Stunning 2nd half fightback ensures 5’s winning streak continues

5-3 Win
Match Report by Jonathan Huddleston

On a balmy afternoon, the Mighty 5s produced a stunning second half fightback to see off a potentially tricky banana skin of an opposition in Indian Gym. The oppo travelled north with a strong squad and support team and had given notice of the threat they carried in holding league leaders Ham and West to a draw in recent weeks in spite of generally struggling in the unbelievably competitive league that is the 4NW.

5s again carried injuries into the fixture with captain Jon providing vocal support and tactics on the sideline while the ever-dependable Andy Robertson once again stood in as skipper. The 5s were pleased to welcome Mitch back into attack as well as to celebrate the long-awaited returns of Fergus from injury and Kyle from school fixtures.

5s started the game brightly enough, getting the ball moving slickly around the back and looking threatening in one on one moments with a static opposition defence. Yet IG had clearly come prepared to impose a slower tempo on the game and played a skilful narrow formation that clogged up the midfield and prevented Southgate from developing their usual rhythm. This brought dividends when Gate couldn’t clear their lines and a ping-pong of passes ended up leaving Sam with no chance in goal.

Undaunted, the 5s refused to lie down and began to make better use of the flanks. Fergus on the right and Aryan on the left began to pressure the full backs and a series of dangerous entries resulted in Mitch smashing the ball home with alacrity.

The platform had been laid but the 5s continued to struggle to impose and following a green for Kyle, IG took advantage to scramble a second home, before doubling the lead when Sam couldn’t quite keep out a drag flick in spite of doing incredibly well to get a stick to the ball.

Half time was blown immediately and this probably came at a good time for the 5s to regroup and refocus. The improvements were obvious – width, ball pace and attacking pressure. The fantastic run of recent results ensured the team felt confident of fighting back and the team started the second half with a calm resolve and never say die attitude.

Suddenly, a fiery Southgate pressed high on a tiring IG, and a string of attacks, free hits and long corners led to a number of shots the oppo keeper did well to repel. Eventually, though, the dam could not hold and a neat piece of skill from Sohan put the ball into the net and the game was on.

Mitch instantly struck a fine drive that came plum off the post and a dangerous flick came flush off the keeper’s face mask.

This only delayed the inevitable however and two fine strikes by Mitch, the first a dribble round the keeper, the second a fine finish after two further saves from the impressive opponent put Southgate deservedly ahead.

Indian Gym tried to push back but the solid defensive block of the first half had been blunted and desperation to equalise left big holes at the back. From one such break a fine strike was stopped illegally and Mitch dispatched his fourth and Southgate’s fifth from the penalty spot.

With the game won, the match became a little tetchy but expert marshalling by skipper Andy and senior player ST ensured the team stayed cool and composed, while the umpires were excellent in controlling a game that could have boiled over in the passion of a competitive match. As it was the game ended with smiles and warm handshakes after a keenly fought but ultimately fair battle.

There were heroes across the team:

Keeper Sam made important interventions when called upon and provided the platform to build on in the second half.

In defence, Joe was forever up and down the right flank, tiring the opposition and providing a constant threat.

Mat was a rock, intercepting pass after pass into the D.

Yu was his usual formidable presence. He never lost a tackle and his pace ensured IG were never able to break in the second half.

Raj did everything expected of him. His spiky determination ensured the left side of the defence was locked tight. He was a tireless defender of the younger members of the team.

In midfield Andy knitted the play together. He was instrumental in moving play higher up the pitch in the second half.

Aryan was a brilliant, dogged presence. He provided an excellent, consistent outlet and helped pick up the pace in the second half.

Sohan provided a cultured touch throughout and scored the crucial goal to turn the tide. He gave an incredibly mature performance under a lot of pressure.

Fergus was relentless in driving hard at the full backs. They just could not handle him at times. It was a great return.

ST was brilliant in calling the press, taking up dangerous positions and stretching the play whilst also linking up dangerously with the attack.

Finally Kyle was everywhere, literally, as he stepped into all positions to balance the play. He covered an incredible distance in the match.

Up front Rich started brightly and created great height in the team before being cruelly struck down by a tight hamstring.

Alex once again showed this is his level with a mature performance, taking on extra responsibility to link play when Rich went off. He was an honourable mention in the MOM votes.

But truly there could only be one winner and a unanimous vote awarded MOM to Mitch for a breathtaking performance. The 5s have loved having such a positive, insightful line leader this year and this game was the epitome of everything Mitch brings to the team. He was top class.

Next week brings the huge challenge of table topping Ham and West, still smarting after they were schooled by the 5s in the second half at Paddington Rec. 3 points at home and a Richmond in second place will be looking nervously beneath them.

One final shout out to the amazing support the 5s received from the home crowd who had gathered for the 1s double header. From all levels and members of the club they were an incredible 12th player – encouraging, positive and sporting throughout – and definitely influential in keeping the team on the front foot. It was a day to be truly proud to be a member of this great club.