Off the back of a great win and clean sheet against Coogee B, Barnstonworth United AA1 were 3 games and 3 wins away from securing that all important second-place spot. Today’s game vs Redfern looked on paper to be the hardest of the 3 and after the poor home performance against this team a couple of weeks ago it was certainly a fixture that all Barny players were not taking lightly.
This week’s squad was very thin on the ground in comparison to the previous week. Some key players missing through injury and other commitments left us with a starting line-up of Gordo in goal, a back 4 of Joe Newman and Boot at full back, Simba and Joe Peters centre half, Stevie and Alec on the wings, Davie and Merv in the centre and Walshy and Zla-Tom leading the line. On the bench was an injured Sam Binks, who bizarrely turned up in disguise, not sure who he was trying to fool but Sam Palmer clocked him instantly! An injured and hungover Chris Moore and big shout out to Sam Palmer who stepped out of retirement to help the team. Adding to the challenge was the record breaking temperatures which were forecast for the afternoon, Zla-Tom backing up his comments in the Whatsapp group from the night before and making it 2 out of 2 vs Redfern turning up steaming and the ref doing a no show resulting in Eddie having to take the whistle. All Barnstonworth players knew they would have to club together and give 110% for the 90 to get the much needed 3pts they were after!
It was an unusually slow start for the Barnstonworth who for the first 15 minutes were under some pressure from an organised Redfern side. Some good possession and passing from the Redfern midfield suggesting that this could be a long afternoon for the lads. Adding to the challenge Boot limped off injured early doors. Fridays nights 5’s tournament claiming its second victim. Barny had to reach for the bench a lot earlier than expected and made a like for like swap at left back with Sam Palmer stepping out of retirement straight into the action! Sam being as modest as ever describing the change as being the pivotal and match changing moment, giving the team the lift and stability they needed for the remainder of the game.
Redfern earned the first corner of the game which was defended well by Simba. Merv collected the ball in the middle of the park and set the ball into the right-hand corner for Joe Newman to chase onto. Joe got the luck of the challenge from the covering defender and was left with the ball just wide of the 6 yard box. Zla-Tom and Davey Shannon flooded the box and the low cross picked out Davie got the ball caught under his foot less than 2 yards out which the keeper then collected. A great counter attack from Barny that deserved a goal. Walshy was the only man celebrating as Dave Shannon now holds the title for miss of the season, claiming the award from Walshy after his abysmal effort against Coogee B last week. This was the turning point in the half and following on from that first chance, a long ball from the back left Walshy with an opportunity for the opener, but some good defensive work from the Redfern centre half and keeper kept the scores level.
Barnstonworth kept the pressure on, forcing Redfern into their first wave of what would be many changes for the afternoon. The changes combined with the Barny pressure seemed to interrupt the Redfern rhythm even more. Merv collected the ball on the edge of the box, taking on 3 of the Redfern defence with some clever dummies and sharp turns. He laid the ball off to Alec just inside the 18 yard box who mimicked the magic man’s dummy shot, passed the defender and was subsequently brought down by the defenders stretched attempt to win the ball. Stonewall penalty awarded and deserved after some quality build up. Zla-Tom looking to make it 5 penalties’ out of 5 had just about sweated out the last Jager Bomb from the night before, stepped up and lodged the ball into the bottom left corner, 1-0 Barny.
The Barnstonworth defence continued to deal comfortably with what Redfern were throwing at them. Simba and Joe Peters were winning the ground and aerial battle with two tricky strikers to contend with and Sam Palmer looking like he’s never been away, comfortable at left back. Iain Boot, who spent the rest of the game searching #alpacasofinstagram on his phone, might find it tough to get his spot back for the remaining games. Some good cover work from the midfield and strikers made it difficult for Redfern to find any rhythm on the already tiny pitch and Barnstoneworth were starting to dominate the match.
Things were looking comfortable for a while but then a lapse in concentration allowed the interchanging Redfern right winger/centre mid the opportunity to get a good shot off on the edge of the box, forcing a good save from Gordo to his left. The ball then cleared to safety by Joe Peters and moments later Barny were on the attack again with Stevie and Joe Newman linking up well down the right-hand side. Stevie had one defender left to beat at a tight angle but instead played the cut back pass to Joe who had timed his run a little early. Walshy being the predator he is was lurking just behind and screamed for the ball, Joe stretched a leg back and was able to get the touch needed past the last covering defender to guide the ball into Walshys path who buried it in the bottom right corner with a first-time strike giving the keeper no hope this time! 2-0 Barny.
There was a slight scare towards the end of the half when Redfern played a through ball to the edge of the box which found their striker all alone at least 5 yards behind the Barny defence. Eddie decided that we weren't playing offside in this game and allowed play to continue and fortunately for Barnstoneworth the finish from the striker was worse than the referees decision and flew miles past the post. The remainder of the half was reasonably tame, Eddie soon blew up for the half, Barny taking a solid lead into the break.
Barnstonworth returned to the pitch playing into the sun for the second half. Expecting Redfern to throw everything at them to capitalise on the weather conditions it was no surprise to see the 7 foot striker starting the half. Barnstoneworth however had other ideas and looked as comfortable as where they left off before the break. Merv and Davey clearing up any lose balls in the middle and some show boating from Merv in the Barny half bamboozled the Redfern midfield resulting in cheers from the bench/hospital ward on the side.
The third goal came shortly after the break with some more good link up from Stevie and Joe down the right. Stevie fed the ball down the line to Joe, with one defender to beat and Barny bodies flooding the box the cross to the back post looked inevitable. Joe opted to leave the trade mark step over(s) out on this occasion (much to the crowd’s disappointment, who now expect such finesse every week) faked a cross with his right and instinctively unleashed, what everyone expected to be a cross with his left foot, a curling effort towards the back post. The Redfern keeper, rooted to the spot in expectation of one of the other Barny players getting on the end of it, could only stand and watch as the ball nestled in the bottom corner. Merv cheekily claiming to have got a touch on the ball but Walshy stepped in and confirming the goal as Joe’s. 3-0 Barny.
After the 3rd it was pretty much plain sailing for the Barnstonworth 11. It was all about the clean sheet and ensuring the remaining 11 left the pitch injury free. Joe Peters going as far as describing the second half as boring and having nothing to do for the majority. Redfern's Subbuteo size pitch made defending the long ball pretty easy as everything took one bounce and either resulted in a goal kick or going straight through to Gordo.
Merv had a good chance to add a 4th with some more good skill inside the Redfern box. Zla-Tom also created a good opportunity which was saved by the Redfern keeper. Redfern realising they needed to start throwing more men forward if they wanted to get anything from the game created one last chance which forced an instinctive save to Gordo's left. Other than that, the midfield was protecting the defence well and Redfern were restricted to a handful of half chances and long shots. Walshy tucked in on the left wing to allow Alec to push forward with heavy legs, Tom dropped into the centre to add some further stability to the midfield and prevent any further Redfern pressure.
Barnstonworth saw the remainder of the game out comfortably and a relieved Eddie blew for full time with Barnstonworth coming away with a 3-0 win. A second clean sheet in as many games and a solid team effort from the lads under difficult circumstances. With 2 games to go vs the leagues bottom two sides Barnstonworth are in a great position to claim a second-place finish. We need to go into the games like any other match and really find some form heading into the play-offs. We are beginning to play the style of football we all knew we were capable of and at the all-important business end of the season.
Man of the match: Joe Newman