Of course the greatest test of the report writer’s resolve is a run of defeats and we slipped to our sixth in a row today. That sequence began last season with one of our best performances in the best game we played in last season (1-2 at Sheldon) and followed a nine match unbeaten run (seven of which were wins). It is, as they say, a funny old game.
The two defeats at the back end of last season were in open games in which we were perhaps unfortunate. That has not been the case this season. Certainly we have had misfortune with injuries to key players and still await the arrival of anything like the strength of team we had earlier in the year, but we have done nothing like enough in any of the games to expect anything. And things appear to be getting worse before any prospect of improvement.
We had all of the encouragement we could wish today to effect a change: a move to a new ground (Holly Lodge: very good), a decent starting eleven and an opposition who had made technically an even poorer start than us. Truth was that the new look Zion (shorn of a couple but supplemented by the addition of good quality Amblecote lads) were, exactly like us both a good team looking for a start and there for the taking (because that’s what the habit of losing does to you). In Leon, of course, they have a special player who will always give you problems but in a first half up the slope we handled him well and got on top. This included scoring our first goal of the season when Ben fired home from the edge of the six yard box following a corner. However even in this period of ascendancy our final ball was sloppy and our keeper Lee was forced into two excellent saves. We also lost Sammy to injury (and with only two subs this was to have implications later).
Mark said all the right things at half time and in the early exchanges down the slope it looked as if we would carry the day (certainly I didn’t see the reverse coming). Looking back the turning point for us came when Hunter conclusively beat their offside trap, though both he and I waited for a flag, and, beset by indecision, chipped tamely into their keeper’s hands. At 2-0 their confidence would have been sorely tested as it turned out it was our fragility that was exposed.
We were ultimately subjected to a heavy defeat by injuries to Stew and Clive with only one able to come off but I want to be clear that Zion very much deserved this win and blew us away with twenty minutes of real quality football. Two set pieces turned it around and then a classic breakaway goal put it beyond us (though Jamie uncharacteristically missing a penalty didn’t help). Zion were just so much better than us today creatively (our best players were our centre halves and keeper): we did too little with the ball today. Hopefully we’ll get reinforcements next week: at the moment we need them!