After a convincing victory last week against Bluehearts, the 5A’s had an early start at league leaders, St Albans. A tough oppo to test ourselves against and see the degree to which we have progressed so far this season. Good performances against the other two teams above us in the table (Adelaide, we drew, should have won; West Herts, we lost after being 3-1 up) suggested we can compete with St Albans.
The early skirmishes were largely dominated by St Albans – a strong mix of youngsters and experience – demonstrating why they are riding high this season. However, our midfield and defence held strong and most attacks were successfully broken down before entering the D. Alex Holmes kept the left side of their attack at bay, Giles did likewise on the other side and Mark and Neil with much support from Woody held the centre.
Our counter attacks threatened on numerous occasions with Simon, Randall, James and Tom all catching the orange defence napping. A long ball into Simon enabled Tom to pick up the ball outside the D and dribble down the goal line before pulling the ball back for Simon to finish first time. One up after 6 minutes and many protests from the beaten defenders – feet, lifted ball and all else claimed – but the St Albans umpires after a brief deliberation, agreed – goal to Southgate.
The rest of the half followed a similar pattern – lots of defensive work from the 5A’s interspersed with breakaways that always looked dangerous. As well as open play, we were under pressure from a number of short corners. The third one was a powerful hit that flew into the net. 1-1 at halftime. We are in this game but will have to deal with a lot of pressure.
St Albans doubled down on their attacking game – hassling our defence, winning short corners and goalie, Nigel, nullified shot after shot. We were finding it hard to get the ball out of our half despite winning many tackles and the pressure eventually told. After 10 minutes we conceded a second goal, followed five minutes later by the third. We could have faced a tough afternoon with the pressure opining up.
But 5A’s are nothing if not resilient and relentless. We kept fighting, kept breaking down the attacks, kept countering. Randall, James, Simon and Tom all making great use of the chances that came our way. After 55 minutes, one such breakaway led to Randall athletically chasing down the St Albans sweeper and sneaked between keeper and defender to get the vital touch and our second goal.
The balance of the game, however, didn’t alter much despite the 3-2 score line. The orange PC’s kept coming, the pressure building but Southgate were resolute – there were to be no more goals today for St Albans. Our counters set their nerves tingling on occasions and on another day we might well have sneaked an equaliser or got a PC or two. It was not to be. 2-3 final score and, in truth, they probably deserved the points and, in the bar afterwards, we concluded they were the best opposition to date this season.
Poachers goals from Simon and Randall. Man of the Match votes for them both and Nigel in goal, strong performances all round but there can only be one MoM winner. For the second time in successive games for him, the winner was Alex Holmes for sterling work in defence, growing in maturity and authority.