By Chris Armitage
with a shiny new shirt..
Whilst today's oppo Woking were not as strong as Marlow or Guildford they were no pushover and our lads had to be on their mettle, pull together and work consistently to get the upper hand after being a goal behind.
Today, with Dom and Max injured and Will A unavailable we were struggling to field a team but reinforcements were on-hand in the shape of Sam Welsh making his debut for us having just joined the club (shiny new shirt) and Henry shrugging off the GK pads for a profitable stint at centre forward and left midfield
The boys have shown great courage and resilience and fitness in the last few losing games, looking better in the secondhalf if we are honest. Today they were asked to focus in the first half to make sure we did not go needlessly 3-0 behind and leave too much to do at the end. The luxury of a 12th man meant we could keep a solid platform at the back and rotate the forwards off, risking people being 'out of their comfort zone' for a while. Notably Marcus and Oli put in good left midfield shifts whilst Harrison caused problems on the right wing.
Some lively opening exchanges saw Woking attacking through the right channel and Reading responding likewise. Sam was immediately a reliable target in midfield and passing became the method of attack. When we won a penalty corner, with Oli the planned shootist off the pitch the boys did well to come with another plan. Marcus out to Dobbie and Sam flicked it in low for the goal. The next corner Marcus was off and in the second half Dobby was off. Each time this was sorted in the huddle with no sore throaty shouting from the side required. Which is exactly what we want.
With confidence rising, and Sam running like a pinball in the centre, we were soon recycling the ball and producing 2 or three phases of composed attacks with everyone getting touches of the ball. The parents were treated to some great overlapping ping pong passing moves over on their side of the pitch as Will, Ed, Dobby, Harrison linked via Sam cruised through the gears. We probably should have gone 2-0 ahead but for a couple of last passes not working in the D. Meanwhile, Woking's right blew hot and cold as they made too many substitutions but one of the hot spells resulted in a deserved goal. The lesson being not to all back off from an advancing player so he gets into the D and gets a shot away..
At half time and 1-1 it was clear that Sam was being left to do too much on his own, the boys had started to spectate or run away expecting a miracle ball. He was in danger of getting tired and it was soon to be our undoing as Woking were able to intercept some long passes and convert that to a 2-1 lead.
This weeks coaching point: When the centre-mid attracts two or three oppo players around himself it is vital that the next wave of help arrives within 15-20 metres pretty quickly- the ball is then PASSED out of the melee NOT dribbled - and means we immediately have a two or three player overload somewhere else on the pitch. It takes skill (well-done Sam, man -of -the match) and composure to twist, turn, change direction and keep the ball live until there is a sniff of an 'out' pass, the rest of you need to read where the out channels are and get available. Quite often in our good spells this is what was making the difference.
Next time it is unlikely to be Sam, but more importantly this applies everywhere on the pitch. As soon as one of our team looks like winning the ball, or is receiving a pass whilst under pressure (think about Max's aerials to Max H last week) the help must be arriving and it's a pass that will get the player out of trouble and start the next positive phase of the move.
As the half wore on we made changes throughout the defensive line and I was pleased throughout with the communication between the boys to manage the disruption and maintain a recycle option no matter who played there. Ed also invented a way to attack from the left and with our superior fitness we piled on the pressure. Oli flicked an injected ball indoor style high onto the GK and his followup smashed against the post. Luckily Marcus's "johnny on the spot" instincts converted the second follow-up. Another foray and loose ball saw intrepid GK come striker Henry go high onto this years scoring leaderboard with a determined finish.
As with last weeks game every boy played really well, used their brain and stretched their limits. In fact, they were trying out the new things they have been asked to add into their games and although some attempts went astray the team did not criticise and fought to mop up without any fuss. This strength of character is really important if we are to improve on early decision making, execute harder skills in live play and repeat patterns that work....some of it goes wrong... but never as wrong and no-decisions and no skills.
Finally, Will Franklin's overall performance deserves a mention in his first official game as Captain, moved out of midfield to a new position at sweeper. He made a big difference encouraging and talking to the team and in his play tried to be positive and composed to create the next phase of play without losing possession. He got his just rewards in classical sweeper fashion stealing up the pitch unmarked and receiving the ball as a relief pass about 40 metres from goal. As the tacklers came in Will was looking for offloads before dummying and beating the defender and then looking again for a pass or injection to the goal. This happened 3 times before he got to the D and again sold the defender and crucially took the ball to his own strong side to drive home a great shot. A special goal because the whole dribble sequence was on purpose and not a headless run into trouble through flat sticks that has been tending to lose us possession in many areas of the pitch in past weeks. Well done.
Onward and upward.
Guildford again next week.