St. Thomas Aldridge FC 0 St. Matthews Walsall 2
The third meeting between the two local teams was finely poised with St T’s hoping to draw upon the same spirit that saw them come back from 4-0 down to earn a well deserved point with a 4-4 draw earlier in the season in a result that in all honesty no one outside of St T’s expected. That result however was the start of a mini run of games that saw St T’s form read DDWWWLL in the last seven games which they would have expected to be taken into account when predicting the outcome of the latest meeting of the two sides. There was little doubt that St Matthew’s current form & recent results would make them favourites for three points but by the margins predicted was let’s just say questionable.
St T’s welcomed back Jake Lakin & Scott Tibbetts to the starting 11 meaning that unfortunately for Phil Rogers who had put in a good performance the week before vs Zion City at left back had to settle for a place on the bench. Surprisingly St Matthews who are currently in a great position to clinch the Division 2 title in their first season & are also in the semi final of the league cup only had the bare eleven, with a couple of players letting the manager down by being not turning up, but never the less it was still a strong eleven.
Both of the goals came in the first half, if you listen to the pundits on sky sports they often make references to champions needing an element of luck during the course of a season; decisions going their way, situations turning out in their favour, results going their way etc. For St Matthews it was one of those days where fortune favoured the brave, as a manager & as players, it is a bitter pill to swallow to come off the pitch suffering a defeat knowing that the opposition beat you without even scoring a goal.
Both goals in this defeat were scored by St Thomas players, two own goals, how bizarre is that, in fairness to St Matthews the first came as result of pressuring the defender in the air from a corner kick, as the ball came in Tommy Hoccom jumped highest to get his head to the ball before the St Matthews player only to see his header fly straight into the top corner past the keeper, at the other end this would have been a fantastic strike, but in your own net devastating.
The second was all of St Thomas’s own making, a breakdown in communication between goalkeeper & defender or should I say no communication between goalkeeper & defender. Josh Merrick has been in scintillating form again this season carrying on from his player of the year award last season & indeed it was his heroics in the 4-4 draw earlier in the season that was a major contributory factor to the spirit that saw the rest of the team play the way they did. But he openly & honestly held his hands up to the mistake that resulted in the second goal, as the ball came in, Scott Tibbetts waited for the call of the keeper to come & collect the ball, the call didn’t come so he assumed the keeper had stayed on his line, cushioning a back ward header towards the goal, he didn’t realise that the keeper was advancing towards his position to claim the ball this resultied in the ball looping over the keeper & straight into the net. A simple mistake & in fairness the number of goal scoring chances Josh Merrick has denied the opposition through superb goalkeeping this season & last season far outweigh the number of mistakes by a million percent.
The difference between the two teams on the day was how well each team used the ball, defensively (other than the two own goals) both teams handled what the other threw them with relative comfort, it was offensively where the difference between the two teams laid. St Matthews used the ball through midfield into attacking areas better than St T’s, with both defences holding their own both teams found themselves trying a fair few long range efforts. If you were keeping stats on attempts on goal/target St Matthews would come out on top of that duel by some way as St T’s struggled to make an impact in this area. A combination of good defending & poor decision making at times meant St T’s were once again left frustrated at the lack of penetrating offensive play.
The game was played in good spirits, & a good game to watch, with Zion City losing to Maple Leaf you would have to think that St Matthews are the only team that can stop St Matthews taking the league title with three games in hand & a two point deficit surely they can feel confident of getting the job done.
Good luck to St Matthews for the rest of the season in pursuit of the league & cup double, however in St Marys they face a tough opponent to reach the final. But there is no doubt that they are both the in form teams in their respective divisions so I wouldn’t bet against a hard fought game where either team could get the win.