7th September

A new season upon us and hopefully the beginning of more match reports being received this season. I will start off with the first one that was received late last night. So Callum from Living Hope Church United gets under way this season.

Brierley Hill A.O.G 0 vs 6 Living Hope Church United

A fantastic start to the season for LHC as they keep a clean sheet and take all three points from Stanley Road, on the opening day of the season. Goals from debutants Sam Crook (2), Ricky Evans, and Greg Timmington, in addition to Simon Carswell and Callum Oakshott, saw the visitors comfortably claim victory as they controlled the game for large spells.
Thanks to Brierley Hill for a great, competitive game, and to the officials for managing the game well.

Whilst the first report of the season was brief, I did state at the League Meeting that even brief reports are great to have. On to the second report received which is from our ever reliable Pete from Rowley College, who is may be disappointed not to be the first contributor this season with his report received just after midnight. Reading his report, it looks like I may have misjudged them for the forthcoming season, but I have to stick with my forecast. So here is Pete’s report in what must class as the ‘Match Of The Day’

Connect Sports 5 vs 4 Rowley College

Extraordinary game today between two teams intent on attacking football and already I have been through the full range of emotions. This process started before the game when we woke up to the news that our already depleted numbers (half a dozen out with injury or unavailability) had been compounded by the loss of our goalkeeper. With no obvious replacement we were forced to call on Tom Cartin who was not fit enough to play out but offered to have a go between the sticks. Mark also had to press himself into service at centre back, though far from fully fit. This was frustrating because we have some exciting young players and were today welcoming back (from two years down under) one of our best players from recent years, Ben Fowler. Frustrating too to be playing a strong team like Connect who have supplemented their quality with a couple of lads from Life Central including the mercurial Leon Naylor.

What I know we have this year is goals (a problem for a couple of years) and Mark set up again very positively with Fowler just behind Josh and Jack and Hayden wide. The early signs were pretty awful. Shaken, as you often are by these kind of late disruptions, we conceded possession and then a mess of a goal to a fluent and confident Connect side. Was it to be one of those mornings? Nothing of the sort, though looking back that first five minutes was as crucial as the injury time winner they got to edge us out by one in nine! Put simply we embraced misfortune and took a full part in a cracking game and not just as a matter of spirit but also quality. Not often you have four or five players who could genuinely have been man of the match but we certainly did today. Luck was not with us today, which is not to say that Connect were lucky.

Having started so well and looking continually capable of scoring more Connect were shaken to find themselves twenty minutes later 2-1 down. Truth is that once we got into gear we looked just as dangerous as them and my first Rowley m-o-t-m candidate was involved in both of our first half goals: Mark Southall. Both goals came from corners: first Mark headed powerfully onto the bar and Josh skillfully swept it in, then he scored the best goal of the game when he volleyed a corner straight in unstoppably. I thought we had the game at that point, I must admit because we were impressively ‘at it’ both offensively and defensively, though with the latter we were always at full stretch. Sadly we were the dealt more misfortune when this proved precisely true when Mark made a fantastic block to deny Leon a certain goal but injured himself in the process (he later reflected: “I should have let them score: it would have been less costly”).

The incident occurred just after Connect equalised when they bundled one in from a corner. A word about Tom at this point who by being prepared to pitch up and take the gloves meant we were able to be competitive at all: he was great, dealing with the general duties really well. He is, nevertheless, not a goalkeeper and this gave Connect a real advantage at set pieces. However, this was not decisive, rather it was the five minutes we spent firstly with ten men, hoping Mark could return, a period in which Connect took the lead followed by the readjustment of the team in the absence of an obvious replacement during which they scored an attractive fourth when Leon lofted a cross field ball and their centre forward powered in a classic back post header. We were gutted and glad to hear the half time whistle.

There was no negativity in Mark’s team talk and I stressed that all that has hurt us were external factors: football-wise we’d been more than decent. This was the cue for a stimulating half of football which we gradually came to dominate though Connect were always dangerous. Chris Staien was immense, Ben Smith all over the pitch and with Fowler back in his traditional right wing berth we took it to them: Shola moved to number 10 and was very effective. However, there were three more players who made a particular contribution in the second period. Firstly Jack who terrorised Connect down the left and might have had a penalty late on. He was ably supported by Josh who delivered the perfect, controlled centre forward performance, physical, competitive and productive: it was he who forced home our third after competing in the air with the keeper.

Man-of-the match though had to go to Brad Rogers, a winger playing first right back and then left: a magnificent performance combining defensive tenacity with attacking intent and range of passes. He was a player who didn’t deserve to be on the losing side and when Jack crashed in an equaliser, a cool head in a crowded penalty area, it looked as if he wouldn’t be. But there was one last twist in this exciting game as in injury time their m-o-t-m ran the length of the pitch to hit a shot that squirmed through poor Tom’s legs. All the best To Willis and Vern with whom I once again enjoyed good natured banter and to all the players who showed the proper control so as to ensure the sin bin wasn’t opened! Welcome back to all!

The 3rd Match Report came in very early this morning and thanks to Christ Church Coseley for their contribution.

Christ Church Coseley 2-1 Dudley Lions

Finally after what seemed like the longest summer of waiting, the season was here. A minutes silence was held before ko and with everything ready to go the ref blew and the season started. From the 1st 10 minutes we started slow and Dudley had a few chances but couldn’t find the net. We then woke up a bit and started to get into the game. Lewis and Chambers both making good runs and putting balls into danger areas only for the flag to go up or Dudley to clear it. The 1st goal came from a Dudley corner, a perfect cross headed powerfully past the keeper giving them a deserved lead. A few minutes later it should have been 2-0 but the Dudley forward flashed his shot inches wide after we had been caught asleep again. (Our story of the 1st half) both keepers made some fantastic saves and we went in at ht 0-1 to Dudley.

2nd half we changed the formation and this seemed to give us more of an attacking option, and we had chances to score but the final 3rd we struggled to get it past the defence or keeper and the 1 chance we did get the ball in the net the linesman flagged for offside.
Then on around the hour mark Dudley got awarded a penalty, it looked a bit soft in my opinion, more of a clash of legs as both players tried to get a foot on the ball sending both players down the ref saw it differently and pointed to the spot. Dudley’s forward sent the ball towards the corner but Lewis got down quick and put a big right hand in the way to save it and we eventually managed to clear it.
This seemed to be what we needed to kick us back into the game, on the 70th minute we finally pulled a goal back through Craig, who found himself in the box with work to do he managed to fire a low shot into the bottom corner. This gave both sides a bit of extra fire and either side could have scored with both having chances. With the game looking like it would be a point each the ref told us we were into the last 40 seconds, Dudley had 1 last attack and sent players forward, a ball into the box was collected by Lewis and he quickly rolled it out to Screeny who hit an inch perfect ball through the defence to find Lewis B, (who was onside for the 1st time), he ran clear of the defence and put the ball into the top corner. Que.. last minute celebrations. With that the referee blew his whistle and we had managed to snatch all 3 points..

A fantastic game for the neutral as this was end to end and maybe we didn’t deserve to win but that’s football. I’ve been in games over the years and it’s a gutting experience to lose right at the end but fair play to Steve and the Dudley Lions lads, as they all shook our hands after when some teams would just walk away. (edit; this is exactly the standard required, so praise where it is due, Neil),
A big thank you goes to the officials who over all didn’t get much wrong and allowed the game to flow.
Ft Christchurch 2-1 Dudley Lions

So 3 Match Reports in so far, hopefully more to follow. I keep saying these reports make our League different and keep the web site interesting. Off for a bit of family time now. Will there be any more to follow later ?

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