Zion 1 Rowley 5

14th March

After a close encounter in the semi last week, I’d hoped for a weakened Zion side today in the much more important ‘must win’ league game. Rest assured, despite the score line this was not the case, though I was happier to see Leon Naylor on the side introducing me to his beautiful daughter than tormenting us in the middle of the park. Aside from that Zion seemed mob-armed today and gave us a proper game which turned out to be the reverse of the earlier league game which also despite having two entirely competitive teams rendered a 5-1 scoreline (to them in that case). That day they were ruthless, today was our turn.

Having lost a vital game a month ago to a Chawn team with greater desire and need, we knew this was a literal ‘must win’ game. With Chawn almost certainly going to have too much for Charlemont, a defeat might have left us needing six points from two games against Clarendon to survive. However our attitude was excellent today and our outlook constructive. With neither Craig nor Lee Inett available, we gave a first start to young Ben Smith who repaid our faith with a terrific performance as ‘midfield terrier’. Joe came in for Matt at full back and Lance was back in the starting line-up after a frustrating time in the last few weeks. I also persuaded Mark to play free in centre mid around what was otherwise a 4-4-1 and in the first half in particular he ran the show, conducting a side unrecognisable from the team that has struggled so badly with consistency this season.

This was a triumph of effort and organisation, team spirit and attitude. From the early minutes we were working as a team and giving Zion things to think about. Then as the game opened up and we started to play some terrific attacking football, but the catalyst was a goal of breath-taking quality. A free kick was knocked into the box which Mark won and flicked on to Hunter head height, back to the goal: overhead kick, sweet as a nut, unstoppable. This set us off perfectly and Jamie was excellent all morning: neat and tidy, always looking to shoot, keeping their good quality centre backs busy. He was ably supported in this by Olly, Lance and the excellent Ben Fowler who then wrested the game from Zion in a few first half minutes, released by Lance and Olly to smash in a second and then place a third.

Given our plight 3-0 in twenty five minutes was more than we’d dreamed about and with a back four of Joe, Dave, Chris and Clive playing sensibly we looked set. Mark was understandably upset then when a failure to clear a free kick gave them an unnecessary encouragement and 1-3. However that was a blip in an otherwise impressive performance and Lance got the goal he deserved just before half time flicking over the keeper after Hunter and Olly had played him in. Half time 1-4!

Nothing to say except ‘more of the same’. They threw on Jaden who still looked in very good nick and made the game less simple for us but both sides played well, though we still looked the more dangerous. Lee made one good save and generally dominated his area. Matt Stanton replaced the injured Clive and slotted in perfectly and made a significant contribution when his dangerous ball into the box was half cleared to young Ben Smith who capped a terrific first start with a lofted half volley. Very pleased with everything. To then hear that Charlemont had held Chawn to give us at least a fighting chance was a bonus. All the best to Zion in the final.

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