Though Kovac’s Kolumn certainly got the result right today (and the fact that “Rowley will be no push over”), I’m sure even St Mary’s would admit they were not “too strong for us on the day”. In fact if St Mary’s go on to win the league this term, (and their confidence and togetherness bode very well for them), I think they might account the six points they have taken from us as a very good return on two very close games. Their high tempo pressing game makes them a very effective side but today in particular I think we had the better of things and only our failure to convert the better chances of another tight game and their terrific commitment to their cause prevented Neil having his first ‘shock’ to report.
In fact John and his boys knew exactly what to expect as we’d put in another terrific performance a fortnight ago. They were missing the influential Coleman and we were stronger with Leon, Dave and Max coming in, though we lost Craig in the warm-up and Mark chose to leave himself out as a precaution, (retrospectively this turned out to be a big call perhaps!). On a difficult, (overgrassed), pitch at Walsall campus, (my place of employment), the first half was a fairly muted affair with both sides cancelling the other out somewhat. Leon hit a lofted drive just over early doors but neither side was making significant progress. Then they scored when a mix up between two of our defenders left Locke free just inside the box and his low drive expertly beat Lee off the post. Nothing much to report for the rest of the half though we were uncharacteristically nervous in defending their, (always dangerous), set pieces. Leon chased onto one late in the half and might have gone down under pressure from their defender: instead he rode the challenge but couldn’t finish. Honours even but 0-1 at half time.
We stepped it up after half time and gave St Mary’s a severe test. Their confidence and commitment was apparent and they needed it. They remained dangerous from set pieces but we created much more from open play. Nathan Hylton was all over the park for us and Ben, Max and Clive gave them plenty to think about wide. We thought the next goal would be vital so were glad to get it. In one of a number of counter attacks, Max drove in from the left and then chipped it in for Christie to force home. The game was at that moment there for the taking and Leon had a couple of good efforts. I sensed a result: sadly my intuition was awry and having forced a series of corners, St Mary’s regained the lead when Luke headed home. Cue the big finish with Micheal Clark coming on for us and delivering a wonderful cameo performance of quality and skill, creating chances and almost scoring himself. ‘Almost’ had been the theme of the two games and the St Mary’s lads were gracious enough to admit it after the game. You only need to look at what my ‘brother in passion’ Rob Hill’s lads have done today against high-flying Sheldon to realize what a competitive league this is. All the best to John Myatt and his lads for another great contest.