Barnstoneworth United AA1 v Queens Park

Normally an away game against Queens Park is played on the beautiful, expansive synthetic pitch at Moore Park. It was a substantial downgrade to see we had patchy clumps of grass scattered over the pitch and remnants of Bondi Beach along the by-line. To make matters worse, they made us play in construction workers singlets to avoid the “clash” of colours; the sun was annoyingly low in the sky; there was a strong headwind; and the match ball was a balloon. So anyone could be forgiven for thinking this lot were a bunch of clowns.

The starting XI for Barnie was Gordon in goal, the usual back four of Boot on the left, Jimmy on the right and the two Joes in the centre. Alec lined up on the left flank, with Dave Shannon and Merv in the middle of the park, and Chris on the right. Up top we had Walshy and big Tom. Dave Thompson and Andy on the bench, with Simba if we got desperate.

With a completely new array of faces in the opposition team, we didn’t really know what to expect. For the first 10 minutes, they seem to just lump the ball out to their winger – Captain Fantastic, and look to recycle it inside through midfield runners, but Boot had their lad in his back pocket which meant they weren’t having too much success. Because the pitch was so bad, and the ball was so hard to handle, the game started quite scrappy, with a few miskicks and poor touches. We got rid of the balloon, and we were able to play some quality football.

After a couple of half chances, a quick counter saw a nicely weighted ball over the top of the Queens Park defence, with their defender scrambling to make it in front of the oncoming Dave Shannon. The defender appeared to get in front of Dave, but Dave stepped around him, throwing him out the way and coolly slotting it into a near empty net given the keeper had come for the ball but not made it. A little bit of luck it wasn’t disallowed for a foul, even though Dave is protesting his innocence. 1-0 Barnie.

Bolstered with the confidence from going 1-up, Barnie tried to knock the ball around a bit more, but got caught out when Joe Newman under-hit his back pass, gifting it to their striker. He chased him down and kicked his ankles out from under him, bringing him down in the area. The ref pointed straight to the spot, and to his pocket. Thankfully, only yellow. Somehow the dodgy balloon had made its way back on to the pitch, and Queens Park’s Captain Fantastic stepped up, only to smash it wide.

Moments later, shades of Barcelona were witnessed as Joe Peters played a ball in to Moorman’s feet, who played it first time back to Jimmy, then successive triangles and 1-2’s up the right hand side to get in behind. Chris had the ball in the box at a tight angle, but saw his chance at glory, but cannoned in to the side netting, much to Walshy and Tom’s dismay. Some great football though.

After a fair bit of pressure from Queens Park was absorbed, Dave called for a change as the centre of the park was being overrun with their three against our two. But not before Gordon made a save from his top drawer: their winger had burnt a whole through our defence with his pace and was 1v1 with Gordon who sprinted out and smothered the shot. Top class! Off came Tom, and on came Dave Thompson, even after his warm-up scare with a twinge in his hammy.

Chris made up for his earlier miss minutes later, when he put a perfectly placed in-swinging corner in, gaining spin and momentum from the strong wind, that struck the inside of the far post and straight in. 2-0 Barnie.

As Queens Park weren’t having much luck with their game plan, they swapped their wingers attempting to mix it up. Just before the break, Barnie gave the ball away cheaply in a dangerous area, and Queens Park could look up, swing a ball in over Jimmy’s head, where their winger cut back on his right foot and buried it past Gordon at the far post. Half Time: 2-1 BUFC.

After the break, it was relatively even for 10 minutes or so. Queens Park came close to an equaliser when their star man found some space in the box and struck a shot through the crowd of bodies, the ball hit the post and bounced favorably for Barnie who were able to clear. Both sides continued to create chances, and there were less errors as players were getting used to the dreadful pitch. Barnie was finding some success down the flanks with Alec and Andy, with the overlap runs of Boot and Jimmy with the midfield three of Dave, Chris and Merv giving plenty of support to Walshy up top. A couple of half chances created from some quality crosses in to the box, Barnie could feel a slight advantage. Finally the break came after some intricate play up the left where Chris squared it to Walshy, feinting one way, and cutting back, and then placing it in the far corner out of reach. 3-1 BUFC.

The game was becoming quite stretched, and there seemed to be a lot of room between the two defensive lines, which saw the match become more end-to-end. Jimmy could ping some 30-40 yard passes across to Alec, who had the better of his marker. Alec could bring the ball down, and just have a free reign – and he made the most of it. Barnie were able to attack in these 4v4 scenarios with through balls, crosses and intricate passes. One of the crosses was just out of reach and flashed across the six-yard box to the right of the goal, where Andy just managed to keep it from going behind. He cut it back on to his left foot, picked his spot, and curled it in to the far top left corner. 4-1 BUFC.

The Queens Park spirit had dropped, and they weren’t so eager to defend quick counter attacks, so Barnie kept trying to get the ball forward quickly and exploit the space. A few minutes after the fourth, Moorman burst through the middle to get on the end of another flick on by Tom, beat a couple of players and calmly chipped it over the keeper from close range to make it 5-1.

The tired legs were beginning to sink in, which lead to another reshuffle in midfield with 10 to go to see out the game. A couple of good deliveries from both Chris and Alec from corners must have given Walshy some essential intel – he’d only just come on, when Alec’s corner delivery landed right on his boot, a yard from the goal. God knows how it got past all of the tall timber, and the keeper, but he could have had that one with his eyes closed. Maybe he did. 6-1 BUFC.

Overall, an increase in intensity on previous weeks, with some hard challenges made all over the pitch, an increase in desire to win the ball, and some composure in front of goal. A little bit of luck along the way helped, but ultimately the game was won by controlling the middle of the park. It gave a solid platform for the defence to play out from, and supported the final third to convert the opportunities. Smiles all round.

Man of the match: Alec