Derby Day. Fresh from the convincing victory over Westminster, the B’s approached the game against the Reds with confidence. With the unenviable task of picking a starting 11 from a team with plenty of depth,, Richie ‘Super-Coach’ Harris, after days of agonising, eventually settled on a strong and balanced lineup. Callum ‘I keep losing my Man Utd shirts’ Davidson in goals, Juan ‘Zanetti’ Livore and Matt “Being Xabi Alonso” Bate, belying their tender years as Uni Whites very own Phil and Gary Neville (much to Bate’s chagrin). The defence was shored up by Richie ‘I think I can’ Harris and Kirsten ‘Wright Street Hobo’ Staff. The midfield which is starting to look distinctly sweet and sour in flavour was anchored by George ‘Not Alonso’ Tan, Alan ‘Train’ Evans and the commanding Titus ‘above average height for an Asian’ Yap spinning and scurrying around the middle of the park. The left wing was blessed by a guest appearance from Chris ‘drumsticks’ Neale and Ian ‘almost Wez’ Routledge doing their best impression of Mo Farah on the right. The goal scoring Mirshat ‘Prodigy’ Murat completes the first eleven up front.
Picking up from where the team left off at Westminster, the Whites played their best football of the season in the first half. Grads red huffed and puffed, launching long balls into the box only for the back line to repel every ball away. Superman in particular stood out as, leaving a deep imprint of his forehead on the leather by half time. Juan’s rampaging runs and reading of the game was balanced by Matt’s more composed display on the left. Kirsten’s cheery and communicative persona smoothed the link between midfield and defence as the Whites were disciplined and patient in their play. The midfield stroked the ball around patiently, the turnover was virtually nil from Alan and George (contrary to Big Kev’s belief) as the wingers worked hard, putting pressure on the Grads defence like Mark Thornton would on every girl that walked through the doors of the PA (with his eyes). A plethora of chances came our way as opportunities which later proved costly went begging. Chris on a one on one with the keeper placed his effort on the wrong side of the post as Mirshat also wasted several chances with underhit and wayward shots on goal. At one stage, the Whites had the Reds boxed in their half for a good eternity with Juan pulling a one man shift playing in corners and throw ins on the right.
The breakthrough came as Matt Bate’s riposte to George Tan’s innocent question the previous week came in the form of a Beckham like cross to Juan who sat on the edge of the box. With a velvet like touch, Juan cajoled the ball and controlled it before arrowing the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal. A finish without the bells and whistle of his goal in the previous week but still tasted as sweet as his home made Marinade. This is a player in superb form at right full back, watch out Windows.
The mood at half-time was upbeat and the players were confident that the floodgates were not far from bursting open. A few subs were made with Matt Mostack coming into the centre of defence as Richie went upfront in search of goal as Mirshat shifted to left midfield in place of Chris. The Reds started the 2nd half aggressively and played with an extra player upfront. For the first ten minutes, the Whites controlled and dictated the tempo, however the Reds kept pushing and continued their siege, catapulting every ball their head into the Whites defence. The defence in the second half with a few changes struggled to play the back across the back and failed to cope with the balls in the air. George and Alan also stopped fetching the ball from the defence as the full backs and wingers started making unnecessary runs and dribbles. Patience was definitely not key in those 15 minutes as players attempted to overcome an unraveling team performance by forcing the play at an individual level. Every forward attack broke down easily as possession was easily lost in the final third. For about 15 minutes, the entire team did their best impression of a Bupa ad in reverse, losing control and looking like shit, completely unrecognizable from the healthy and glowing performance in the first half. Two goals, punctuated by subs Jafar and Amir , were conceded in this period as the Whites failed to clear crosses into the box. The first goal, smashed into the roof of the net and the second, which was nodded into goals by their unmarked striker could have and should have been dealt with better.
At 2-1 the Whites woke up as the team started to hold possession again. Jay who came on in right midfield played in a tantalising cross which Richie headed towards goal only for the Reds keeper saving the effort at point blank range. A top save which had more to do with luck than ability as the keeper admitted he had no idea about it after the game. The Whites pressed forward but the equaliser was not to be. Final result 2-1 down, a score which doesn’t reflect the entire game. All credit to the Reds as the Whites were left with plenty to think about. It was good to see everyone vying for participation marks in the impromptu tutorial held in the change rooms after. As disappointing as this game was, the positives largely outweighed the poor 15 minutes and the final score. The next 3 games are crucial as Rostrevor, Unley, Mercedes and Scared Heart await in a tough run into the halfway mark of the season. The recent history of the Whites has seen a B’s side often full of potential and ability but with hardly any depth. With the lessons learnt from this game, this B side spearheaded by Richard (preferably at the back when needed to) can challenge and push the traditional top reserve sides in the competition.