After only one game in four weeks due to Sydney’s poxy winter it was time to get back to action for the boys of AA4. The last run out had resulted in a disappointing 1-0 loss to Queens Park, where the lack of Eddie or Nick up front had exposed our biggest weakness all season, the inability of the midfield to chip in with goals. But having only conceded one goal in the last three the team was ready to go for the top of the table clash with high flyers Mackabi.
Maccabi had been knocking them in for fun all season as BUFC were all too aware of, after suffer a humiliating 6-0 defeat at the hands of these boys early in the season at Paine Reserve. To add a bit of spice to the already massive mid-season occasion it was the last game that Ronan was going to play for the team before he left Oz to continue his travels, needless to say as he woke up on the lovely bright winter’s morning he was hoping to set the record straight before he left.
Bar Dan, Nick and Gaz and Gary the team was pretty much at full strength. Starting line-up was Chris (c) in nets a back three of Anders, Joe and Richie. A midfield 5 of Ro on the right, Wynton on the left with Fegal, Gav and Mark in the centre, upfront was Steve Walsh and Eddie.
BUFC were pretty strong out of the blocks, looking to impose themselves on the nippy Mackabi. A few hard tackles went in and we were dominating in midfield. Mark in particular started on fire, completely taking the tricky number 9 out of the game with some lovely timed tackles in the middle to break up the momentum for Mackabi and give BUFC a great base to attack high up the pitch. This strong midfield play lead to Gav playing tidy pass out to Murphy on the right who was open in space who whipped a nice early ball into the box, as Andy Gray would have said it was in “no man’s land” for the defence between the keeper and the back line. The team held their breath, surely poacher Eddie was going to speed in and finish it off for an early one nil, but no, he was nowhere to be seen! Picking his arse I think on the edge of the box.
More pressure followed in the first 15 minutes and a free kick was won about twenty five yards out on the left after more strong work by the middle three, Wynton whipped it in but it just flew by the near post. A few minutes later and BUFC won another free this time on the right side, Murphy saw his name in lights and decided to have a go, when really the percentages would have said to put it in the mixer and let big Joe or Richie head it home, but no he went for it! Not a bad effort skimming the top of the bar with the keeper beaten all ends up but the bar is not the net and the game stood at 0-0. BUFC were definitely dominant at this stage and with the playmaker number 9 under marshal guard from Mark Mackabi were struggling to create, that began to change about 20 mins into the first half and Mackabi began to show the class that had them top of the league, they went for plan B, getting the ball to the feet of the number 10, who was working wonderings holding it up. This allowed them to build a bit of platform and bring the 9, 8 and left wing 6 into the game. Surprisingly their best weapon seemed to be the throw in. They would give it to ten’s feet who wold work some space, even with the close attention of Richie and inevitably one if not two of the quick attacking forwards were bursting to take it off him and create a bit of havoc. This had BUFC on the back foot, struggling to keep up with Mackabi’s pace and invention, although we got a bit ragged sometimes we seemed to be dealing with the threat pretty well, a nice hard tackle from Richie here and there, one from Ro to take the 6 down as he steamed through we doing wonders and Mackabi were getting frustrated. Corners were not producing much for them as BUFC were definitely more physical all round, but the throw in’s were still causing problems. BUFC were far too slow to do a simple thing to stop them. (Right Lads this is my last coaching tip if you play them again in the finals at some stage), all that was needed was for one of the midfield three to drop in front of the big 10 with Richie hassling in behind, this would have stopped him being the out ball from the throw every time. And then like a sucker punch a throw came in and 10 took it, BUFC dealt with it pretty well but it came out to the left back about 25/30 yards out on the left, all alone, he swept in a nice ball, which flew over the heads of at least two of the centre halves, some thought Chris called it, but that is debatable and boom a slick side foot volley into the top left hand corner! No stopping that finish but the cross could have been dealt with way better. This was Mackabi showing why they were top, one clear chance and it was in! No messing, no falling asleep up front, just clinical!
Determined not to let our heads go down BUFC pushed on from tip off. But we were lacking a bit cohesion that we had in the first 15 mins and balls became longer and longer. In the middle of all this Walshy was having his best game for AA4, every time he got good ball to feet he was taking men on, beating them and looking to create a chance but Eddie just didn’t seem to be at the races, hardly getting into the game and struggling to read the balls that Walshy was working hard to create. Gaffer thought a change was needed and a triple substitution took place, Ro, Wynton, and Gav off for Tony, Wes and Brendan respectively. This set of fresh legs, particularly on the wing, gave BUFC new life, playing either side of this formation is particularly tiring and without a game in a few weeks Ro and Wynton were pretty done at that stage. BUFC pushed on and began to find the rhythm again, a couple of corners ensued but without Dan there was a bit of apprehension about who was taking them. This resulted in a few wasted corners, not to name names, Wes, that didn’t beat the first man and like the early frees from Wynton and Ro we were not taking advantage of the height and strength advantage we had over them.
Then just before half time, a moment that must have changed the game, the ball is played to Walshy’s feet, he does well and tries to flick it over the defender about 5 yards inside the box, the defender has his hands miles above his head and it hits him clean in the hand, stone cold peno but no. The stupid blind ref, thinks he was covering his face!!!! What a C**t that is the clearest handball ever seen in ESFA history, until Eddie in the second half and he waves it away. 1-1 at half time was the least we deserved but it wasn’t to be, so we headed in 1-0 down knowing it was all to do. Not before the ever dominant Mark had a strike from 18 yards that was well saved by the keeper.
Team talk was short and simple keep it up, don’t panic if they have possession and try take our chances oh and one more think wake the fu*k up Eddie and get into the game!!!!
Second started a little slower and BUFC did not create much but neither did Mackabi, Mark in particular but Ferg and Brendan were really dominating the Mackabi guys and the tackles were hard and fair like the first half. Then the killer blow, a throw in (again!!!!!) at the half way line and no one picks up the 9, he hadn’t done much until then but he gets it with so much space and works it nicely up the right wing, a nothing ball in behind into the right side of the box and bang! Pretty much out of nowhere the Mackabi sub just smashed it in from about 12/15 yards out almost on the by-line, top left corner! Quality finish and no stopping it. That was it 2-0 and it looked like the writing was on the wall, but there was still plenty of time. “ya can’t stop them” were the gaffers words, but it all stemmed from poor defending on the throw, which could have been stopped!
Five minutes later, it seemed all hope was gone, the Ref went from being a C**t to a F**king C**t, Richie or Anders I’m not sure goes to clear the ball under some pressure and Joe, tries to turn out of the way only for it to hit him flush on the chest, whistle blows and it’s a pen. Are you having a laugh?? And after the handball that was let go in the 1st half, this was a pure joke. Ro, still on the bench at this stage, let the ref know in no uncertain terms what he thought about that! But as usual there was little if nothing that could be done now! Luckily a weak peno followed but in fairness to Chris he guessed right and saved it, at least some Justice was done. Not long after this Walshy and Eddie combined to defend from the front and a bit of luck went our way, the keeper smacked the clearance off Walshy who took it around him and slotted it in! 20 to go and it was game on. A quick change of the wingers with Ro and Wynton on and it was all to play for. The game became a bit scrappy at this point with both teams clearly tired from giving it everything but BUFC were in the ascendancy and looking for the equaliser. Then it happened a nice ball out to Ro on the right who could see Eddie in space, flipped it over the last defender, with Eddie onside, no one near him all the time in the world, 10 maybe 12 yards out. Collectively we held our breath, just what we deserve, back in it! 2-2 with 10 to go and a real chance to turn it around, just slot it Ed, like the golden boot of last year. It has to be! But it’s not, not only does Eddie not score, he doesn’t even hit the target, slicing it wide on the near post!!!!!! Oh no, his day is going from bad to worse, you could see in his eyes the despair, they whole team felt it, the clearest chance we had blown, by our main man. You could see in the back of his eye’s “maybe I’ll be dropped when Nick comes back”, Maybe!!! Refusing to give in we pushed on, creating a corner on the right hand side. Wynton goes to take it but Ro protests, let me swing it in Wynton, you’re a better header of the ball I say! Not to mention your three corners today have been piss! No, no says Wynton I got this one! I walk away thinking, if this doesn’t beat the first man I might have to go over and kick him in the nuts myself! Just as predicted Wynton’s fourth corner of the day is pure piss too!!!! Not even getting to the edge of the six yard box! Ah well, he’s a trier! BUFC pushed on hard but just couldn’t create another chance, the game was over and we had lost 2-1. Mackabi will have felt lucky to get all 3 points, but class in front of goal was the difference on the day! BUFC had their chances but couldn’t take them and the ref made a dogs bollox of the first half pen decision.
BUFC walked away knowing the level of effort was the best all season and that Mackabe definitely don’t want to play us again, the team that lost 6-0 were well gone and we were more than a match for them on the day and given a couple of small details going our way, i.e. managing their throws and taking our chances and game was ours. As Ro trudged off he felt a huge sadness that this was the last time he would take to the field with such gentlemen, such legends, such heroes but such is life!! There was no swan song to be had but in the end no more could have been asked from anyone on the pitch, expect maybe Eddie in the 1st half.
Lads as I said it’s been a pure pleasure to play alongside you all, and I wish you all the best going forward, you never know I could be back!
Barnstoneworth United FC, a tough, hard, ruthless fighting unit!!!!!!