AA1’s kicked off the 2015 season with the same fixture as last season – against Olympic Eagles. There had been a positive showing throughout the preseason and we hoped to take that momentum and intensity into the first game. We knew we were lacking a little fitness, but relied on our determination and passion to beat the Greeks.
We started well, using the width of the pitch to spread the Eagles. Macco and Simba delegating the play to the wingers, we were able to work the ball in to some great areas. Alec lead the front line fiercely, latching on to a number of early through balls terrorising their defence, but their keeper was deceptively agile. The two Ian’s were able to clean up anything the Eagles had going forward with relative ease and could push the full backs on further. Both Joe and Danny had time to deliver quality balls into dangerous areas that unfortunately the Eagles were equal to. We looked dangerous from the dead ball as well, with Ian heading an opportunity narrowly wide on one opportunity, and both Danny and Macco shooting from range attempting to catch the keeper off guard. Both Chris and Andy got on the ball a lot in the opening spell, but at times couldn’t find the final ball into an open man. Macco was booked for a late challenge on a player that sounded like he had been shot! This was among many dubious referee calls, but overall the game had been played in good spirit, with only a few ‘soft’ fouls given. Ian Rogers’ bet for no-red-card was looking promising. Wee Danny ran in behind and turned his man inside-out before lofting the ball over the keeper, tucking it inside the far post to put Barnstoneworth up 1-0.
The spell after the goal really highlighted the fitness throughout the team, with a number of substitutions already been made. The Eagles were playing with 3 in the middle, and often managed to free a man loose from their marker, but didn’t seem to run at our defence, and we were able to hold our shape and defend their possession. Our goal seemed to spark a little life into the away side, but did not register a shot on target for Tommy in goal. We held them off for a 1-0 lead at the break.
The second half had the away team with a little more possession as we appeared to play the ball longer. A few dodgy calls landed the Eagles a number of chances within shooting distance that fortunately were butchered. The opposition looked to play a lot more direct, finding the feet of one of their front three relatively regularly throughout the second half, and seemed to play on the counter attack. Barnstoneworth were knocking on the Eagles goal mouth trying to close off the game. A number of chances falling to nearly every player, with Nick, Chris, Macco and Martin all pushing chances agonisingly close.
One particular attack down the left saw Barnstoneworth commit too many numbers, Eagles intercepted the ball on the edge of their penalty area, and a long ball knocked down the same side. A handy ball in to the strikers feet, a quick shuffle of the feet on the edge of the box, and the forward smashed it into the top left corner, leaving no time for Tommy to react.
With a good 15 minutes to go Barnstoneworth dug deep, but frustration and fatigue began to creep in to play. Both Tom and Colly kept the ball well out wide, defended well, and completely nullified Eagles possession. Right at the death, Macco wriggled free in the middle, creating a couple of yards space for himself. Had a pop – 20 yards out, the ball headed for the far post, clattered in to the infamous square posts at Paine Reserve; somehow the ball hovered above Martin who tried to better replicate Chris’ earlier attempt at a bicycle, but couldn’t steer it toward goal.
Overall, the shape was consistent and organised by the lads, and we enjoyed some lengthy spells of possession, but couldn’t capitalise on the chances created. A quick counter after committing numbers forward rattled us, and match-fitness let us down in patches. We all defended well – especially the full backs, and were able to create some decent chances. The boys can hold their heads high, and take the positives from this week in to the next with some added determination to bring home the first W of the season.