(With many thanks to Jeff)
We started with a progressive 3-2-3 formation that for some reason Pitchero doesn't recognise. Oscar Perrin between the sticks, almost a home game for him these days, with Sammy Hill, Gregor Bulmer, and Thomas O'Dwyer at the back. James Carlton and Will Shore were the midfield enforcers, Luke Brown, James Payton and Kaden Ward the cutting edge up front. Billy Griffin and Aaron Statham were our subs.
What stuck out in this game was the grit and determination shown in midfield and defence - James C and Will showed plenty of energy and a willingness to get stuck in, and not just into the mud. This meant that Luke, James P and Kaden could push further up the pitch and we had a constant presence and threat up front. The defence had a very settled look about them, "immaculate" was the word used to describe them for the most part, holding a good high line and cutting out attacks before they'd even crossed the halfway line. The lads worked well as a unit, notably using both feet which kept the other team guessing. Passes out of defence were directed to individuals, not just hoofed out with the hope of reaching a blue shirt. Having Will and James C available meant there were options.
Thomas was making good, clean tackles and reading the game with a vision of someone much older, taking his excellent display in training last week into the competitive arena (you can called me biased as much as you like). When he missed the tackle he fought back and bought the team enough time to get back and cover, laying the ball off to Gregor, Will or Kaden. The fact that the whole defence was awarded Man (Men?) of the Match speaks volumes.
Kaden was good and quick, never stopped chasing, putting in some great crosses. James P played as well as we’ve seen him, more on the left, one touches and good lay offs. Same for Luke B, didn’t have to chase everything all over the pitch as James C and Will were there, as well as putting some great through balls for Kaden and James P.
Billy kept getting into the right position and confusing their defence, but nothing fell right for him, one of those days where his finishing was off. Aaron also had a strong game, working the defensive line, with some good touches and passes.
In the final 15 minutes our guys lost their steam a little bit, Ruddington had switched a very big very fast no.6 from left to centre forward, and that gave them a lot of penetration, and his goal lifting it over Oscar was Messi-like.
Our goal came from a James C direct free kick, getting the ball up and over the keeper, a great finish. He also hit the bar in the first half with a shot similar to the set piece. Will also had a number of strikes but none really penetrating with power, or just slipping by the post - but at least he was having a pop. Goes to show, you don't win the lottery unless you buy a ticket.
Curiously both teams seemed to play better playing into the high wind and almost horizontal rain, you could almost feel the building of character. Spectators were left soaked, hoarse and only slightly disappointed not to get the win.
In all, a strong, cohesive team showing with several excellent individual performances - we just need that extra couple of percent to get over the line for our next win.