Superman

May 172013
 

A beautiful day and confidence high in the Bs following a encouraging 4-0 win the week before. The only concern being that Scotch As had been a bogey team for the Whites As in recent seasons, despite being relegated to Serie B. Word was to watch out for their tall lanky No 19 – their best player who could do damage in the air in attack.

There were selection headaches for the Bs with more central midfielders than you could poke a stick at, so a few were prodded and cajoled into other roles – Jidan out wide and Amir up front (in Longy’s absence) with George, Alan and titus shoring up the middle. After a clean sheet the defence was largely the same, with Kirsten and a somewhat hamstrung Superman in the middle, and Matt Bate out wide – the only change being Paul K slotting in for an injured goalscoring freak Juan L.

Positive early signs, with the Scotch team arriving late and not really preparing at all. Was this a ruse? Well, no, not really. Scotch were actually late all day, both mentally and physically – and in the end leaving a few whites players on the ground with bruised ankles and legs.

The Whites were strong from the off, pushing hard, dominating play and winning lots of early corners and free kicks. The whites defence had few problems, with the midfield controlling and Amir causing all sorts of problems up front. His persistence finally paid off as he shouldered past a challenge and struck a well hit shot past the keeper – 1-0.

The whites controlled the rest of the half, with set pieces the only real outlet for Scotch. Having said this, they were almost rewarded a few times as their tall timbers lumbered forward for corners, and won free headers that sailed just over the bar.

Then Amir was able to get away on the left side, with almost the same bullying move employed for the first, and struck a shot straight at the keeper. Fortunately it was hit hard, low and true and squeezed under the keeper, trickling agonisingly into the corner of the net, despite the desperate last ditch attempts by the keeper and defender. 2-0 and looking good.

The half ended with that score but only after a last minute scare. A scotch through ball landed between keeper and defenders, and with Callum uncertain Superman slid in to get a final touch away from the striker and the ball was eventually bundled away. As George warned in the dressing rooms, 2-1 would have been a very different story, so the whites needed to be careful.

The second half started with a rejuvenated scotch team pushing high and pressing for a way back in. the first ten minutes of ther half saw the whites deal with concerted pressure. Then, just as Scotch felt they may have a sniff the whites scored again, from a corner of all things (this is what other teams normally do to us!). Jidan got his head (or was it the scotch defender – who cares? Jidan was right there putting the pressure on) to the corner and headed in from point blank range.

To make things worse for scotch, Amir stuck the boot in with a well taken third. Nice hat trick. Arise Number 9.

By now the Scotch team were ragged, and as reinforcements began to be introduced they could only really chase shadows for most of the rest of the match, or commit fouls, and they did this aplenty with rash challenges on Amir, Alan and Superman in particular.

Jidan put another dagger throught the Sctochies hearts when he said whatever Amir can do I can do better, as he drifted forward and sent a lovely chipped shot over the head of the keeper for five (his lovely through ball for Justin later was also a joy to behold from a purists pov), and the rout was completed when Titus – pushed high with the departure of Amir – stuck a nice angled shot past the keeper.

6-0 final score. Next cup round awaits. Bogey team dispatched. Lots of goals and good ones, but just as pleasing for the squad, a second clean sheet in a row, with the whites showing good composure and discipline at the back right until the end.

Hard to pick a man of the match, but it would probably have to be Alan this week, who did all the simple things right while grabbing not as much of the glory, while Amir’s brutalist hat trick stands on its own.

May 062013
 

Coming off an impressive demolition of Westminster the week before, the Bs were pumped for the game against the Reds.

A work-in-progress Bs had come up against the Reds in pre-season, and matched them pretty well. The main memory being of a team that was big, strong, hard to the ball and able to pass it around – but the second half in that game was dominated by the Whites and it was felt that if the team could hold solid for the first half, then it would be in with a real shot.

The Whites started with largely the same back line as against Westminster, but with Superman partnering this time with Kirsten in the centre (in the absence of Paul K) and Matt Bate slipping in at left back. This back line did its job, massaging the ball around well and holding the line. The movement was good through the midfield – with Alan, George Tan and Titus providing lots of movement and running nice triangles from the defence and out wide where Chris Neale and Ian Routledge were able to exploit a lot of room.

It was an impressive first half display – probably the best half of football all season by the Whites – and the reward came when the whites pushed forward and a ball squeezed out the edge of the penalty box where red-hot-goalscoring-form Juan stopped, propped and guided the ball across the keeper into the bottom far corner. Glory Glory Juan Livore.

Half-time 1-0 and the whites felt pretty good. Perhaps too good.

Second half, and a bit of reshuffling happened with Chris Neale having to be taken off, and Superman pushing forward with Matt Mostak coming on, hoping that the job had been done at the back.

While the second half started OK, though, some sort of,  what? – lethargy? overconfidence? – crept in and the Whites seemed to go to sleep for about 15 minutes. Although to give them credit the Reds had come out a lot stronger in the second half, and had begun to really press hard. But the result? A two goal sucker punch.

One movement on the left committed a lot of players from both sides, the ball lofted over them all and bounced in the penalty box, with no one seeming to want to take ownerhsip of it. Next thing a Reds player smacked it with a vicious strike into the top of the net and it was 1-1. Whites visibly dropped heads, and couldnt get composure back.

The next goal came from a mistake, that led to a free kick, which floated to the far post. While Juan seemed to be pushed from behind, there was no call from the ref, and the large Dolf Lundgren lookalike striker had the simplest header from one foot out. 2-1.

From this point on, while it was not exactly champagne stuff, the Whites worked back in the game. What was missing was the passing around the back line, and through the midfield, that had characterised the first half – and there was much debate after the game about what this occurred (changing tactics of the Reds who ushed more numbers forward? or just not enough Whites composure?). Despite this, the Whites fought hard, and carved out a few chances.

Juan Livore sent Superman on a sprint (well the term sprint is perhaps overcooking this goose) with a well placed pass which he did get to before a defender but could only strike straight at the keeper with his left. The best chance also fell to Superman after good work on the wing by Jay P, on as a sub, who sent a peach of a ball to the back post which Superman ran onto, only to have the spread eagled keeper somehow beat it back from point blank range. Amazing. After the game the keeper admitted that he had no idea where the ball was when he’d jumped and it had actually struck him fair in the family jewels – so no goal but at least some damage had been inflicted.

But huff and puff as they might, the slickness was gone, and the Whites couldnt pull back the result. 2-1 final score.

Disappointing result, but the Bs can hold their head up and know that they have the ability to match it with any team if they can make sure they dont fall asleep like they did for 15 minutes in future. Alan Evans man of the match, but overall the midfield with George and Titus in the engine room did very weel for most of the match

Let’s hope we’ve learned our lesson

May 062013
 

Whites Bs players arrived impressively early for this one, feeling like the early season was in the balance. 2 wins, 2 disappointing losses (for different reasons) so far.  A sense that a win was absolutely necessary right here to set up the season, and also help generate the winning feeling across the club.

Structure across the back the same as the starting defence against the Westies. Justin Kanga back on the wing (having been missed the week before), Jidan in for an absent George Tan and Long up top the only other major changes. And this structure paid dividends once again with the Whites pretty much on top for the first half, although not quite as slick from the back as the Eagles pushed men high. The only real threat by the Eagles though was from the long ball, with the keeper possessing a booming kick, which continually sent the ball sailing over Kirsten and Superman at the back, and caused them to have to adjust their defensive line. But other than that things were kept pretty much air tight.

As the half went on the Whites began to run rampant through the midfield, and Long was doing his work well up top, holding up for the midfielders coming through and causing all sorts of problems. The only complaint coming from the back was “take a shot guys, stop faffing around with it”. Then out of nowehere – almost as if in response – Titus scored two absolute screamers from outside the box, almost carbon copy in terms of positioning (and in fact about the same spot he hit his first for the club – does he only score from distance?). The best came from  from a run, where he beat two players and seemingly off balance hit the ball at an angle that for all money should have skewed off his boot, but somehow stayed true and swerved past the keepers outstretched dive. Two absolutely first class goals, watched from the perfect angle by this correspondent.

Not to be beaten, however, a few minutes later Jidan scored an even more spectacular goal. When Kev had said he had freedom to shoot from where ever he wanted, Im not sure he even meant from about 5 meters in front of half way with the keeper not far off his line. But from the moment he hit it it never looked like missing, and sailed over the keeper into the net. I’d have paid to see that one

The last ten or fifteen minutes saw the Eagles push up the urgency, and Titus dropped back to sit at defensive mid while last week’s man of the match Alan – who had been dispossessed a couple of times at the back – pushed to number 10 to get a little more freedom. This gave the Whites a better balance and they saw the half through.

3-0 at half time and surely this time they could afford to feel confident.

2nd half, safety first and no immediate changes as the Whites continued to grind out the result. As the half went on though the Eagles really lost structure and the Whites dominated again.

Juan took a knock and Paul K came on to replace him, Amir came on the left wing to replace Mirshat who had worked hard all game and is beginning to take better options and not always rely on his pace and trickery, while Harry’s introduction allowed Superman to push up top once again. This eventually paid dividends when Harry’s free kick lofted into the box skewed off an Eagles defender’s shin and fell straight to Superman on the penalty spot – and with John George looking on, he did his best to emulate the master’s ice-cold vein finishing, and sent the ball into the bottom corner of the net. For a moment the referee seemed to agree with the linesman’s offside call (the seemingly clueless linesman whose flag went up any time the ball went past the defensive line!) but fortunately he agreed with Superman’s  pleading: he was not offside because the ball had been played to him by a defender. thank you sir.

Having said that, the ref then made what most saw as an inexplicable call as Superman beat two players in the box, before having his foot trodden on by the second. Clear penalty, surely sir? Apparently not, said the ref who claimed that the man of steel had been anything but and gone down way too easily. Come on! the only good news being that there was no yellow card for simulation.

By now the Eagles midfield was ragged and the Whites surged again and again without being able to find another goal, perhaps a little too impatient at times, and unable to take full advantage. A couple of great runs by Justin saw crosses go across the goal when a diagonal cut back was probably in order, while Amir caused all sorts of problems for their right defence without being able to find that killer pass.

While this was probably the only minor down side re the end result (it could have easily been 6 or 8 or 10 nil), the most pleasing fact is that the Whites did not concede – the first time in the league this season. Well done to all of those who kept the ship tight at the back. Also importantly, none of the sub changes unbalanced the side, and all those who came on added value to the overall result. Excellent work

Titus once again man of the match, pretty much, but also a shout out to Jidan who looks to enjoy having a little bit more time on the ball in the Bs and had a big grin on his face all though the game.

As Matt Bate put it: Glamour restored!

Apr 222013
 

On a picture perfect day, and on a picture perfect pitch, the Bs lined up to make amends for a demoralising first round loss. We were up against a Westminster team that we had no real intelligence on. They looked young and fresh, but otherwise there was little to go on.

A slight tactical shift around for the start, with Superman Harris sitting in the centre of the back four, with the Whites focused on ensuring that they didnt concede in the first 20. This seemed to pay off, with the Westies not providing too much danger, with the only real threat being their no lanky no 3, who could win balls in the air but provided little other danger on goal. Whites willingness to play it around the back well and look to pass short balls on the ground as much as possible was very encouraging.

The Whites slowly gained dominance of the game, against (let’s face it) not a great Westies team, with George providing good cover for the back four, and Amir Khasanov being given a lot of room to roam. But it was Titus Yap who really provided the run and carry through the midfield, winning balls and basically bossing the centre. There was plenty of support, with Justin and Ian out wide doing plenty of running and delivering, and Mirshat working hard up front and causing problems with his pace, although as a winger by trade he has still a little to learn about the runs to make as a number nine.

The first half was probably one to be remembered for missed chances, in particular when Justin and Ian both smacked in great crosses which deserved to be put away. However, the breakthrough did eventually come, when Titus (who else) won a ball, and on the run smacked a great shot that beat the keeper from distance. It took a little deflection, but take nothing away from the shot which was hit with venom. Half time 1-0 up.

The second half began well for the whites, who almost went up in the first 15 seconds, after Superman got his head on to a poor defensive clearance, landing the ball at Justin Kanga’s feet, but the defender did just enough to stop the shot. Good signs for the whites.

And so it continued, with the half pretty much one of whites domination. The first came from an unlikely source, but the goal was pretty classy. A good passing movement on the left, Superman turned inside and saw whites overlapping on the right (like they’d been told to in training) and smacked the ball across to a running Juan who in one movement chested the ball, skipped over one challenge, allowed the ball to bounce and smacked it into the top corner. Ooh ahh, silky. This started the goal fest, as the whites all poured forward.

Mirshat grabbed the next, showing composure in the box, before burying it in the bottom corner. Then Superman grabbed another header, which was almost a carbon copy of the previous week’s goal, but this time with a cross from the left rather than the right, George Tan this week’s provider with a lovely chipped free kick (“who the f… is Matt Bate?” was George’s response to the goal).

The Whites were now rampant, with Superman releasing Justin who outpaced the Westies defence to make it 5, then Longy seemed to be taking the piss, when he found himself in the box surrounded by players, faked to shoot, sent the keeper and about three defenders the wrong way and then calmly buried the shot in the net. Good to have you back on the scoring sheet for the Bs, Longy.

The only slight downside to the game was losing a goal right at the death, from a set play, with the Westies number 3 managing to ghost in unmarked, and poor communication at the back allowing him to head a cross past Callum.

So 6-1, not as perfect as it could have been but a great response to week 1’s loss, and well played to all. Good to welcome back Matt Mostak to his spiritual home at the Bs, and the Bs enter the top 4. Let’s make sure we stay there for the rest of the season.

Apr 192013
 

Well, it was the best of times, it was the wost of times.

The Bs – with what looks on paper the strongest overall squad we’ve had for some years – went down to a strong, physical Pembroke side 5-2.

The score seems brutal, but it was clearly a case of what could have been.

First 15 minutes, the Bs looked competitive at least, and matched the run of the Pembrokers. Amir putting in some extra grit against his old team, and tempers firing up, but a few good signs. The Whites were playing their rehearsed moves, playing out from defence OK and keeping it pretty tight.

Over the next 25 minutes, however, the Whites conceded some goals from basic defensive mistakes in a manner so reminiscent of recent seasons. I think all agree that the less said about these the better, but the end result 3-0 down and the Whites struggled to keep their shape and put together the formations out of defence, with too much of a gap between defence and midfield.

But to their credit, the Whites refused to pass blame or lose their heads, and came out in the second half with little to lose. Pressing high was the key and it wasnt long before they got a reward. After a nice move down the left wing, Justin Kanga won the ball away from a Pembroke defender and pulled off an audacious chip over the stranded keeper which sailed into the net.

Suddenly, the Whites had a sniff and the tempo lifted. Ten minutes later a peach of a cross from Juan and Superman Harris rose like his namesake managing to flick the cross into the top far corner above the goalkeeper’s desperate dive. Celebrations were suitably ecstatic, with the gathering crowd of whites supporters urging them on.

The Whites were now in the ascendancy, pressing high and forcing mistakes. Justin casuing all sorts of problems on the left wing in particular, and Long Nguyen taking up some great positions, with one sharp chance to bring the game equal that he could not quite execute, and another flying past his outstretched foot. For about 25 minutes of the second half the momentum was all white.

But then it all came crashing down. The Whites defence, having regained their early composure, lost their focus for a flash of a moment, a Pembroke attacker seemed to just stroll through and suddenly it was 4-2. This quickly turned to 5-2 with another simple mistake, and the game was pretty much all over.

The last ten minutes was played with ten man, after a lung bursting run from Emran at left back into the box left him clutching his ankle, but the whites at least did not concede any more.

Tough to lose, but some good early signs, and impressive resilience was something to take out of the game. Justin Kanga was Whites best on ground, causing problems all day for the Pembroke defence and a lovely goal that nearly inspired what would have been a memorable comeback.