Report by Neil Murphy
The general poor availability across the club affected the 5A’s too this week with a number of regulars not around. Undeterred we had a 12 man squad, all experienced 5A players ready for action. West Herts are top of the league by a big margin, beat us 5-1 earlier in the season and at various times this season put 6,7 or 8 goals past opposition defences. This was going to be a tough one.
And so it proved, after just 5 minutes West Herts had won their first of many short corners and a strong strike, which the captain couldn’t quite keep out, scrambled over the line to give the hosts a 1-0 lead. However, the Southgate response was impressive as it has been many times this season and we worked our way into the game.
The midfield and defence got stuck in and repelled the West Herts efforts to build through the middle and the width. Jo Spencer at left back and Chris Rouse on the right kept the wingers at bay, Giles dealt with the centre forward. Our midfield put in a huge shift, revolving around centre-mid Antony, alongside James and Rafi and later in the match Sohan. The forwards led by the indefatigable Daniel constantly threatened from wide, through the middle and by dropping deeper to collect the ball – Luke, Oli and Sohan all made a real impression on the half.
The result of this endeavour was to go in at half time just 1-0 down and honours pretty well even. The second half would inevitably be more demanding. West Herts have a squad of experienced, fit, skilful players but the 5A’s were not going to give in easily.
The second half followed the theme of the first. Possession was fairly even, short corners fairly even and, if anything, Southgate looked more likely to score. However, the West Herts experience and confidence of an excellent season was building. They were dangerous on the break and scored the second after 15 minutes and another break with 7 minutes to go took them to 3-0. 5A’s resilience did not break and we kept in the game. West Herts were awarded a penalty flick and we were nervous this might open the floodgates for the last 5 minutes. But not to worry, we had Cliff in goal. A brilliant save and a quick rallying cry in a team huddle and we were back and fighting. A well worked short corner and Daniel delivered an excellent finish for a well deserved goal. The final whistle and a 3-1 defeat – it was closer than that and by far the best opposition of the season showing how far the 5A’s have come.
Man of the Match was Daniel for a huge effort in leading our line, scoring our goal and causing no end of headaches to West Herts for the whole game. This team effort had other great contributions and the tenacity allied to the improving skills of our juniors, Rafi, Sohan and Oli was great to see. Another great game from Antony and a welcome return to Jo meant that the MoM votes mainly went to one Spencer or another.
Two games to go this season, heads down for a great finale.