sadler, Alan Clarke, Richard Gough (c), Oli Watkins, Ben McGeown, Pat, Shedders, Jake, Nick, Nick Coates

Subs: Ian Clarke, Rick Utting, Sabby

AFC Cubo resumed a long-standing rivalry with an old foe on Saturday following Puretown’s promotion last season. Playing on Tooting & Mitcham FC’s 3G pitch, Cubo started slowly but settled down and began to use the playing surface to zip the ball around well and after a sustained period of early domination took a well deserved lead. A strong move down the right freed Alan Clarke, whose ball into the middle was flicked into the path of Rufus Shedwick who converted from close-range.

Cubo were in the goals again shortly after when a long kick from Gaz Stewart found its way through to one of the Flowers (Jake we think but who can tell?) to finish at the near post.

At this point Cubo should have gone on to dominate the game, but as often seems to be the case they contrived to make things harder than they should have been by sitting back and inviting pressure. Whilst Puretown were not able to create many chances, they were afforded a lifeline when they found space down the right and a deflected cross looped over the helpless Stewart and into the net.

At 2-1 up the win that had looked guaranteed suddenly looked more precarious. Step forward Cubo’s newest debenture-holder. Receiving a pass from McGeown in the centre circle, Shedwick nipped round one Puretown defender before beating another and carrying the ball to the edge of the area before dispatching an unstoppable right-footed shot into the far corner. 3-1 Cubo.

A 2 goal cushion safely restored by half time, Cubo relaxed in the second half and began to play some really good football. Further goals were added by Jake or Nick (probably Jake) and Sabby before an excellent move ended in a delightful chip over the oncoming keeper by Nick Coates for his first Cubo goal. Cubo undoubtedly caught Puretown on an off-day and will face tougher opposition but this was a confidence-boosting result and constituted the biggest win for the baby blue army for some time.

Final Score: Puretown 1-6 AFC Cubo

Man of the Match: Ryan Shedwick

Tooting Bec 2-2 AFC Cubo

Date: Mon 26th August 2013

Venue: Colliers Wood FC

Starting Line-up: Gaz Stewart, Chris Grayson, Richard Gough (c), Rob Jones, Org-Patt, Mark Bradley, Ben McGeown, Shedders, Jake Flower, Nick Flower, Moisty

Subs: Nick Coates, Dave Wall

Despite far from ideal preparation, which included the gaffer not turning up with the kit until 30 mins before KO and a large portion of the squad suffering from their social exertions the night before, Cubo managed to ensure they did not come away from the weekend’s games empty handed by picking up a point in a 2-2 draw with local rivals Tooting Bec.  Indeed, the Baby Blue Army will be disappointed not to have picked up all 3 points from a game that they dominated for long periods.

The first few minutes of the game were characterised by some alcohol induced sloppiness from Cubo with stray passes and a cavalier approach to defending.  Tooting really should have scored when a cross into the box caused mass confusion in the Cubo ranks with only a good save by Gaz preventing an opener.  The game was then stopped for over five minutes when two Bec players clashed heads having gone up for the same ball and one came off significantly worse.  With blood pouring out of his clearly broken hooter there was no way he could continue and the home side were forced into making an unwanted early change. This seemed to wake up the visitors who were soon able to get the ball down and build some decent attacking opportunities.  The newly reunited (on the pitch) Flower brothers were both heavily involved and both had chances to break the deadlock.  First Jake found space in the box before firing across the keeper, who did well to push it wide of the post, before Nick’s cross/shot flashed across the goal crying out for someone to get on the end of it.  With Goughy and Jonesy doing a great job on Bec’s sole striker, the home side were finding it very difficult to get out of their own half.  HT 0-0.

The second half continued in much the same fashion and Cubo soon had the goal they deserved.  Shedders had been finding pockets of space throughout the first half and on this occasion he picked the ball up on the left touchline with acres around him before driving towards goal.  Having beaten one man his pass/bad touch made its way to Jake who slotted past the keeper to make it 1-0.  Having seen Shedders impact on the game, the gaffer promptly did the sensible thing and substituted him.  With Tooting heads going down Cubo really should have put the game to bed and had the chances to do so.  The first fell to Nick Flower who found himself one on one with the keeper but his effort was well saved by the Bec keeper.  N.Flower was involved again when he broke into the right hand channel and only had to square the ball to Martin who had the goal at his mercy bu the pass was underhit and Tooting were able to clear.

Tooting were struggling to rouse themselves however they pushed an extra man forward and were rewarded for their positive play shortly afterwards.  A Cubo corner was headed clear and made its way to the Bec number 10 who skinned Ben McGeown before squaring to the big Bec striker who made no mistake with his finish.  Whilst the goal may have come against the run of play the period it signalled a change in the momentum of the game with Tooting now looking the hungrier of the two sides.  With the night before’s exploits catching up with a few players Cubo were looking raged defensively and soon conceded a second as a result.  A corner was only partially cleared back to the Bec number 7, who had looked their most dangerous player throughout, and he had an age to pick his cross which was headed in by an unmarked team-mate.  A good cross but some appalling defending by Cubo, highlighted by the fact that there were actually three Bec players, all unmarked, queueing up to head the ball in had the first man missed it.

Luckily for Cubo there was still plenty of time on the clock to get back into the game.  Dave Wall had looked lively ever since his introduction at half time for the injured Chris Grayson, getting forward to good effect from right back.  Having created a couple of half chances with some well-timed bursts forward, it was his switch of the play from right to left which released Coatsy down the left.  The tricky winger had been a handful in his time on the pitch and he once again beat his man before pulling the ball back to the penalty spot where Ben McGeown fired home to bring the scores level with less than 5 mins to go.

A pleasing point given the circumstances with ten minutes to go but Cubo should be disappointed that they weren’t able to put the game beyond Tooting when a goal up and on top.  Credit to Tooting who came back into the game strongly in the second half and will no doubt be disappointed to concede such a late goal.

Final Score: Tooting Bec 2-2 AFC Cubo

Goals: B. McGeown, J. Flower

Man of the Match: Richard Gough – a captain’s performance from the big centre half, who even managed to avoid picking up his customary booking for dissent.

Virginia Water FC 4-1 AFC Cubo

Date: Sat 24th August 2013

Starting Line-up: Gaz Stewart, Chris Grayson, Richard Gough, Oli Watkins, James McGeown, Ben McGeown, Jonny Patterson, Nick Coates, Sabby Sabahatin, Nick Flower, Ryan Shedwick

Subs: Hung Nguyen, Ed Jackson

Cubo returned to the scene of the final game of the 2012/13 season which saw them on the wrong end of a bad 4-1 defeat at the hands of a rejuvenated Virginia Water.  If they could claim to have been caught cold last time round they had no such excuses on this occasion as they once again went down to a chastening 4-1 loss.

Waters opened the scoring 10 minutes into the game when the ball was worked wide to their left midfielder who stepped inside Chris Grayson before smashing an unstoppable strike into the top corner.  Despite this setback Cubo soon found themselves back into the game when an innocuous-looking ball forward skidded off the slippery surface and up into the Waters centre half’s right hand.  JPat stepped up and cunningly side-footed his penalty beneath the keeper’s dive, the boy is a magician from 12 yards.  Nick Flower then went close for the away side when he got across his marker at the near post but was unable to keep his header down.  The home side continued to look dangerous going forward and earned a penalty when the ball was flicked up into Oli Watkins’ hand from less than a yard.  Luckily for Cubo Gaz Stewart went the right way and James McGeown was on hand to clear the rebound.  The game looked finely poised but when a long clearance by the Waters defence cleared the Cubo backline it left the Waters striker a clear run on goal and he rounded Gaz before making it 2-1 just before half time.

Cubo started well in the second half without creating any clear cut opportunities before a highly contentious decision allowed Waters to put the game to bed.  A cross into the box was seemingly missed by both Cubo centre halves before falling to the lurking Waters midfielder who cooly slotted the ball past Gaz to make it 3-1.  Unfortunately for Cubo their protests about a push on Goughy fell on deaf ears and they faced a very difficult task to get back into the game against a side particularly adept at counter-attacking football.  With Cubo pushing forward there were always likely to be further chances for the home side and a fourth was added when a superb cross into the box was converted to make it 4-1.  Cubo were fortunate that the scoreline did not deteriorate further when Waters were awarded a second penalty (this time for a clear shirt pull).  Once again Gaz came out on top, this time with a full stretch save down to his left, leaving the Waters penalty taker shaking his head wondering what more he could have done to score.

Final Score: Virginia Water 4 AFC Cubo 1

Goals: Jonny Patterson (Pen)

Man of the Match: Gaz Stewart

Merrow 1-2 AFC Cubo

Date: Sat 17th August 2013

Venue: The Urnfield, Merrow

Starting Line-up: Rob Sadler, Rob Jones, Richard Gough, Alan Clarke, Chris Grayson, Tom Golding, Ben McGeown, Rufus ‘Shedders’ Shedwick, Sabby Sabahatin, Stevie T, Martin Ansell

Substitutes: Jim McGeown, Hung Nguyen, Oli Watkins

Scorers: Stevie T, Shedders

Man of the Match: Alan Clarke

Cubo began their third season in the Surrey Elite at newly promoted County Cup winners Merrow, whose run to the final of that competition had seen them beat some of the better teams in the SEIL including Horsley and Coulsdon Town.  As such the Baby Blue Army were expecting a tough game against a side accustomed to winning and no doubt keen to make a statement in their first league fixture.  Cubo were once treated to some excellent facilities, with the pitch in immaculate condition, a pre-game burst of rain meant that the ball was zipping around beautifully.

With new gaffer Ian Clarke opting out of the first month of the season whilst he comes to terms with signing his life away, Club Chairman Ben McGeown took on management responsibilities with Goughy taking the armband for the day.  The early start to the SEIL season meant that Cubo were without many regulars, most notably keeper Gareth Stewart, though luckily for Ben McGeown Rob Sadler was able to act as a stand-in.  Despite the side was a strong one with a very physical presence at the back where Alan Clarke was rewarded for some impressive performances at the back end of last season with a start and Chris Grayson came in at left-back to fill the ‘Big Aussie’ quota in Jake Flower’s absence.

Goughy’s first input as skipper was to lose the toss and Merrow, sensibly, chose to play with the wind, which was howling across the pitch towards the Cubo goal.  The home side started the brighter of the two and soon had Cubo on the back foot, particularly as Sadler was struggling against the elements to get his goal-kicks out of his own area.  The first chance of the game fell to Merrow when a sloppy pass out of defence was picked off and the Merrow no.7 beat one covering defender before pulling his shot wide.  An even better chance followed when Sadler came to collect a through ball only to see it squirm from his grasp and fall to the Merrow striker.  Fortunately for Cubo, the angle proved too much and he could only put his effort into the side netting.

Having survived these early scares Cubo began to get the ball down and some neat passing moves almost saw first Martin and then Sabby released behind the Merrow backline who were holding a very high line.  The wind was proving tricky at both ends as the Merrow centre-half misjudged a long throw into the box that held up in the air before bouncing over his head and falling invitingly for Shedders.  Unfortunately the clubs resident ray of sunshine on the pitch couldn’t control his volley which sailed over the bar.  The man with the personal account at Niketown was involved again when, having intercepted a pass in midfield, he set off on a driving run towards the Merrow goal before being obstructed just outside the box.  Merrow were furious with what they considered to be a soft decision and would be even more agitated by what followed.  Sabby stepped up to curl an effort over the wall but without enough pace to seriously trouble the keeper who stepped across his goal to collect.  However, in a moment to forget, the ball slipped from his hands and dropped to an onrushing Stevie T, who forced the ball home from 2 yards out.  A great goal for the away side who up until that point had probably been second best in the half.

The goal gave Cubo a boost and they almost doubled their lead shortly afterwards when a cross from the left just evaded Stevie T at the back post.  Merrow remained a threat and were half way to celebrating an equaliser when their no.6 side-stepped a challenge on the edge of the box and thundered a strike against the underside of the bar.  A suggestion of a touch from Sadler made all the difference as it cannoned down a metre from the line before being scrambled clear.

Cubo emerged for the second half with the wind and a slight slope on their side safe in the knowledge that they would get chances against opponents who would have to attack, leaving ever larger gaps in their backline.  The key for Cubo would be showing patience in their ball retention, historically not an attribute of the boys in Baby Blue.  As expected Merrow came out strong in the second half, and despite the wind were on top of affairs, forcing Alan and Gough into some desperate last gasp challenges to prevent an equaliser.  The best of these coming when a cross into the box fell to the Merrow striker with the goal at his mercy.  He confidently struck the ball towards goal only to see Alan Clarke throw himself in front of it and somehow deflect the ball wide for a corner.  It was to prove a game-changing block.  Minutes later and with the Merrow defence pushing up to the half way line, a long pass from right back took a deflection before Shedders raced onto it and coolly rounded the keeper to make it 2-0 Cubo.

It was at this point that Cubo really should have put the game to bed but credit to the home side they came flying back at their opponents from kick off and when a free kick from out on the left was only half cleared their no.7 was on hand to nod home and bring them back to within a goal.  Cubo will be very disappointed with the timing of the goal and the nature of it given that they had at least two chances to clear the danger before the ball ended up in the back of the net.

Suddenly a game that appeared to be in the bag had become a defensive ‘backs to the wall’ exercise for Cubo, whose defensive discipline was really being tested by Merrow pushing men forward and leaving players up the pitch (at one stage they had 4 men stationed on the right wing).   Hung and Jim were introduced to help shore up the back line, whilst a lack of composure on the ball continued to haunt Cubo as they continually gave the ball away cheaply whilst attempting to hit long passes on a skiddy surface.  On the few occasions that they did look after the ball almost saw them get a third with a well worked move involved Sabby Ryan but a desperate block by the Merrow centre-half deflected the ball over the bar.   With Goughy and Alan holding firm against the aerial assault Cubo were able to see out the remaining minutes to secure a vital first three points of the season.

A hard fought victory for Cubo against a dangerous side who will no doubt do well this season.  Whilst it would be fair to say that Cubo rode their luck at points they looked dangerous when going forward and with greater composure could have saved themselves the frantic defending that took place in the last 25 minutes.  Nonetheless given the limited nature of pre-season this is a great start to the season and sets them up nicely for next weekend’s fixtures at Virginia Water and local rivals Tooting Bec.

AFC Cubo 1-3 Tooting Bec

Date: Saturday 6th April, 2013

Starting line-up: Gareth Stewart, Rob Sadler, Richard Gough, Hung Nguyen, Oli Watkins, Andy Strickland, Ben McGeown, Mark Bradley, Jonny Patterson, Jake Flower, Sabby Sabahatin

Subs: Andrew Noble, Greg Tett

Cubo’s final home game of the season ended disappointingly as they were beaten 3-1 by local rivals Tooting Bec.  With Gaffer Watkins once again forced into tinkering with his line-up due to absences, the side looked light on attacking options.  The Baby Blue Army made the worst possible start to the game when, with only a couple of minutes on the clock, an innocuous looking throw into the box was first missed in the air completely before bouncing up onto Sadler’s hand.  A clear handball, even if the level of intent was negligent, leaving the ref with very little choice but to award the penalty which was confidently put away by the Bec striker.  The changes made to the Cubo line-up were causing some organisational issues, whereas Tooting were looking far more comfortable in their shape.  The away side were having the better of things and should have made it 2-0 but for some brilliance from Gaz in the Cubo goal.  He did well to initially to parry a moving strike from the edge of the box but then also managed to get back to his feet quickly enough to somehow deflect the follow-up over the bar from 6 yards when a goal seemed certain.  The big Welshman, understandably, wasn’t happy with the protection he was receiving in front of him and made this clear to his defence.

Cubo were looking uncharacteristically suspect defensively and were struggling to make headway against a physical Bec backline that was dominating anything that was flung at them aerially.  The away side soon found themselves two in front when a nice turn by the Bec right winger took him away from his marker before he beat two half-hearted tackles to put him through on goal where he remained cool enough to slot home to make it 2-0 Tooting.

Cubo emerged for the second half and immediately looked more interested in the game, keeping their opponents pinned back, albeit without creating any clear cut chances but unfortunately the next goal, which you felt would be key in determining the outcome of the game fell to the away side.  A diagonal ball to the back post found the Bec striker in acres of space and his intelligent pass across the box left his strike partner with a simple tap in to make it 3-0 Tooting.  A real sucker punch for Cubo, who would have felt that the goal came against the run of play, though once again they were their own worst enemies with some more casual defending in their half allowing first the pass into the box and then the space for the striker when he received it.

The scoreline could have been even worse had Gaz not come to the rescue again when the referee awarded Tooting their second penalty of the game.  This time the keeper went the right way and pushed the ball away before re-gathering the rebound.  Cubo scored a consolation goal late on when Bradders reacted quickest to a scramble in the box to fire home to make it 3-1 and provide a glimmer of hope for the home side.  The game could have got even more interesting had Tett managed to keep his lob down when through on goal with a few minutes remaining but his effort sailed over the bar and Tooting were able to see out the rest of the game to secure a deserved 3 points on the day.

Goal: Mark Bradley

Man of the Match: Gareth Stewart

Given their tough run-in gaffer Watkins will have ear-marked this fixture, against one of mid-table rivals, as one to take points from so he will be very disappointed to come away with nothing.  The disappointment will be even more pronounced given the lacklustre display given by Cubo, who had the air of a side already on the flight to Marbella for their summer hols.  Though poor defensively, the home side can take encouragement from an improved performance once the shape had been changed and still look capable of scoring goals when they move the ball.

Given the tight nature of the lower half of the league the Cubans will need to pick themselves up for this Saturday’s fixture against Virginia Water who have experienced a near wholesale turnaround since the change in management mid-season.  A win there would go some way to easing any relegation fears and as such makes it a massive game for the Baby Blue Army.