Don't really want to dwell on this one too much. We started well, passing it around with confidence. The first ten minutes of the game were very even, Luke Brown putting our first opportunity over the bar with the lad from NG being injured in the process. Nothing intentional, but what we thought was a sign of intent and strength.
When NG did have a good chance, a swift counter attack, Gregor Bulmer was out quickly to save at the attacker's feet and Gregor "made sure the lad knew he was there" - again, nothing malicious or intended, but a show of aggression that we would not be outmuscled. NG were now trying to catch us on the counter, we had plenty of the ball, sometimes all of it. There was plenty of communication, good covering by both defence and midfield and the passes were all decisive and to feet - no hit and hope, no hopeful hoofs upfield or any other descriptions beginning with an H. One particular moment stood out where NG managed to get past Thomas down our right but Will was there to put in a perfect slide tackle. It was all very encouraging, and we had opportunities too - James Carlton put one over the bar, then he made a strong run into the box and Kye's shot was held well by the keeper. End to end stuff, and an evenly matched pair of teams both trying to play attractive football.
The deadlock was broken after an NG throw in; a ball over the heads of the defence found an unmarked NG player hovering (not literally) at the back post and he slotted it in. This gave NG added belief, but our heads weren't going down, no way Pedro. Another lofted pass led to the NG player trying to lob Gregor but no joy.
What was noticeable in this match was the ref wasn't going to allow any foul throws - he gave one warning to each team, then after that he turned the ball over to the opposition every time - stern stuff, but you've got to learn. One such incident led to some strong work in midfield by Aaron, and Kye put the resulting chance agonisingly wide. We were still in it, for sure.
We began to lose our shape a bit after the goal as we searched for an equaliser, but the chances were coming and it seemed we were getting closer and closer as the half drew to a close. A lovely pass from Birthday Boy James Payton fed Luke Brown more than just cake, but NG forced him wide and it went for a corner.
NG weren't content to sit at one-nil, and they were very quick on the break - a fantastic one-handed save by Gregor kept them out, I thought it was reminiscent of David Seaman versus Sheffield United in the FA Cup Semi Final 2003 but apparently someone called Tim Krul did it too. I'll have to take their (Jeff's) word for it. Whatevs.
Anyway, the resulting scramble led to the ball nestling in the net, but it was chalked off for offside and rightly so (good spot, Simon). The last action of the half was us applying plenty of pressure and Sammy Hill having a pop from distance which led to a corner. Half time, one down but plenty of time to redress the balance.
Or maybe not.
We lost the ball in midfield pretty much from the kick off and a good finish from NG saw them have a two-goal cushion. We were still in it, it was all midfield for the first part of the half and Luke Brown cut inside but delayed pulling the trigger and the chance was gone. Some excellent defending saw us catch them offside twice in quick succession, but this was a warning of things to come - probably more luck than judgement but maybe I'm being harsh.
The third goal was another dink over the top, Gregor appeared to be caught in two minds whether to stick or twist and their lad put it in. 0-3. This is when it all went downhill, fast. We started to stand off their players, preferring to watch the ball go past as opposed to attacking it and trying to win it back. We'd given up.
Granted yes, it was only a friendly, and yes it was the first game back, and yes it was a bit of a last minute thing - but we'd been playing so well in the first half. With all due respect to NG, they weren't four goals better than us. We played them several times last year and all of the matches were close.
I don't want to go on (and on, and on) about it, but I hope this isn't indicative of the way things will be for this half of the season. The lads were all sat down at the end of the game and told in no uncertain terms what they did wrong, and this was absolutely the right thing to do.
Don't go and point fingers at your team mates. It's a team game, a collective effort.
If you see someone unmarked, rather than point at them and tell someone else to do it, YOU do it. Take the responsibility. Help your team mates. If you're playing up front, help your defenders. If you're in midfield, support your strikers.
We go again next week.
Gregor Bulmer was named Man Of The Match for his decisive keeping today; great work coming out to nullify the danger on several occasions, and the one-handed save was Neuer-esque.