Men’s 5’s undone by on song Chiswick
Match Report by Mathew Mitchell
Three games into the season, the Men’s Fives DOD award has now been given twice for Friday night exploits, rather than on-pitch struggles. Although admittedly this week, probably a bit of both on that front. However, I do maintain that turning up to an M5s game with a sore head is much more respectable than completely missing a game following a Friday night weightlifting injury…
So, with the pleasure of writing my first match report of the season, I’ll hold my hands up and say sorry to my teammates that a quick post work pint somehow ended how it did. Lesson learnt, if your local taproom barman unfurls a big screen projector with a PS2 and challenges you to competitively play Tony Hawk 4 with a prize of free beer, just walk away. Preferably before 2am.
Fast forward to Chiswick M3’s away. 10:30am meet.
Espresso shots in hand, a group of eager M5’s loitered outside a resident’s only access gate, at Duncan’s insistence, to tailgate our way through to a nifty shortcut and save approximately 1 minute of walking, energy that could be put to much better use on the pitch. With a few words, a head shake and a glare received from a miffed local, we can only apologise for the tedious chain of resident’s committee emails that Duncan’s shortcut has likely caused.
Captain Dave’s pre-match words channelled the spirit of the sorely missed Andy Robertson, and the Mighty Fives took to the pitch on a glorious morning to try make it 3 wins from 3.
After years of facing up against Chiswick’s 4s and 5s in the lower leagues, pre-match warnings were made highlighting their tendency to cause us issues by deploying a high and aggressive press. Naturally, moments after the first whistle blew, we found ourselves seemingly perplexed that it turns out Chiswick’s 3s also deploy a high and aggressive press. Off the pace, the Southgate defence was quickly drowning in a sea of blue shirts.
With the Southgate back four essentially cut off from the rest of the team when in possession, the Chiswick press crept higher effectively to cut out transfers across the back line, passes which were made even more difficult by the slow, carpet-like pitch that drained most pace from the ball. All options out from the back were trialled in that first 15 minutes. Transfers around the back, direct balls straight to the midfield, risky diagonals, and groggily trying to walk the ball around onrushing attackers. All options tried, and failed. Apart from aerials, we didn’t try them.
A couple of well-deserved Chiswick goals followed. Strike at goal, deflection in front of the keeper. 1-0. Strike at goal, deflection in front of the keeper. 2-0.
With the game already in danger of slipping away, Southgate shifted up a gear, temporarily elevating the performance level from ’embarrassing’ to ‘poor’. Chris Ray reaped the reward, tapping in from close-range to give hope to those wearing red.
The hope didn’t last too long. With James Marriot hobbling off the pitch with a knee injury, further misery was inflicted as the well-drilled Chiswick team continued to score the same goal. Strike at goal, deflection in front of the keeper. To their credit, they did mix it up with a strike at goal and a Southgate deflection past the keeper, one that Duncan Trathen smartly ‘forgot’ to remind us about until after the DOD votes were counted.
4-1 at half-time.
Any hopes of a second half Southgate comeback were quickly put to bed by an early goal in the 2nd half to make it 5-1. Chiswick, whether intentionally or not, sat a little deeper in the second half, and used their 5 substitutes effectively to pick us off with quick breaks forward. The M5s managed to make more forays into the opposite half, with youngster Arun Solanki providing perhaps one of the few positives from the day, making some energetic mazy runs down the right-hand side and refusing to accept defeat lightly.
Although the overall territory and patterns of play felt very slightly more positive for Southgate in the 2nd half, unfortunately the outcome was almost identical to the first half. Another 4 Chiswick goals, scored too easily, and another goal in response from Chris Ray, this time a smart finish into the bottom corner. A trademark Ivan Stark drag flick was the final touch of the game, making it a disappointing 8-3 loss.
It was a harsh lesson in this tougher league for the M5s following promotion last season, who must now use this as a wake-up call to improve quickly. Sharper performances, more determination, and quieter Friday nights will be required to get results in this league.