Report from Zion Athletic:
A big night for Zion tonight, 3 consecutive final defeats meant we were even more determined to be successful this year, something that has been evident in our 3 defeats since the semi win. In truth last years defeat irked us on a few fronts because we were unorganised, late and 2 early injuries and an early goal all left us with a bitter taste as All Saints took us apart at times and scored goals at key moments.
So this year we decided to approach it differently, we arrived together on a bus all in shirt and tie and warmed up as a team properly. I can’t help but feel that it helped massively. Tactically we knew it would be a tough game, we knew Sheldon would be organised and work hard, (but that can be harder on a bigger pitch), it’s why they have gone unbeaten for so long. So we set up with a back 4 who we knew could push up the pitch, 2 centre midfielders to protect them and the plan was for Shawn, Leon, Ste and Westy to cause them problems, something that in the end was the defining difference as the front 4 were exceptional all night.
The game started competitively with both teams working hard, we had the better of the ball however and from open play looked more likely. The opener was not to be predicted in the manner it came. Leon got the ball and with the Sheldon centre half missing Leon drove and unleashed a shot from 40 yards, (Edit: probably 30 yards, Neil), it looked to be going wide but the curl on the ball bought it dipping in and off the post and in to spark celebrations and a goal of the season contender. It was soon 2, a neat build up from Ste, Shawn and Greg led to Shawn being fouled, Leon stepped up and although the keeper possibly should have done better, it went in off the bar. Sheldon didn’t cause us too many problems apart from set pieces something which would later be our Achilles heel. In truth we didn’t create too much more but we definitely looked the more dangerous from open play.
Half time team talk was all about keeping it tight and not allowing Sheldon back in, so you can guess what happened…. they came out fighting and after a great delivery they scored with a towering header. Our keeper was soon back in action to make a smart save before we got hold of the ball a little more and Shawn missed a very good one on one chance before Mike made it 3-1 when he got those long legs up high and scored with a neat finish. It was soon 4-1 soon after when Shawn put one in at the keepers near post to put us in a commanding position. Game over, you would have thought, but Sheldon never give up though and a great Atkins delivery was headed home by the impressive josh. 4-2 with 20 minutes to go and the next goal could be crucial. Again we came under a little pressure as we started to look tired and our keeper made a very important stop with his legs as Sheldon pressed. Then Leon got his third which I think killed the game, he swivelled and arrowed another into the top corner, a very impressive hat trick and a game winning one indeed. We continued to break and made it 6 when Shawn tricked his way past the Sheldon RB and curled a cracker into the top corner before he also got his hat trick with a neat turn and finish into the corner. There was time for an 8th after Ste beat a few lads with some impressive trickery and Greg got his goal with a tap in from close range.
In all honesty, Sheldon didn’t deserve an 8-2 scoreline but the quality of goals and attacking play meant, I felt, we were comfortable winners in the end. Ultimately Sheldon struggled to deal with our front 4 whilst apart from set pieces we seemed quite comfortable in the main led by Mike and Matt who were impressive as ever with Jal working hard in front of them.
Best of luck to Sheldon on there pursuit to winning the league, indeed, we have to play them twice so I’m sure they will be up for those.
For us, the win is dedicated to Jal and Toomey who have been stalwarts at the club, we can now enjoy the seasons end. It’s a shame we couldn’t get that 11 out every week because I think we would be in a much stronger position in the league but that’s why Sheldon are where they are, consistency is the key in a league campaign.