How easily you forget the pain of defeat! After seven straight wins we were keen to lock horns with a Wednesbury side who also have the winning habit. We went into the game pretty much full strength with only Clive missing suspended and knowing at least that our opponents were missing the influential Pete Falconer and as it turned out were pretty much down to a bare eleven with a couple of walking wounded. All this made us pleased that the pitch was playable (more of this later) despite torrential rain. Obviously this is our report so will focus on our disappointments and frustrations, but let me say from the start that Wednesbury are a very good side and today despite their ‘trials’, they deserved to win and did so objectively against the odds because they played most of the football.
Reflecting on the game with hindsight it now seems to me very much for us a game of two halves with the disasters of the second obliterating the promise of the first. We knew Wednesbury score plenty and concede some so we set up solidly and it worked well. We also got off to a great start when Olly pressurised their centre back and was brought down for a penalty. Christie made no mistake. As the game developed we looked comfortable. Matt was dominant at the back and was making good use of the ball as were Chris and Joe and Barber. Bena and Christie were probing, Olly was making progress and we were competitive in midfield. What we failed to do (partly the story of the game) was create a proper chance or ultimately to keep playing our way and be patient.
We had already pushed the excellent Craig Abbey back into midfield to get on the ball and looked comfortable despite their obvious quality. Then the first of a series of self-inflicted wounds which ultimately changed the game. Firstly Olly chased their keeper down and blocked his clearance. The ball ballooned into the air and Olly and the keeper ‘wrestled’ for it. We thought it a second penalty. The ref saw it all and waved play on. End of story. But not for us. We argued with the game for five minutes, lost our shape and by the time we surfaced it was 1-1 with their lad given room in midfield to drive a 30 yard ‘daisy cutter’ which helped by a greasy pitch evaded Lee on its way to the corner of the net. Now they were dictating the game and we were responding to their prompting. At half time the game was even.
We knew we were losing Lee our holding midfielder at half time to work commitments but with a full bench to their bare eleven we still very much fancied our chances. Therefore when the referee called the captains and secretaries to him and said that the groundsman was worried about the state of the pitch and did we want the game abandoned seeing as it was 1-1, we were keen to continue. Wednesbury understandably, as Jason admitted, would have shed no tears at that point (we would have been the same in their position). At that point the pitch was heavy but not unplayable and I’d never experienced an external intervention once a game is underway so it was unchartered territory (I wasn’t even sure what might happen if ‘our’ groundsman had got the game abandoned). In the best traditions of wmcfl both teams left the decision to Lee Ashman the ref who therefore made a decision without pressure to continue based only on the physical state of the pitch. Ironically of course if we could go back now we would have been wanting it off and Wednesbury not!
Second half we were down the slope with the wind and rain behind us against a tiring team but played as if this advantage would inevitably lead us home so much was overhit and on a deteriorating pitch we forgot the team we’d been when winning. They, on the other hand continued to create and good work from the excellent Martin Woodhall set up a stunning chipped second. Though stunned we did then have our best spell of the second half. I’d been expecting to make a change for Chrissy Staien’s injured calf early in the second half but Chris appeared to have recovered and with 20 minutes gone and us in arrears I sent on young Tom for Christie. Within minutes Ben had crossed for sub Tom to drive in with his left foot. The momentum was momentarily with us despite our poor showing since half time but quickly the tide (a pertinent metaphor) turned as Chris went down with the injury and no sooner had we used our third sub, Barber too succumbed and spent the rest of the game standing up front.
However a greater blow had also struck in this dark period as a ball in from wide which our reliable goalkeeper-skipper Lee would have dealt with 999 times out of a 1000 somehow passed through him and nestled in the corner. Thereafter we huffed and puffed but didn’t really look like scoring though after they added a classy fourth Benna did miss from a free header form 9 inches. Oh well these have to be taken on the chin. All the best to Jason and his lads! Thanks also to three excellent officials who braved the conditions!