HARVESTERS U14 NORTH 2 OMONIA GREEN 3
BRUISED, BLOODIED BUT HOPEFULLY UNBOWED
This has historically been a tricky fixture for us. Last season, despite Greens languishing like a flounder on the sea bed of the Red Division, nonetheless we only achieved an away draw and lost to them at home suggesting that there is something nefarious in their bag of footballing tricks which does not gel well with our playing style.
Augmented by the presence of new team members Faizaan and Archie, we have moved to a back three this season in an attempt to stimulate more attacking play and score a few more goals, which has tended to be where we have lain deficient for the past couple of years, especially against the top teams. There will of course be a honeymoon period where we will need to adjust to this set-up, and like any honeymoon there will be growing pains, akin to when the initial excitement has worn off and you then realise you still have a week of staring at the Bognor seafront. Metaphorically speaking.
Emboldened by an excellent couple of excellent performances in our warm-up games, this was not only a different kettle of fish - more like a whole bath tub of fish. Or an oil drum. Large receptacle-thing anyway. Omonia are a canny side. They gave away many free kicks but always in places where it didn't hurt them. In our half, or around the halfway line, and mostly central. We pumped countless balls into the box, but never with the pace or angle to bother them because of the point of origin. They moaned and complained volubly to anyone that would listen, about most decisions, including a couple of passers by and an older couple in their garden watering their geraniums. Their parents were quite vocal as was their Coach, especially in berating the poor referee, who to be fair I thought got most things right. Only when Louis got so tired of the constant tirade emanating from their management team and in pithy tones requested that he perhaps might like to curtail his epithets, did the stream of invective cease.
The match itself did not start auspiciously. In the first minute the ball was played back to Ethan, who did the right thing and tried to play the ball out to Louis first time, just as we have been talking about in training. Unfortunately, he scuffed his connection, and as a result the ball fell straight to their striker and although our keeper made a magnificent first save one on one, he was powerless to prevent the rebound being tucked away. No criticisms though. We aim to play out this way and mistakes will happen. 0-1.
We nearly got back into it 10 minutes later, when Sam's cross evaded everyone and a loitering Lord Charles, this year sporting a purple frock coat and gaiters for home games, hooked the ball onto the near post and the rebound fell into a relieved Omonia keeper's hands. Still, our revamped defence continued to be under pressure and we were finding it hard to get on the ball in midfield as the excellent Omonia pressing game made its presence felt. They had the ball in the net on 14 minutes, but a tight offside call ruled it out. Warning.
Faizaan, who had not had it his own way in the first half, then took matters upon himself. He won the ball in midfield and meandered out towards the right wing, where he exchanged passes with Ben and in languid style lashed home a shot inside the near post from just inside the area. I must confess so becalmed had the action become at this point, I was so surprised I almost remembered it was my turn to put the recycling out. 29 minutes and 1-1, and so it was at half time.
Whilst neither team really had the game by the scruff of the neck, unfortunately we were the architects of our own misfortune with two disappointing goals in 12 second minutes. On 43 minutes, with Harvesters arguably having the upper hand, we missed a series of 3 to 4 tackles and next thing we knew the ball had been passed into the corner with Ethan having no chance. 1-2. Although we'd also had a chance when Sam's corner was tipped up in the air just above Lord Charles' incoming top hat, they broke upfield from our free kick on 56 minutes and with virtually our entire team marooned in the Omonia half, they made the break tell and it was 1-3. A potentially critical blow.
We continued to create chances. Louis whipped in a great ball but somehow neither of our onrushing players could connect. Then, we won a free kick in a not very promising position but Archie, having obviously assessed that a slower ball was the right play rather than the 90 mph bouncer, floated a free kick into the box which their keeper obligingly dived over. 2-3. I am sure the keeper had Archie as Captain in his fantasy team.
The rest of the half (which I agree with their Coach lasted waaay longer than it should have) was frustrating as we just couldn't find a way through despite a lot of effort. The most heart in mouth moment was Stan's deflected shot, which for all the world looked like it has nestled in the net but had in fact crept over the bar like a recalcitrant child on their first day back at school.
So, a frustrating defeat, but I'd like to think one we can learn from in terms of perhaps being a bit cleverer and playing our game rather than being drawn into a scrap. Omonia ended up with 3 yellow cards and we knew they would seek to niggle us, and we have to learn how to deal with that. It didn't help that Stan had not been well, Ben had pulled a thigh muscle in the Oaklands game and probably wasn't 100% and Sam's knee was also clearly bothering him after double footing his Dad in the garden. OK, I made that bit up. But we move on and we have the other Omonia team this week so the chance for revenge is immediate!