News & Match Reports
Crosspool Reds 1 Thorncliffe 5
There's no way of putting a gloss on today's performance so this report will be brief. A disappointing end to the season with us going out with a whimper rather than a bang. Thorncliffe, still with an outside chance of winning the league, showed the greater desire and determination, looking fitter and stronger than us across the pitch. They pressed us all over, giving us little time on the ball. This was a harsh lesson in how to play on the front foot with controlled aggression, organisation and teamwork. To be fair, we had players missing and were unfortunate with further injuries during the game but we can't use this as an excuse for what was a lacklustre display. We lacked any real zip, we were disorganised and many of us either lost, or were not prepared to get involved in, personal battles. Dylan worked hard in midfield, winning tackles and headers and trying to encourage his team-mates to do the same. Will Day, playing out of position in the first half, just edged Dylan out for man of the match, showing good character and working hard for the team. Pierre scored an excellent goal in the dying minutes, having to fashion a shooting chance for himself after a morning of frustration with little in the way of service. This was purely a consolation though with the game more or less over.
Let's not end on a negative though. Let's just remind ourselves that the lads have done well to stay in the division and will have learned a lot during the season. There have been times during the season when we have looked more than comfortable against the top opposition in the league and the only real beatings we have taken have been when we were missing important players. We still have Skegness to look forward to and the aim is to go there and enjoy the tournament while giving a really good account of ourselves. Onwards and upwards!
Young Owls 3 Crosspool Reds 2
This one was well worth the admission price - a fast and furious encounter in blustery conditions with some excellent football played by both teams. Unfortunately it ended in disappointment for the Crosspool lads who put their all into the game and deserved a little bit more than they got. With 4 players missing we welcomed our Portuguese Man of War, Pierre, back into the fold. We were a bit light at the back so we decided to play very much with the handbrake off, going three at the back and pressing the opposition high up the pitch. We looked a bit vulnerable to start with, playing against the wind but Ben, Max and John soon got to grips with the new formation and began to command at the rear. There were a couple of let offs with Young Owls rattling the crossbar after a good move down the right and Archie having to save bravely after a scramble in the box following a well delivered corner. Our tactics were beginning to bear fruit though with Ed working tirelessly up front while Will Gresh, Will Day and Joe backed him up in the middle. We were winning the midfield battle, managing to negate their ball player and putting their back four on edge with our energetic press. Zac and Taylor had the tireless roles of wingers cum full backs but both worked hard to make the system work. Dylan was excellent again, protecting the back 3 and picking up any loose balls between the lines of our defence and midfield. Ed was unlucky not to get himself on the scoresheet after forcing an error from their back line. We were really forcing the issue now, despite the strong wind. Will Day was unlucky after an excellent move through the middle, pulling his shot narrowly wide. Just before the stroke of half-time, after another bout of Ed inspired pressure, Taylor picked up a loose ball and fed Will Day on the edge of the area. Will shimmied past their defender and lifted the ball over their keeper into the roof of the net - an excellently taken goal. Young Owls didn't really have time to respond to this and the whistle blew for half-time with us holding a well earned lead.
The lads were buzzing at half-time, rightfully proud of their first-half performance. With the wind behind us in the 2nd half we decided to keep the handbrake firmly off, giving Zac and Will Gresh a well earned rest and replacing them with the fresh legs of Sol and Pierre. We went 4-3-3 with the aim to get the ball forward quickly and try and get the 2nd goal. Unfortunately things didn't quite go to plan as their right midfielder cut inside and unleashed an unstoppable shot which cannoned off the inside of Archie's right post into the net. This knocked our confidence a little and Young Owls started to take control. The switch in formation meant their creative midfielder was getting more time on the ball and he started to show his ability. Taylor and Joe worked hard but were getting outnumbered with the back line too deep meaning there was a gap behind our midfield. The opposition took advantage of this and added to their tally after a good move and finish. To their credit, the lads didn't allow themselves to get disheartened, and responded to the setback by having a real go. Ed, Sol and Pierre were now seeing more of the ball and we were playing in their half. A clever dummy from Joe saw Sol cross into the box and Pierre almost pounce on the loose ball. Once again we were pressing them back and were rewarded for our hard work when their keeper's pass went astray with Sol picking the ball up and firing into the back of the net with a neat finish. Will Gresh came on to replace Will Day who was feeling his knee. We were starting to look a little bit leggy after all our hard work and Young Owls were pushing for a winner. A corner on the left and a free header on the back post saw Archie beaten again - a frustrating goal to concede. We almost grabbed a quick equaliser when Pierre was played through looking certain to score as he bore down on the keeper. It was a good shot but their keeper saved well . They also had a couple of good chances as we pushed further, eventually switching to 3-4-3 in a last ditch attempt to get the point our performance deserved. We huffed and puffed but it wasn't to be as the ref (who managed the game brilliantly) signalled the end of the game.
So, an excellent performance from the lads but they eventually ran out of steam after a tremendous amount of hard work in the first half. With hindsight, we could maybe have been a bit less gung-ho after the half-time break. conserved a bit of energy and looked to break on the counter. However, Young Owls are a good team and they scored two good goals. The goal that lost us the game was disappointing though and if we want to push on next season, conceding goals from corners is an issue we need to address. There were some excellent performances today and it was really difficult to pick a man of the match. So, it was put to the players for a vote, with Ed just edging Joe out after a selfless performance, working tirelessly across the front line. It was also good to see Pierre back in a red shirt (even it it is now a bit small!)
Dronfield Town 1 Crosspool Reds 3
An excellent performance and deserved three points for the lads which confirmed our place in the A League next season. This is quite an achievement and one we intend to build on going forward, having held our own for a large majority of the season. We started the game positively, pushing the opposition back into their own half and looking determined to take the three points. Ed was leading the line and setting the tone for the rest of the team, hassling and harrying their back line and posing a threat whenever we pushed forward. He was ably assisted by Taylor and Sol who worked hard on the flanks to support him and also worked back to support the midfield three. Dylan, Will G and Joe were making sure whenever the ball broke from their back line they were there to pick up the pieces and keep us probing. We were creating chances but not quite testing their keeper enough. Sol was unlucky with a left foot strike from the D of the area and Joe saw a long range effort curl just wide of the right hand angle. At the other end, with a reorganised back line, we looked comfortable, winning our duels and keeping the play in front of us. Harry and Max looked like they'd been playing together for years, complimenting each other centrally. Will Day, filling in at left-back, was doing an excellent job as was Zac at right back. Archie commanded his area well, communicating brilliantly to those ahead of him. The breakthrough came after around 15 minutes following a good move through the middle which saw Will Gresh release Ed on the left-hand side. Ed cut in and fired a cross cum shot across the Dronfield goal which deflected off their defender and into the net. We pushed for a second and were unlucky not to get it when, after more hard work from Ed, he managed to force a mistake and shoot at goal with the ball rolling through their keeper's legs to strike the post. Dylan had been a big miss in our previous games and was really making the difference in the middle. His commitment in the tackle and desire to win shone through. There was no better example of this than when he played a stray pass but then sprinted 10 yards to make a crashing challenge letting the opposition know that this ball was ours to keep! The 2nd goal did eventually come after more pressure from Ed whose persistence saw Taylor get on the ball. Taylor broke at speed committing their defenders showing great awareness to spot Ed's run and find him free in the box. Ed aimed a shot at goal and, once again, got a favourable deflection from their defence with the ball diverting into the net. They say you make your own luck and Ed was certainly doing that with his persistence and willing runs across the pitch. Dronfield reacted to our second with their substitute striker offering a more direct threat to our defence. Harry and Max handled it well though and Dylan was always there or thereabouts to offer his assistance. We defended a couple of set pieces well and looked to have ridden the storm. The ref missed a blatant push and obvious offside decision that should have gone in our favour and this saw their striker bearing in on goal. Harry though did brilliantly to make a brave intervention which the ref deemed to be outside of the rules. Unfortunately Harry fell awkwardly on his wrist and it was pretty obvious he was in some pain (it later turned out that he'd fractured it). Harry had to come off and was replaced by James with a dangerous set-piece to defend. The lads organised themselves well though and saw the half out at 2-0.
We reorganised at half-time, moving to a 4-2-3-1 with Will Gresh playing alongside Max at centre-half and James moving alongside Dylan in midfield. We spoke about managing the game, being a little bit cuter about when we chose to attack and when we slowed the game down a little to frustrate the opposition. The lads did this brilliantly in the 2nd half and showed great maturity, never really looking like they were going to concede whilst still offering a threat going forward. Alex came on to replace Sol on the right of the attacking midfield three. Zac and Will Day were both having excellent games - sometimes playing full back your work and positional sense can go unnoticed but their team-mates and coaches were well aware of the importance of their contribution during the game. We should really have added to our lead, first after a good break on the left from Taylor and then from an excellent corner delivery from Will Gresh which Max headed towards goal but didn't quite manage to get it under the crossbar. James was putting in an excellent performance in the middle, winning tackles and running with the ball and was unlucky not to get himself on the scoresheet with a pulled shot from the edge of the area. Alex was also unlucky just pulling wide from the right hand side of the box. Our pressure finally told though when Joe played Alex in on the right and Alex's shot struck their defender's arm for a penalty. Ed didn't look like he fancied taking it for his hatrick (maybe because there was no defender stood in front of him that he could deflect it in off!). So, Will Gresh stepped up and fired into the roof of the net with their keeper getting a touch but there being too much power on the ball for him to prevent the goal. Dronfield switched to 3 up front and tried to peg us back as they attacked down the slope. We were getting deeper and looking a little bit leggy but we never really looked in danger of conceding. That was until the ref decided to even things up by awarding what can only be described as a 'soft' penalty. They tucked the spot kick away and Max picked up our first booking of the season (in fact, our first ever booking!) after, taking the words of the coach a bit too literally, by slowing the game and preventing the opposition from getting the ball out of the net. After the amount of gamesmanship and some of the behaviour we've witnessed this season would it be that wrong to indulge in wry smile! Dronfield hoped to push but we managed the game brilliantly. Dylan went down with cramp twice making tackles he had no right to make and was eventually given the rest he deserved with Sol replacing him. Joe insisted that the report contain mention of him doing three keepy ups in the middle of the park and lobbing over the opponent's head although I don't recall a goal being awarded for this cheeky bit of skill! The final whistle eventually sounded to signal our first win of 2017 and a great deal of relief for all concerned.
So, a good result, albeit clouded by Harry's unfortunate injury (get well soon Harry!). What was pleasing about the performance was not just that we were the better footballing side (which we were) but that we showed grit and determination to ensure we took the three points the performance deserved. We've all learnt a lot this season. Unfortunately some of that learning has included what are sometimes referred to as the 'dark arts' of the game. There have been times where opposition teams have taken advantage of our decency and fairness and, while we still hold those values dear we also want to win football matches. Some excellent performances all round today so it feels unfair to single individuals out. However, Dylan was excellent today and Taylor put in a real shift on the left-hand side. Harry was having a superb game at centre-half with Max until he had to come off. Man of the match goes to Ed Willis though who ran tirelessly throughout and set an example that the rest of his mates followed. His two goals took him into double figures for the season which is no mean feat considering he has been playing left-back and left-midfield for a good part of that. So, we are now safe, we can look forward to pushing on next season after proving we deserve to be in the top league and we can enjoy our remaining two games of the season, maybe even having an impact on the overall outcome of the league.
Crosspool Reds 1 Greenhill 4
It's difficult to try and put a positive spin on the result today but let's have a go! There's no getting away from the fact that we're struggling at the moment with injuries taking their toll, confidence low and the belief we had earlier in the season a distant memory. But, this wasn't a bad performance at all. While we didn't exactly set the world alight this was a definite improvement on our previous two performances and felt like a step in the right direction. 4-1 flattered the opposition and was more of a reflection of our confidence sapping after their 2nd goal than our performance. We started the game very positively and looked confident in possession from the off. However, they played themselves into the game and you could see the confidence levels drop a little after the first five minutes. The first half was low in excitement and we didn't really threaten their goal much. Sol had a couple of long range shots and Joe was unlucky with a snapshot from the edge of the area. Dylan made the difference in the middle, winning tackles and headers, despite still not being fully fit. Our back four were solid - Ben did brilliantly showing great character to play through a heavy cold when he was obviously suffering. Harry looked the part at right back and Max and John were fairly untroubled. Will Gresh was neat and tidy on the ball, looking dangerous whenever we got the ball to him in space. Will Day endeavoured to create chances but with the formation we were playing there really wasn't a lot for him to aim at further forward. Taylor also struggled to impose himself on the game playing wide left but not seeing enough of the ball. The game was tight and there wasn't much to warm up the crowd on a cold January morning. The whistle sounded for half-time with neither side having troubled the scoresheet.
The walking wounded were tended to at half-time with Dylan, Ben, Sol and Will G all feeling the effects of injury and illness (not to mention our top scorer kicking his heels and cursing his hamstring on the bench). To their credit, each of the casualties declared their fitness to continue and ran out for the 2nd half. The plan had been to stay in the game at half-time and try and push on in the 2nd. The first part had worked but could we just step it up a bit and start to threaten a bit more? We kept the formation a fairly conservative 4-2-3-1 but Sol swapped with Joe to offer a threat of pace. Unfortunately Sol pulled up with his hamstring and couldn't carry on any longer. Noah came on to replace him with Will Day asked to play further forward. Noah was asked to play on the left and offer a threat for us going forwards with his pace and touch. Taylor moved to the centre to do some of the running Dylan was obviously unable to do. We lost a bit of cohesion with the changes and unfortunately conceded a goal. Just as plan B was being put into operation we equalised - an excellent delivery from Will G troubled their defence and after a bit of a goalmouth scramble Joe was on hand to score another of his trademark 2 yard curlers! Ben had given all he could and was replaced by Zac with Harry moving to left back. Archie made 2 fantastic saves to keep us in the game but could do nothing for their second which was a well taken goal although we could have done more to put a challenge in on the edge of the box. We decided to revert to plan B, going 3-4-3 with Alex coming on to replace Dylan. Obviously this left us vulnerable at the back but we decided we were going to go down fighting. Unfortunately the second goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of us and despite the subs doing their best to give us some fresh impetus, with Alex showing a good appetite for the battle, Greenhill looked the more likely to score. They added another two more goals which felt harsh on Archie and the back four/three after their efforts.
While we are all disappointed with the result we have to bear in mind that we are still 13 points clear of the team in the relegation position. If you asked Dronfield I'm sure they would much rather have the points in the bank. It will make our next game against them an interesting one with plenty to play for. We've really not had much luck with injuries of late but today did feel like a corner had been turned. These lads are still a great set of lads with a fantastic attitude and a real sense of togetherness. Some good performances today with Harry really growing into the side and unlucky not to pick up the man of the match award. Max showed great composure throughout the game despite some obvious attempts to wind him up from a number of the opposition players - he's big enough to look after himself but it would have been nice to see a few more of the lads offering their support. The man of the match award goes to Joe who grew into the game after a stint as our lone striker, becoming more effective as our midfield enforcer and spraying some lovely balls around the pitch in the 2nd half.
Wickersley 6 Crosspool Reds 1
They say revenge is a dish best served cold and Wickersley are sure to have had this one in the cold chiller after our last eventful meeting. We knew they'd be up for the game so it was important we matched their effort and motivation. Unfortunately, Dylan failed a late fitness test which meant a last minute rejig to our line-up. The good news was, Harry passed his test and made his Crosspool league debut alongside Max at centre-half. John moved up into midfield alongside Will Gresh, with an attacking midfield of Will D, Taylor and Joe. We started fairly well and contained Wickersley without offering any real threat going forward. The plan was to try and stay in the game, frustrate, then play ourselves in through our pace on the break. This went out of the window though when we failed to deal with a long ball and our defensive line was all over the place. Their midfielder flicked the ball on to the striker who was through on goal, having beaten our wonky offside line. He took the goal well but they really didn't have to do a lot to earn their lead. Their 2nd came when we, once again, failed to deal with a long ball. An uncharacteristic hesitation from Archie saw their forward steal the ball off his toes for a simple tap-in. We worked hard to try and get back in the game and Will Day was showing his ability in the middle of the park. Taylor was up against their best player on the right hand side but he coped well in what was a tough battle. Ben and Ed were both having good games at full back, although most of what they were doing was in our own half. Joe switched from left mid to give us a bit of bite in the middle while Will Day moved to the left to see if he could get some combinations going with Ed and cause their full back problems. Will Gresh was starting to influence the game more and played the pass of the game midway through the half - a left foot 40 yarder on the turn that played Will D in on the left. We were creating half-chances although never really cutting them open. Sol worked hard up front but he was feeding on scraps most of the time. We put some good corner deliveries in which we threatened to get on the end of - one in particular bobbling about in their area with nobody able to get on the end of. On a few occasions we got into good positions on the edge of the area but overplayed when a shot was on. On others our shots were tame or right at their keeper. Wickersley were aggressive in the tackle and we seemed hesitant. There were a few opportunities where we could have matched their aggression and shown our will to win but we were just a bit too nice at times.
The half-time team talk was easy - we only had to score 3 this time to win it! Ok, it wasn't that easy - but we did stress the importance of the next goal. Unfortunately it went to them after some more hesitant defending. And when we talk defending, we don't just mean the lads at the back - it's important that we all take responsibility for defending all over the pitch. Too many times we just didn't get ourselves into the right position when we didn't have the ball and that's something we're going to have to improve upon. Alex replaced Joe in midfield with Ed moving forward to give us more threat up front and try and perform another miracle. Will Day moved to left back. Maybe the third goal saw our heads drop or maybe the legs weren't quite there but three became four and four became five. Ed wasn't getting the ball and we were losing our battles all over the pitch. Alex moved up front to give Ed some support and we did look a little more threatening. Ben was having a good game at right-back, never letting his head drop and battling until the end despite the scoreline. John pulled up with injury and was replaced by Joe. We did eventually get our heads back up and get the goal we deserved in the game through Sol. It was scant consolation that Sol's goal was the goal of the game, rifling into the roof of the net from 25 yards out. Wickersley soon went down the other end and scored a sixth though after another gift - Christmas is soooo last year, lads! No more presents after today please.
So, a defeat in our first game of 2017 and we're now looking at the foothills rather than up to the summit. We missed Dylan but we still had a team strong enough to give Wickersley a game. If anything, a bit of belief and anger looks to be missing at the moment. We need to get these back quickly to do ourselves justice this season. We all have to pull together now and ensure we put everything we have into our last four games. We have a rest next week where we can hopefully regroup and come back against Greenhill in a fortnight to show what we are about. There were some decent performances today. Harry played well considering this was his first game, he was playing in a new position and he was carrying an injury - very promising debut! John played his usual composed game and was missed when he went off injured. Will Day was impressive in the first half and just needs to try and push on in the second offering a bit more goal threat. Man of the match goes to Ben though, who, despite getting a flea in his ear from the manager for the first goal, never let his head drop, battled throughout and set a good example to the rest of the lads on how to react to setbacks.
Crosspool Reds 3 Wisewood 8
Our first heavy defeat of the season and, to be honest, we got the result the performance deserved. We were missing three key players and it showed. Wisewood are a good side but they didn't have to be that good today. They won the game at a canter really and, apart from a late second half rally where we showed some much needed character, they were always in control of the game. It's hard to conjure up any positives after a defeat like this but let's try! Max was excellent at the back, sometimes single-handedly repelling Wisewood attacks and, while he must have been frustrated, he never let this show, demonstrating great leadership and encouraging his team mates throughout. Archie made some good saves and also showed good leadership. Dylan had another good game in both midfield and defence. Will G and Will D did well in the first half but faded a bit as the game got away from us. And Ed did well to score a couple of goals despite feeling under the weather. The other big positive is this is the first time this has happened this season. And looking at some of the disconsolate faces after the game, the lads don't want it to happen again. One to dwell on for a few moments after the game, perhaps. Work out what we have to improve on next time. Consign to the bin. And look forward to putting it right in the New Year!
Crosspool Reds 1 AFC Dronfield 1
One of these days we're going to win a game handsomely. One of these days all of our shots are going to hit the back of the net rather than the post or the crossbar. One of these days we're going to put our head on a well delivered corner. One of these days we'll be awarded a dubious penalty. One of these days we'll kill a game off, the coaching staff will have a sit down and the supporters will all leave the touchline with their nails intact. Don't ask when one of these days will come but it surely has to be soon. In truth, we may well be feeling sorry for ourselves but if we don't kill games off when we're on top, this is what happens against good opposition. The game itself was close throughout, although it really should have been out of sight with the chances we had, particularly in the 2nd half. Dronfield probably just edged the 1st although we had a few good chances which we should have converted. Sol worked hard up front and Will Day was excellent at left back. The rest of the lads all played well although it was very congested in the middle and, apart from the first 10 minutes, we failed to carry out the plan which was to get the ball forward quickly and play our football in their half. When we did do this Ed and Sol caused problems but our midfield and back line were guilty of watching rather than participating in the play by moving further up the pitch. At times the forwards were isolated and Dronfield got themselves in the game with their two forwards causing a few problems. We defended well though and Archie had little to do other than sweep up behind. The score at half-time was 0-0.
The 2nd half saw a marked improvement on our first half performance but the game was still tight. We slowly started to turn the screw though and were playing in their half. Sol was really unlucky after a lovely one touch passing movement involving Ed and Joe saw Sol try to bend the ball into the bottom right corner. Their keeper was beaten but the post wasn't and it just clipped the side. Will Gresh shot from distance to force a good save from their keeper. We had numerous corners which were delivered superbly by Gresh only for us to contrive to miss our headers when all it would have taken was a touch. AFC weren't taking all this lying down though and they had a few shots themselves from distance which Archie coped with easily. We took the lead about 15 minutes into the half through our captain, Taylor. Picking the ball up in his own box he powered past two players and headed over the halfway line. He swapped passes with Alex, continuing his run and beat another couple of players before rifling into the roof of the net. The description doesn't do the goal justice really - this was an absolute beauty that only a player like Taylor could have scored, somehow having the legs to power the ball into the net after running the full length of the pitch. He deserved to be on the winning team for this goal alone and the rest of the lads really should have made sure he was. The chances kept on coming for us but we failed to hit the target on more than one occasion. Another good move, this time down the right saw Ed in on goal, opting to square to Alex. Alex had the whole goal to aim at but unfortunately pulled wide. More corners and more chances for glory went begging as Dronfield sensed they might get something out of the game. We were playing further back, once again falling into the trap of previous games where we conceded momentum to the opposition. A clearance and a scramble saw the ball struck towards our goal to hit John in what looked like his head from the sidelines. The referee awarded a penalty though and their lad made no mistake with the finish. 1-1. We then decided to get back on the front foot which was extremely frustrating considering we had been in control previously. There were more chances and the lads did everything they could to wrestle the game back in our favour. Archie had to handle a shot smartly, showing great speed of reaction by smothering the ball as it dropped towards their striker in the box. We pushed once more but it was too late - the final whistle sounded with the game finishing in a draw.
AFC were certainly happier with the point than we were. It felt like 3 points dropped and the overwhelming feeling was one of frustration for the lads. One of these days, one of these days. But as the season rolls on, the number of games we have left to make it one of these days diminish. Let's grab the bull by the horns in our next game lads and make sure we come off the pitch thinking we've got what we deserve for our efforts. Some good individual performances today with Will Day, Max and Sol deserving mention. Will Gresh also played a big part in the game, helping us to take control of the game in the 2nd half. Man of the match though goes to Taylor who, once again, led fantastically, single-handedly occupying 3 players on the right hand side. His goal was well deserved although it was a goal that should have won a game. We owe it to him to put it right next week.
Crosspool Reds 1 Young Owls 2
It shows how far we have progressed when we are disappointed with a last gasp defeat to an impressive Young Owls team. To be fair, on the balance of play, the result was about right although we really did have them worried for a large part of the game. We were excellent in the first half, passing and moving with real purpose and panache. Some of the first time passing was breathtaking at times and we looked like the side that were the established A Division side rather than the recently promoted team. Young Owls are a good side though and they contributed to an entertaining first half with their own spells of excellent football. Ed had his work cut out at left back with a lot of the play going through their pacy right midfielder. He defended brilliantly though, really putting in a fantastic effort for his team mates. Whenever they did manage to get past Ed his defensive team-mates were there to snuff out any danger, with Max and John excellent in the middle and Zac's concentration levels tremendous throughout. Dylan was back in the team and putting in another fine performance protecting the back four. His role was a little different today in that we knew Young Owls would look to play on the floor into their forward's feet. So, not as much of the aerial bombardment as we've had previously but Dylan was well equipped for the challenge. Will Gresh was also in fine form alongside Dylan as our deep lying playmaker. He was showing great composure and really making us tick, moving the ball neatly and efficiently all over the pitch. Our goal came from Will after a nice move through the middle involving Will Day and Sol. Will G picked it up and unleashed a fizzing shot at the keeper. Joe, playing up front, must have been listening to the team talk (for once) as he followed in the shot which their keeper spilled. There was still a bit to do though but Joe calmly placed the ball into the net with his left foot to give us the lead. Young Owls were rocked back by this and we were in the ascendancy. Sol, Will Day and Taylor were getting us on the front foot, playing some neat football in their half and combining well with Joe. They were still getting some joy down the right hand side though so Joe switched with Sol to give Ed a little more protection. The game was end to end and Archie had to be on his toes on the rare occasions where the defence was breached. He made a fantastic stretched save which he then dived on to smother showing fantastic reactions. He also punched another that was way above his head with their forward pressurising. John and Max were having to earn their keep today with quite a bit of defending to do but they were both excellent. Zac was combining well with Taylor on our right putting in some lung busting runs down the flank which helped us push the play back into their half. Will Gresh put in a lovely corner delivery which saw both Dylan and Joe free in the 6 yard box ready to pounce. Somehow the ball eluded them both and a massive opportunity to get a real grip on the game had gone. Young Owls also put in some dangerous set-piece deliveries but we defended brilliantly with our concentration levels never wavering. Taylor switched with Joe and immediately helped to negate their threat on that side. The half-time whistle sounded with the Crosspool lads coming in with a well earned lead.
We'd had to work hard for our lead and there were a few tired legs on the touchline. Noah replaced Joe on the right as he was struggling with a sore knee. The shape remained the same and we spoke of the need to remain concentrated throughout. We had to ensure there were no dips and we needed to try and get on the front foot and move the ball quickly, trying to rest in possession. However, Young Owls had other plans and they really came out all guns blazing. We were pegged into our own half and it was a real backs to the wall job. Max was immense as were the rest of the lads at the back and Archie was having another massive performance. They were mostly limited to long range shots though and it looked like we might weather the storm. However, we were giving possession away too easily and having to work too hard to stay in the game. Will Gresh was struggling with his hamstring and therefore wasn't as instrumental in the game and we missed that bit of calmness in the middle. Their pressure did eventually breach our back line and Archie was beaten for the first time in the game as the ball arrowed towards the net. From out of nowhere, Noah somehow managed to beat the ball to the goal-line and hook his foot around it to make a miracle clearance - this felt like a really important moment and was followed up by Noah then running 20 yards to contest a challenge on the touchline. He was caught late in what - if we were being charitable - could be called a forward's challenge and had to come off injured. Alex replaced Noah on the right and Joe replaced Will Gresh. We were getting deeper and deeper as the game progressed and Young Owls were really turning the screw. Another goal-line clearance, this time from Ed, and a goal that was disallowed for offside, made us think this could be our day. Some of the lads were running on empty now after all their efforts to regain possession of the ball and we were also getting sloppy when we did win the ball back. The goal looked to be coming and, sure enough, it came following a good run from midfield into our box, although less tired legs might have put in a stronger challenge. Ed did his best to clear once more off the line but it wasn't to be and the ball stumbled over the line - 1-1. Young Owls came again but we tried to give our own threat, moving Ed up into midfield and bringing Sol on to replace Zac. Max relieved the pressure temporarily with a barnstorming run from the edge of his own box, leaving players in his wake as the options disappeared and he realised he'd have to go alone. He did brilliantly to force his way through with the keeper now the only player left to run by. There was contact between the two and a claim for a penalty but the ref waved play on and the keeper came out with the ball. Max then ran another length of the pitch to get back into position, barging a few players out of the way on his way back - great effort from the big man! The game was drawing to a close and we were looking like picking up a point but Young Owls showed what they were about pushing for the 3 points they will have felt they deserved. Dylan went down with cramp which was no surprise considering the amount of work he'd got through. He was determined to stay on the pitch though to do all he could for the team. Then came the fatal blow. A corner at the death. A great delivery. And another last minute goal against. The lads were distraught and rightly so - there were many of them that did not deserve to be on the losing side today.
So, three points lost and the chance to go to the top of the table missed. We can't fault the lad's efforts. And we can't fault their performance in the first half. We have to learn the lessons from the game though if we are to carry on improving and the fact that this lesson was so harsh should ensure we do. We have to work on our retention of the ball when under pressure and ensure we give ourselves a breather in games. We also have to understand the small margins in the game are what ultimately make the difference. Even slight lapses in concentration are punished at this level and we have to be as ruthless as the top teams if we are to improve further and push at the top. There were some great performances from the lads today with Archie again having another fantastic game really not deserving to have to pick the ball out of the net in the last minute. Ed, John and Zac were excellent at the back repelling the majority of the attacks that came their way. Max was back to his imperious best though putting in a real leader's performance, defending with passion and intelligence. Well done Max - man of the match!
Middlewood 0 Crosspool Reds 2
We spoke beforehand about making sure there were no hard luck stories after today's game and a gritty, determined performance against a decent Middlewood team ensured this was the case. We reshuffled the pack to make up for Dylan's absence with Ben moving to partner Max in central defence, Will Day to left back and Will Gresh to right back. John moved up into midfield in a 4-3-3 with Taylor and Joe ahead of him and Ed, Sol and Noah the front three. We started well enough on a bit of a mudheap of a pitch although our new defence looked a bit shaky. As the game wore on though the back four grew in confidence with Max marshalling well, holding a good defensive line. We started to move the ball a little quicker with John commanding the play from the middle. Taylor and Joe were working hard ahead of John while Sol defended brilliantly from the front. Noah and Ed worked the channels getting through a great deal of work both in attack and defence. The breakthrough came for us after around 15 minutes, following a good combination between Joe and Taylor and an incisive through ball from Taylor to Ed. There was never any doubt as Ed pulled back his trusty left foot and drilled the ball into the bottom right corner with one of his trademark finishes. A second followed soon after with another good combination down the left which saw Ed play the ball round the corner for Sol as he raced on goal. There was still a bit to do for Sol but he calmly rounded the keeper and finished with his left foot to make it 2-0 - well deserved after all his efforts. We were now in control of the game and should have made it three after another good attack which saw Ed played in on his right only for their defender to block and the ball fall to safety. We were susceptible to the break though and there were gaps between the midfield and defence which their forward line were looking to exploit. Archie had to show good handling in difficult conditions on a number of occasions and he looked determined to earn himself a clean sheet. While the score was still close though it was a concern that Middlewood's forward line were getting at us too easily so James came on to replace Joe in midfield and give us a little more protection. The half drew to a close with the score at 2-0 and still a lot for us to do.
As expected, Middlewood came at us in the 2nd half to try and pull the game back. But we defended resolutely with James and John giving us a defensive shield. Will Day, in an unfamiliar role, was also excellent - defensively strong and excellent going forward. While we were under the cosh we did look dangerous on the counter with Noah, Ed and Sol threatening with their pace. Sol's workrate was fantastic - he was really putting the work in to help his mates further behind. Zac replaced Will Gresh at right back, instructed to get tight on their left sided forward who was causing some problems. Alex replaced Ben with John moving back to partner Max. These changes seemed to settle us and we took back control of the game, playing in their half. Alex was working hard and having some neat and composed touches in the middle, calming the game and showing his class on the ball. Taylor was putting in his usual work-rate and some strong challenges in midfield although the ball wouldn't quite fall for him further forward. Sol was unlucky with a couple of long range shots which sailed just wide of the keeper's left post. Joe then replaced Noah who had put some hard yards in on the right hand side - Taylor switched to the right while Joe moved to the middle. Just as it looked like we'd weathered the storm another wave came but a succession of corners were dealt with superbly. Archie made a very important save from an excellent long range shot which looked to be sailing over him and into the net. His footwork was flawless and he stretched those long(ish) arms to somehow claw the ball away and smother the danger. John went down with a muscle injury closely followed by James with a knock. Ben came back on to replace John at the back while Will Gresh replaced James in the middle. We should have made it three after another incisive break which saw Sol put a wonderful cross into the box, right onto Ed's head. We expected to see the net rustle as Ed leaped to head towards goal but it somehow went over. Unlucky! We kept up the hard work right until the final whistle ensuring Middlewood didn't have any reason to believe they would get anything out of the game.
The complete opposite of the previous week - a good result, a not so good performance. But, there were no hard luck stories and we did exactly what we needed to do to win the game. Another clean sheet for Archie and his defence which gave us the platform to win the game. Another excellent performance from Archie who is proving to be one of the best keepers in the top league in Sheffield (if not THE best). Ed also gave the manager plenty to think about, playing further forward and offering a real threat down the left. The man of the match award goes to Sol though who put in his hardest working performance in a red shirt. With the qualities he has and the workrate he showed today he is going to cause defences all sorts of problems as the season progresses.
Thorncliffe 1 Crosspool Reds 0
A good performance from the lads but ultimately a disappointing result. We felt we deserved something from this game against the reigning champions. We ran them very close but, when we look back in the cold light of day, it was another game where we just weren't ruthless enough in front of goal. It would be harsh to criticise the lads though as each and every one of them put in a huge amount of effort throughout the game against a very good Thorncliffe side. To be fair, we more than held our own, playing some fantastic football in patches on a tight pitch. Some of our passing movements bewildered Thorncliffe at times and our commitment ensured we pressed them all over the pitch when they had the ball. Joe set the tone, playing in the false 9 role, with Sol, Will Day and Taylor working hard just behind to link and pressurise their back four. Dylan and Will Gresh prompted from behind, positioning themselves superbly to pick up loose balls and conduct the play. We were edging it although Thorncliffe were very much in the game showing pace and power up front. John had to be at his best to thwart a Thorncliffe break after his defensive partner was caught napping. Archie also had to make a good save at the feet of their striker. At the other end, their keeper too made some good saves - one in particular from Sol looked destined for the back of the net until he stuck out his long leg to deflect wide. Ed and Ben were both having good games at wing back, forcing the play forward whenever opportunity presented itself but showing good game awareness, choosing the right moments to sit back and to drive forward. Archie made a fantastic double save after a slip from Max, taking a whack to his head for his troubles but showing great bravery and goalkeeping ability. His decision making was flawless behind the back four. Taylor was getting through a phenomenal amount of work in midfield, making strong and intelligent runs with and without the ball at the right moments. Thorncliffe were awarded a corner on our right hand side and put an excellent delivery in which one of their players headed into our net unchallenged. It was the one lapse in concentration that we'd had all game and we were punished for it. Noah came on to replace Sol on the right hand side after Sol had put in a good shift, troubling their full back on a number of occasions. Noah was given the instruction to occupy their left midfielder who was strong and quick, causing Ben some problems down our right hand side. To Noah's credit he did exactly what was asked of him and also made some good inroads further forward with his trademark composed control and passing. We pushed for an equaliser and Max almost got his head on the end of a Will Gresh corner. Joe forced another good save from their keeper after being played through by Will Day. Our efforts were not rewarded though and the half-time whistle went with the score at 1-0
The half-time chat was positive and the lads told to be patient, keep their concentration and to take their chances when they came. Zac came on for Ben at right wing-back. Thorncliffe came out for the 2nd half looking like they'd been given a rollicking by their manager. They changed their formation slightly, moving their left winger up front and putting a deep lying midfielder in front of the back four to prevent our attacking midfielders from linking with Joe. The changes seemed to have an impact on the game as Thorncliffe started to get on top. They created some good chances but, once again, Archie was there to thwart them with some excellent shot stopping and second ball recoveries. We were still very much in the game though and looking dangerous on the break. Dylan played a beautifully weighted ball through to Taylor but their defender made a good recovery run to thwart the chance. Joe held the line well to beat the offside trap after some good interplay between the two Wills, he clipped the ball to the right of the keeper as he advanced only to see the ball drift agonisingly wide. Alex replaced Will Day in midfield after he pulled up with a hamstring issue. Time was running out and legs were tiring for both teams as we pushed ourselves to the limit to try and get at least a point from the game. With 15 minutes to go we switched to 4-3-3 in a final push with Sol replacing Will Gresh in a front line of Ed, Joe and Sol, while Alex switched to left back to cover Ed. There were a few heart stopping moments in our defence as we pushed for the goal with Archie, once again, keeping us in the game. Max also made some timely challenges. Zac was combining well with Noah down the right hand side while Alex and Taylor worked the left to good effect. Then came a great chance, following some good hold up play from Joe, a flick from Ed and a touch of fortune as the ball ricocheted off their defender into Sol's path. Sol showed good composure, looking to round their keeper and slot the ball home but, once again, the long leg of the keeper came from nowhere to thwart him. We made one last throw of the dice, replacing Noah with Will Gresh to see if he could create one final chance or score us a wonder goal. But it wasn't to be, as the final whistle signalled the end of the game and the loss of three points.
The first thing that should be said in summary is that this was a really good game, played in the right spirit by both sides. It was a refreshing change to compete against a team that gave no quarter but were respectful throughout. Special mention should go to the referee who was excellent and played a big part in the way the game was played. While we must always be disappointed in dropping points it should be pointed out that this was a real team performance from the lads. We never stopped working for each other and, while there were great individual performances, this was all about the team and the sacrifices that were made for the greater good. Unfortunately we didn't get what we deserved from this game and the lesson we should take is to be more clinical and to concentrate throughout. John and Ed both impressed at the back. Dylan continued his impressive season with another outstanding performance. Taylor also played his heart out and their fullback and midfielder will have both needed a lie down after trying to chase him all over the pitch. As good as these and many other performances were, there was one player who was head and shoulders above them all. Archie Waterall showed why he is the best keeper in the league with a fantastic display of shot stopping, bravery, decision making and awareness off his line. He had no chance with the goal and really did deserve a clean sheet for his performance.
Crosspool Reds 2 Dronfield Town 2
Despite a strong performance from the lads, this really did feel like two points lost. We started well, pushing Dronfield back into their own half and dominating the play. Will Day was running the show from the middle with Taylor and Sol assisting and Zac working their back line as the lone forward. Our pressure told around 5 minutes in, when a lovely through ball from Will Gresh released Sol on the right. Sol took his time to compose himself and finished smartly through the keeper's legs to make it 1-0. We weren't happy with just the one though and scored soon after with a really well worked goal after Will Day played Sol in on the right of the area. Sol squared to Zac who showed great presence of mind to feed Taylor to his left and Taylor made no mistake with his finish. It should have been 3 soon after when Sol shot from just outside the box, beating their keeper but the ball unfortunately crashed against the woodwork. Dronfield started to get a foot in the game and it was now time for our defence to earn their keep. We were really solid though. Archie had a couple of fairly routine long range shots to deal with which he handled impeccably as usual. Ben was terrier like at right back, biting into tackles and giving their left midfielder a hard time throughout. Max and John were well organised behind Dylan who shielded the back four in his usual dominant fashion. Will Gresh was moving the ball around the pitch while Ed made his usual forays down the left, joining in the attack whenever he could. We looked pretty comfortable while Dronfield probed to try and get back in the game. Noah came on for Sol on the right of midfield to give us more energy and assist Ed defensively on the right. Joe replaced Zac up front to try and pressure their back line and ensure they weren't getting their heads up to play long passes. Just when we thought we had weathered the Dronfield storm and were starting to look dangerous on the break, the ref awarded a penalty after their striker went down easily after minimal contact from John. The penalty was taken well with Archie given no chance and Dronfield were back in the game. The game was now really tight with Dronfield's tails up and we had a battle on our hands with some close to the knuckle challenges being put in from the opposition.
We spoke at half-time about the need to concentrate just as much without the ball as with. We were getting caught switching off when out of possession and finding ourselves out of position. We also needed to work hard for each other as there would be no room for passengers in this game. We started the 2nd half well with Joe putting on the pressure at the back and the lads in midfield behind him following suit. Taylor was causing their full back and right midfielder all sorts of problems to the point where they were having to resort to foul play to stop him. Ed was marauding down the left hand side with Taylor and we were having quite a bit of success on that side. We pushed for that all important third goal and were again dominating the game with Dronfield creating little of any note. Noah was replaced by Sol who moved up front while Joe moved to the right side of midfield. Our back four were playing well, very decisive with their clearances and giving their forwards absolutely nothing. Taylor did brilliantly to pressure their keeper who dropped the ball behind him for what looked to be a certain goal. Somehow though, the ball dribbled just wide of the post with the manager already celebrating it hitting the back of the net! We then should have had a penalty after their defender deliberately barged Sol out of the way when he was free in the area. The chances were coming thick and fast for us and there was a lovely move down the right hand side involving Will Gresh, Will Day and Joe which almost resulted in a goal. Joe then lofted one over the keeper which hit the bar. James came on to replace Will Gresh in the middle and give us a further defensive shield and he was straight into his stride, moving the ball well and winning challenges. The longer the game went though the more the lack of a third goal became a concern and you could sense the lad's apprehension. Max did brilliantly to get a slight touch on a cross from the left which was heading straight to their forward's feet but was diverted by the touch. Archie also did well to watch a shot onto the stanchion. John and Ben were defending resolutely as Dronfield became more desperate and more dirty to try and get the equaliser. Eventually, their unfair challenges were punished by the ref who instructed the Dronfield manager to take off one of the worst (although not the only) culprit. We were looking like we were home and dry with another important three points in the bag as the last minutes turned to seconds. Then came the sting in the tail as a Dronfield cross cum shot soared over Archie and into the net. We really couldn't believe the injustice of it. In fact, the lads looked a bit shellshocked as the final whistle sounded and Dronfield celebrated a rescued point while we felt like we'd been beaten. A disappointing end to what had been a positive performance.
While we can have complaints about the final result and should rightly see it as points dropped, we really can't complain about the lad's performance today. They put a real shift in against a Dronfield side who were tough, well organised and competitive. We matched them on these three fronts and also played some lovely football in patches. The whole of the back four were excellent today, limiting the chances the opposition had, with Ben particularly impressive. Taylor had another of his industrious performances, occupying two players for most of the game and covering a lot of ground. But Will Day got the man of the match vote with a particularly accomplished first half, showcasing his ability and leaving Dronfield's defenders dizzy at times. If there was one criticism that could be levelled at the lads it was that we weren't ruthless enough - the game should have really been out of sight and we had more than enough chances to finish it. Another week where we learn something though and hopefully improve for the next game.
Crosspool Reds 2 Hillsbro Pumas 4
A disappointing defeat which saw us crash out of the cup in the first round to lower league opposition. Credit to Pumas who battled well and deserved their victory. They will face Wisewood in the quarter finals. The less said about our own performance the better but let just say this was a harsh lesson that the lads will do well to take heed of.
Not many positives to take from the game although the way the lads reacted after the game, showing their opponents respect and congratulating them on their victory was creditable. Dylan and Will Day both deserve mention for their efforts in the game. Will Gresh and Will Day were our scorers. We weren't going to give a man of the match but this would be harsh on Dylan who worked hard throughout before coming off as we chased the game in the last 10 minutes.
We'll be working hard in training on Tuesday to put things right.
Greenhill 0 Crosspool Reds 1
As the old saying goes - goals win you games, clean sheets win you titles. Not that we're going to get carried away with one clean sheet but this game was won by resolute defending, togetherness and hard work. Plus a fantastic goal! We lost the toss and were playing against the wind in the first half which meant we faced quite a bit of pressure from a strong Greenhill side. We were also a little slow out of the blocks again, taking five minutes to get going. Ed and Zac started to make some forays down the flanks and Dylan and Will Gresh were getting us on the front foot. Our set-piece defending was excellent with us facing a number of very well delivered corners which we did well to deal with. Archie's handling and composure was excellent throughout and he made an important save with their striker through on goal. Joe was playing up front, tasked with linking the play and getting our attacking midfielders running at goal to turn their defence. Considering this was a new position for him he was doing exactly what was asked of him (albeit a little too near to our goal). Sol's pace was a real threat on the right and this helped to push the Greenhill defenders further back into their own half and take some pressure off us at the back. We weren't really cohesive but sometimes you have to give credit to the opposition who were strong and well organised. We did look dangerous on the break though with Will Day putting in some excellent crosses from the left which we couldn't quite get on the end of. Taylor was another one playing in an unfamiliar position, asked to press from attacking mid, and he worked hard but it wasn't quite happening for him. Max and John were their usual dependable selves at the back, mostly thanks to the fantastic work Dylan was putting in just in front of them. Ben came on to replace Taylor in the middle of the park and, despite missing the last two games, looked like he'd never been away. The way the game was going we'd have been more than happy with 0-0 at half-time but ended up a little disappointed after we had an excellent period towards the end of the half, pressing hard and moving the ball quickly to create some good chances. However, the scores remained level at half-time.
We talked at half-time about using the conditions and showing our attacking intentions after an excellent first half defensive display. We had absorbed the pressure and now it was time to exert our own. Noah came on for Zac with Ben moving to right back. Ed moved from left back to left mid with Will Day moving back. We spoke of looking for diagonal balls to Sol and Ed, using their pace down the flanks and missing out their big centre half. Maybe the team talk was too positive though as Greenhill were again pushing us back into our own half. Or maybe we were just facing a good side. We pulled Joe back into midfield, swapping him with Noah to try and give us a bit of bite in midfield and this did get us a foothold in the game. Dylan was everywhere, winning tackles and headers all over the pitch in what was becoming an intense battle in the middle of the park. Once again our defence was strong with Ben's anticipation worth mention. Will Day played through the pain barrier to put a real shift in at left back. We were starting to play now and Greenhill's hold on the game was loosening. The sign of a good team is one that takes advantage of the moments in a game when they are in the ascendancy. And we proved what a good side we are when we pegged Greenhill back in their box. Noah found himself in space on the right hand side and played a perfectly placed pass out to Ed on the left which sat up just right for him. Ed pulled back that remarkable left foot and the outcome was inevitable. It was a pleasure to be stood behind him to watch a perfect strike which arrowed into the top corner like a guided missile - 1-0. Alex replaced Sol who was looking tired after his efforts during the game with the instruction to play in the spaces up front and get hold of the ball for us. He did this well and helped to take off the pressure as Greenhill's inevitable push for an equaliser came. Taylor replaced Will G in the middle giving us some legs and he dug deep along with the rest of the lads as the onslaught came. We were struggling to clear our lines a little but we made sure we challenged for every 2nd ball. The game should have been put to bed when Noah found himself free in their area with only the keeper to beat. Possibly still thinking about his previous assist and Ed's fantastic finish Noah opted to lay it off wide when the better option, considering Noah's finishing ability, would have been to shoot at goal. Greenhill huffed and puffed but didn't really threaten our goal until in the dying minutes a ball flashed across our box and, fortunately, their midfielder shot over Archie's bar. Will Gresh came on for Joe to give him a well earned rest and almost finished it off for us with a cracking first time shot from long range which just sailed wide of the left-hand upright. The final whistle sounded to signal a hard-earned victory for the Crosspool Reds.
Archie was rightly pleased with his first clean sheet of the season as were the rest of his defence (more of the same, please!). We defended as a team today which was really pleasing as, if we can get this foundation right, we have every chance of competing in this league. We will always score goals no matter how hard teams make us work for them. The most pleasing aspect of the game today was how hard we made the opposition work for their chances, which - to be fair - were few and far between. An excellent team performance with Dylan extremely unlucky not to be given the man of the match award after a committed and disciplined performance throughout. Joe just edged it though, putting in a really mature performance in a new position and then digging deep in a more familiar position to carry us over the line. Still a pain in the backside though!
Crosspool 5 Wickersley 4
OMG (as it's rumoured the young people say). This was a game and a half alright. It had a bit of everything - fantastic football, touchline numpties, late controversy and an unprecedented comeback from the lads in Red. The game started fairly evenly with Wickersley winning the toss and opting to kick down the slope, with the wind. This was always going to mean we were under the cosh in the first period but we looked fairly comfortable at the back and dangerous on the break. We should have scored with our first attack when Taylor drove down the right and put a dangerous cross into the box which we couldn't quite get on the end of. The ball had gone slightly out of play and, while the Crosspool coaches signalled to the ref that it had gone, it wasn't given. This prompted what can only be described as a textbook 'this is more important than the Prem' reaction from a particularly overzealous Wickersley coaching assistant. Once he'd calmed down the lads were then allowed to get on with playing football, thankfully. And it was a good game to watch with both teams contesting every challenge. Wickersley had a bit more bite than us though and we were letting them get on top of us. The game bypassed our midfield a little as we struggled to assert ourselves. Saying that, Archie's goal was rarely troubled and we looked to have the pace and skill to cause their back line problems on the break. After another bout of Wickersley pressure they were awarded a corner on the left-hand side. A dangerous ball was floated over to the back post and one of their lads rose, unmarked, to head home. Once again, we'd allowed a team to score too easily. And once again, we found out pretty quickly how ruthless the opposition is in this league when you give them the lead. Joe came on to replace Alex but Wickersley had their tails up now and scored a 2nd soon after with an excellent finish from their striker. Another good turn and finish made it 3 and we were in danger of getting a real hammering as Wickersley were turning the screw. We should have had a goal of our own though after another break down the right with Sol released on goal. Their keeper stood up well though and made the goal small, with Sol directing his shot too near to him. Sol had another good chance not long after this but, once again, their keeper saved well. Then, further throw in controversy, when they broke down the left with the ball looking to run well over the touchline. With the aforementioned prem linesman looking right down the line at the ball the expectation was that his hand would go up to signal the ball being out of play. No signal was given though and the ball went in the box for the Wickersley striker to finish and make it 4-0. When asked if the ball went out our friend went all Arsene Wenger on us and said he didn't see it. Hopefully though he'll have seen and taken note of the reaction from our coaching staff and players who, while disappointed, managed to keep a lid on our disappointment. The whistle went soon after this and the lads came in a little dejected not really deserving to find themselves 4-0 down.
Talk at half-time was about the need for us to start believing in ourselves. We felt a little hard done to but we also felt we could have done more to ensure we made things harder for our opponents. We had to have a bit more bite to our game. We had to get angry. And we had to make sure we used the conditions to get on the front foot as early as possible. To be fair, the lads really did come flying out of the blocks. We were now the team that was on top and Wickersley were on the back foot. We decided to try and exploit what looked to be a lack of certainty at the back with Ed moving up front and Zac switching to left-back. Ed had obviously been listening at half-time as he single-handedly went about dragging us back into the game in a remarkable passage of play that showed great belief, bite and a fair bit of anger. His first goal was a beauty, running free from their defenders with plenty left to do, he finished brilliantly into the corner and his reaction after the ball hit the net was just as important. Picking the ball up and running back to the centre circle not only demonstrated his belief to his team mates but to his opponents too. When he went and did the same thing 5 minutes later with a carbon copy of his first goal you could see the rest of the lads with a similar look in the eyes. We pushed again, rocking Wickersley back, every one of us playing our hearts out in a monumental effort to get back in the game. Will Gresh deserves special mention as he not only showed his class but was prepared to put the hard yards in to push us on. Sol and Ed were combining brilliantly up front, ably assisted by the 2 Wills, Taylor and Joe. Dylan continued his excellent form, winning everything and stopping the supply to their dangerous number 9. The back 4 were solid and Archie cajoled from behind. We won a corner on the right and put in a fantastic delivery. It looked like Max had missed the chance but Ed came from nowhere to incredibly volley his third of the game. John made a fantastic run from deep, committing players and almost releasing Sol. We kept on pushing and eventually got our reward from that man again who will now be known as Remarkable Willis! A bit of a deflection but no way anyone is taking it off him. Just when you thought these lads couldn't show any more character , another attack down the left, again involving Ed who passed to Taylor. Taylor fed Joe and Joe played the ball across the six yard box for Sol who finished brilliantly - 5-4.Great credit for Sol who kept on going all game and got the goal his performance deserved. It's never straightforward with these lads though and if we didn't know them better we'd think they were putting us through the wringer on purpose. We sat back and invited Wickersley onto us. Being a good team, they didn't need much of an invite and the last 10 minutes dragged on and on with the ref seeming to have a watch with long minutes on it. Max put a full blooded but well-timed challenge in on the touchline which showed great desire but was a little unfairly deemed to be a foul. We defended resolutely as the seconds ticked away. Then came the final controversial act of the game. A free kick was given on the right with seconds left. They swung the ball into the box and we failed to clear our lines. Their lad pulled his leg back to volley as the ref blew the final whistle and then the ball flew into the net. They weren't happy bunnies as our lads celebrated their victory on the goal line. Arsene ran onto the pitch to join in the remonstrations but the whistle had gone and we'd taken the 3 points in a remarkable comeback. To be fair the other coaching staff were magnanimous in defeat but as far as Arsene's concerned, in the words of a certain Mr Lennon - "Instant Karma's gonna get ya'" (google it lads).
An incredible comeback which will certainly see others in the league sit up and take notice. This was all about our self-belief and our character. What a fantastic set of lads and a fantastic team. While individually good players we showed today the strength of unity and togetherness. These lads never give up. However, It might seem churlish, but looking at the league table we should be disappointed that we aren't looking down at the rest of league. AFC Dronfield currently occupy top spot and, while they should be congratulated, we can only look on and think, "what if". Man of the match goes to Remarkable himself - an inspired and inspiring performance that took the breath away. Well done!
Crosspool 2 Middlewood 1
Our first win of the season and a well deserved one against the league runners up from last season. This was always going to be a test of our belief, character and togetherness with players missing and late fitness tests for James and Joe. Unfortunately James was still feeling his ankle but Joe was passed fit to give us an option from the bench. We opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation, starting the game brightly with Sol dropping into midfield and Zac the lone striker. Zac was doing exactly what was asked of him, making intelligent movements across their back line and making himself available in space. Alex also impressed in the middle, working hard for his team mates and pressing their play maker whenever he had the ball. Sol and Will Day looked dangerous on the inside right and left channels while Will Gresh conducted play from behind. Dylan looked to have the bit between his teeth winning every loose ball both on the floor and in the air. His protection was well appreciated by his team mates behind him with Max and John relatively untroubled. Ed and Noah were given the freedom to bomb on when we had the ball and this worked to good effect with the lads adapting brilliantly to another new formation. Middlewood struggled to live with our swift passing and we were slowly beginning to turn the screw, making chances and pressing them back into their own half. We should have taken the lead after a clever corner kick from Will Gresh flashed across the 6 yard box evading Max's outstretched leg.The breakthrough did finally come though after Middlewood conceded a throw-in midway into their half. They weren't expecting the Channer exocet that followed but Sol was alive to it. Max somehow reached the back of the 6 yard box with his throw and Sol rose above their keeper to head the bouncing ball over him and give us a deserved lead. We kept up the pressure after the goal and could have extended our lead on a couple of occasions after some good work from Zac. Against the run of play though, Middlewood scored an excellent long range goal which gave Archie no chance at all as it sailed into the roof of the net. We lost our way slightly after this and lesser teams may have lost a bit of belief. However, we worked our way back into the game with Joe coming on to replace Alex. Joe made a difference straight away, carrying on the pressing that Alex had started and getting us back on the front foot. Will Gresh played a fantastic weighted through ball for Will Day who looked like he'd restored our lead, placing the ball past their keeper towards the goal. Somehow though, the ball stayed out after hitting the inside of the post and rolling back across the goal line. Noah picked up a knock after a committed challenge and did well to shake if off although it will take a while longer to shake off the splashes of blue paint all over his legs! The half-time whistle blew with honours even.
The half-time team talk was positive with the emphasis on producing more of the same in the 2nd. And that's exactly what the lads did, proving this was no flash in the pan and our quality is right up there when we are on our game. We played some lovely stuff and, just as importantly, battled for every ball. Dylan was immense - he seemed to have a magnet attached to his head and feet as every ball they played forward he blocked and then distributed to a red shirt. John was having another great game at the back in his own unassuming but extremely effective manner. Max also carried on from where he left off the previous week, putting out fires before they sparked and organising brilliantly with the help of his able sidekick behind him - Archie. Ed and Noah were putting a real shift in getting up and down the touchline, giving us width and space in the middle of the field. We were on top again and creating chances. Sol looked certain to score after rounding their keeper following a great ball through from Noah but their defender made a last ditch clearance. We then created another good chance when Joe played Sol in, who squared to Zac only for their defender to get a tackle in just as Zac was about to pull the trigger. Will Gresh was far enough up the pitch though to pick up the loose ball and play a neat pass into Noah on the right. Noah flashed a cross into the six yard box and Zac raced in to show great composure and fire the ball into the back of the net. 2-1. We pushed further looking to kill the game but were denied by the post after a superb effort from Sol which rattled back off the upright. As the game wore on and the margin remained only one goal Middlewood pushed for a point. We were looking understandably nervy and a little leggy after all our efforts. We did brilliantly though to prevent Middlewood from making any chances and, while we could have used the ball more effectively to manage the closing minutes of the game, we eventually saw it out to earn our first 3 points of the season.
A brilliant effort from every single one of the lads which was all about their desire as well as their ability. Very difficult to single players out but the whole of the back line and keeper were fantastic today, limiting Middlewood to a small number of half chances. The midfield were immense.combining their different qualities to great effect. It was good to see Joe back after his injury lay off and put in a good performance. Zac scored the winner and deserved his goal after an intelligent and committed performance showing his range of classy touches and cheeky skills. Man of the match though goes to Dylan who really did impress today. He was up against a big strong lad and he bossed the game throughout. A really mature and commanding performance - well done Dylan!
Wisewood 2 Crosspool 0
A tough encounter in our 2nd game of the season against a well organised and strong Wisewood team. On a slow pitch we struggled to get the ball moving quickly and found ourselves having to battle for every ball. Wisewood looked like a team that relished a physical challenge and were also neat and tidy on the ball. This was the step up we expected in A and looked a much tougher test than the previous weeks. We were getting overrun at the back with our wingbacks doing more wing than back and their 4-3-3 formation trumping our 3-1-4-2. While we battled well in the middle of the park we struggled to get our creative players on the ball. Time and space was at a premium and whenever we did find it we were rushing our passes or making the wrong decisions. We had a couple of long range shots through Taylor and Will Day which didn't really cause their keeper too many problems. He did look more concerned when a Will Gresh effort curled just wide of his left post. Wisewood took a deserved lead in the 15th minute though after a cross came across our goal which we failed to clear, giving their midfielder an easy finish. It was a cheap goal and the sort of goal we will have to stop conceding if we are to give ourselves a chance in games this season. A pause in play gave us the opportunity to reorganise and we switched to a 4-3-3 with Ed moving to left back to try and tighten up on our left. This did seem to work and we looked to be playing our way back into the game. Ben picked up a knock on his ankle though and was replaced by Zac with Dylan moving to centre half with Max. This disrupted us a bit but we were still well in the game while not really creating. Alex came on to replace Noah and immediately showed his passing ability with a classy clip out to Zac which almost got him in down the right. Zac was looking dangerous down the right hand side and was really unlucky after a great ball through from Will Gresh which he raced onto, chipping the ball over the keeper's head only to see it bounce inches wide. Archie made a good save to tip their striker's shot over the bar in the dying minutes of the half. The half-time whistle sounded with us 1-0 down but there were a few signs of encouragement.
We spoke at half-time about the need to communicate more effectively from front to back. We needed to get Sol in the game and get more of our players around him now that Ed was no longer playing alongside him. The 2nd half produced more of the same really. We couldn't fault the amount of effort the lads were putting in but it was a surprising lack of fluidity and quality that saw Wisewood keep their lead without being particularly stretched. They weren't really stretching us either to be fair and our back line looked really solid. Max was a rock with John now alongside him and Will Gresh and Ed at full back. James came on to replace Dylan in midfield and started well although limped off after 10 mins with a knock. We weren't really getting our full backs forward though and you'd have to credit the opponents for some of this as they worked hard to stop us getting into their half. Far too much of our play was in our own half and, once again, we struggled to get into positions to threaten their back line. Alex was unlucky with a volleyed shot from outside the box which their keeper saved and we had a couple of dangerous set-pieces but to no avail. We almost got the equaliser though when Sol managed to escape his marker and play a one-two with Zac to release him down the right flank. Zac delayed his cross and this gave their defence a chance to block the chance with Sol waiting to pounce on the cross. Alex also picked up a knock and was replaced by Noah. As time wore on we were getting more desperate for the equaliser and taking more risks. In the final throw of the dice Max was sent up to try and cause some mayhem in their area. However, the tactical masterclass of 'chucking the big man up and booting the ball into the mixer' failed as we forgot to actually knock the ball up to him! The gamble backfired even further when the Max-sized hole was exploited by their right winger who crossed for their striker to fire into the roof of the net. A little harsh perhaps but when you go chasing an equaliser in the dying minutes against good sides you are always susceptible to the sucker punch.
We couldn't really fault the lad's efforts today and the pleasing thing is they stuck together throughout, supporting their team-mates and working hard to try and get something out of the game. The lack of quality in our creative play isn't a worry at all as we've seen enough of these players to know they have the ability to create and carve open even the best of defences. On quicker pitches we will move the ball quicker and we will create chances. No doubt about that. What we do have to learn from this game is to ensure opposition teams have to work as hard to score in these close encounters as we are made to work. We need to give ourselves every chance to show our quality in games by ensuring we don't concede cheap goals. Our best performances were at the back today with John and Ed impressing, giving little away once we'd reorganised. Zac was the most impressive of our forward players and looks to have really pushed on this season, impressing in his first two games. Man of the match goes to Max though who showed desire and commitment throughout - an excellent example to the rest of his team-mates who should try and emulate his efforts.
AFC Dronfield 3 Crosspool 2
Our first game of the new season in Division A saw us facing the winners of the other B League on a perfect Gosforth pitch. We started well, dominating play and pushing Dronfield back into their own half. Our passing and movement were excellent and our workrate off the ball impressive. Sol's pace and power caused them problems at the back and we were pressing well in the middle through Taylor and Joe. The two Wills gave us width as overlapping fullbacks while Zac and Ed offered support to Sol further up the field. Joe was replaced by John 10 minutes in after pulling up with a muscle injury. His complaints of feeling a pain in his backside confirmed there is such a thing as karma! The injury didn't affect our rhythm though as we continued to push for a goal. We were camped in their half and winning a number of corners which were delivered brilliantly only for us to fail to get on the end of them. There were also some more half chances which went begging before Will Gresh gave us the lead our dominance deserved. He made a purposeful run from the back, latching onto a layoff from Zac to hit a sweetly struck right footer into the top left corner of the Dronfield net. We continued to press after the goal, looking to extend our lead and seemed to have complete control of the game. But then the whole game turned on its head. We conspired to gift Dronfield 3 goals in what can only be described as a mad 10 minutes. We'll not dwell on the mistakes and lapses in concentration that effectively gifted Dronfield the game but we definitely have some work to do on our defensive organisation in training. Noah replaced Zac on the right with the instruction to get into the opposition's box and try and get us back in the game. We went in at half-time though with the score at 3-1, feeling a little shell-shocked and wondering how we'd managed to end up behind in the game.
We switched to 3 at the back in the second half in an effort to try and save the game. Alex came on to play on the right hand side, replacing Will G who was struggling with a thigh strain. We weren't quite as dominant in the 2nd half with Dronfield now feeling confident and setting themselves up to counter. We were edging it but our passing wasn't quite as crisp and our decision making was letting us down. Dronfield were also dangerous on the break and John, Max and Ben had to be on their toes sometimes finding themselves outnumbered as we pushed to find a way back into the game. Once again, there were half chances and good deliveries from set-pieces but we just lacked a bit of a cutting edge. Taylor worked tirelessly in the middle and was eventually rewarded for his efforts when a long range effort looped over their keeper and into the net. We pushed for the equaliser, leaving some gaps at the back and Archie did well to keep us in the game on a couple of occasions. Will Day almost snatched a point at the death after a through ball from Will Gresh but their keeper did well to parry his clipped shot and it rolled agonisingly wide. We threw the kitchen sink at it with Max going up front in the dying minutes but Dronfield's defence were resolute and the final whistle sounded to signal the end of the game.
This really did feel like a game we should have won so it was a disappointing result after such a promising start. We shouldn't be too disheartened though as there were quite a few positives we can take from the game and some good learning points. We have to make sure we learn quickly though and bounce back in our game next Sunday at Wisewood. The man of the match award goes to Taylor whose workrate and determination almost got us back in the game.
Crosspool 5 Wickersley 4
OMG (as it's rumoured the young people say). This was a game and a half alright. It had a bit of everything - fantastic football, touchline numpties, late controversy and an unprecedented comeback from the lads in Red. The game started fairly evenly with Wickersley winning the toss and opting to kick down the slope, with the wind. This was always going to mean we were under the cosh in the first period but we looked fairly comfortable at the back and dangerous on the break. We should have scored with our first attack when Taylor drove down the right and pu a dangerous cross into the box which we couldn't quite get on the end of. The ball had gone slightly out of play and, while the Crosspool coaches signalled to the ref that it had gone, it wasn't given. This prompted what can only be described as a textbook 'this is more important than the Prem' reaction from a particularly overzealous Wickersley coaching assistant. Once he'd calmed down the lads were then allowed to get on with playing football, thankfully. And it was a good game to watch with both teams contesting every challenge. Wickersley had a bit more bite than us though and we were letting them get on top of us. The game bypassed our midfield a little as we struggled to assert ourselves. Saying that, Archie's goal was rarely troubled and we looked to have the pace and skill to cause their back line problems on the break. After another bout of Wickersley pressure they were awarded a corner on the left-hand side. A dangerous ball was floated over to the back post and one of their lads rose, unmarked, to head home. Once again, we'd allowed a team to score too easily. And once again, we found out pretty quickly how ruthless the opposition is in this league when you give them the lead. Joe came on to replace Alex but Wickersley had their tails up now and scored a 2nd soon after with an excellent finish from their striker. Another good turn and finish made it 3 and we were in danger of getting a real hammering as Wickersley were turning the screw. We should have had a goal of our own though after another break down the right with Sol released on goal. Their keeper stood up well though and made the goal small, with Sol directing his shot too near to him. Sol had another good chance not long after this but, once again, their keeper saved well. Then, further throw in controversy, when they broke down the left with the ball looking to run well over the touchline. With the aforementioned prem linesman looking right down the line at the ball the expectation was that his hand would go up to signal the ball being out of play. No signal was given though and the ball went in the box for the Wickersley striker to finish and make it 4-0. When asked if the ball went out our friend went all Arsene Wenger on us and said he didn't see it. Hopefully though he'll have seen and taken note of the reaction from our coaching staff and players who, while disappointed, managed to keep a lid on our disappointment. The whistle went soon after this and the lads came in a little dejected not really deserving to find themselves 4-0 down.
Talk at half-time was about the need for us to start believing in ourselves. We felt a little hard done to but we also felt we could have done more to ensure we made things harder for our opponents. We had to have a bit more bite to our game. We had to get angry. And we had to make sure we used the conditions to get on the front foot as early as possible. To be fair, the lads really did come flying out of the blocks. We were now the team that was on top and Wickersley were on the back foot. We decided to try and exploit what looked to be a lack of certainty at the back with Ed moving up front and Zac switching to left-back. Ed had obviously been listening at half-time as he single-handedly went about dragging us back into the game in a remarkable passage of play that showed great belief, bit and a fair bit of anger. His first goal was a beauty, running free from their defenders with plenty left to do, he finished brilliantly into the corner and his reaction after the ball hit the net was just as important. Picking the ball up and running back to the centre circle not only demonstrated his belief to his team mates but to his opponents too. When he went and did the same thing 5 minutes later with a carbon copy of his first goal you could see the rest of the lads with a similar look in the eyes. We pushed again, rocking Wickersley back, every one of us playing our hearts out in a monumental effort to get back in the game. Will Gresh deserves special mention as he not only showed his class but was prepared to put the hard yards in to push us on. Sol and Ed were combining brilliantly up front, ably assisted by the 2 Wills, Taylor and Joe. Dylan continued his excellent form, winning everything and stopping the supply to their dangerous number 9. The back 4 were solid and Archie cajoled from behind. We won a corner on the right and put in a fantastic delivery. It looked like Max had missed the chance but Ed came from nowhere to incredibly volley his third of the game. John made a fantastic run from deep, committing players and almost releasing Sol. We kept on pushing and eventually got our reward from that man again who will now be known as Remarkable Willis! A bit of a deflection but no way anyone is taking it off him. Just when you thought these lads couldn't show any more character , another attack down the left, again involving Ed who passed to Taylor. Taylor fed Joe and Joe played the ball across the six yard box for Sol who finished brilliantly - 5-4.Great credit for Sol who kept on going all game and got the goal his performance deserved. It's never straightforward with these lads though and if we didn't know them better we'd think they were putting us through the wringer on purpose. We sat back and invited Wickersley onto us. Being a good team, they didn't need much of an invite and the last 10 minutes dragged on and on with the ref seeming to have a watch with long minutes on it. Max put a full blooded but well-timed challenge in on the touchline which showed great desire but was a little unfairly deemed to be a foul. We defended resolutely as the seconds ticked away. Then came the final controversial act of the game. A free kick was given on the right with seconds left. They swung the ball into the box and we failed to clear our lines. Their lad pulled his leg back to volley as the ref blew the final whistle and then the ball flew into the net. They weren't happy bunnies as our lads celebrated their victory on the goal line. Arsene ran onto the pitch to join in the remonstrations but the whistle had gone and we'd taken the 3 points in a remarkable comeback. To be fair the other coaching staff were magnanimous in defeat but as far as Arsene's concerned, in the words of a certain Mr Lennon - "Instant Karma's gonna get ya'" (google it lads).
An incredible comeback which will certainly see others in the league sit up and take notice. This was all about our self-belief and our character. What a fantastic set of lads and a fantastic team. While individually good players we showed today the strength of unity and togetherness. These lads never give up. However, It might seem churlish, but looking at the league table we should be disappointed that we aren't looking down at the rest of league. AFC Dronfield currently occupy top spot and, while they should be congratulated, we can only look on and think, "what if".