The plan for the match was to pass the ball smartly, work hard defensively, and be positionally disciplined, with the aim that the juniors in the team, (Aidan Commons, Will Roughton & Amar Johal) would be given as much time and opportunities on the ball as possible.
And bolstered by the likes of Graeme Welch and Chris Rouse in midfield, that’s exactly what happened. Directing play from the base of the midfield three, and shielding the defence from the crash balls down the middle, the ball was moved around with a pace that never gave Stevenage time to get a foothold. The game settled into a familiar pattern, with the defence of Kieran Slorach, MS Patti and Neil Commons keeping Stevenage at arms length, freeing up Aidan Commons to advance from right back on many occassions, as Stevenage retreated further and further into their D. Will Roughton, Amar Johal and Aidan Commons found themselves running at the Stevenage defence time and time again, but space was hard to find in a crowded area for the likes of Peter Roughton, Martyn Atkinson, Tony Shiret and Nigel Spencer-Knott, despite their best efforts. Eventually, though, the first goal came, with some quick short passing between Peter Roughton and Martyn Atkinson for the latter to slip the ball into the net.
Half time, and with it a change of approach: less driving into the D in hope, and a bigger focus on passing early, pulling markers out of position to create space for others, and if it’s crowded, put the ball on a foot.
This approach started to bear fruit, with chances being created, as well as short corners being won, and, inevitably, being wasted. The Stevenage goalkeeper had a fine match, even if his typical tactic meant that Martyn Atkinson spent much of the second half falling on top of him in a tangle of legs, pads and sticks.
The second, deserved, goal for the Tankards arrived with about ten minutes to go: another short corner was well-worked and tucked away by Martyn Atkinson as he bagged his brace.
Fine performances across the squad meant that several players picked up nominations for man of the match, but it was Will Roughton and Martyn Atkinson who took the honours in the end.
A mid-table finish is now assured, but that doesn’t reflect the season as a whole. Excluding the walkovers conceded due to poor player availability, the Tankards have won seven times this season, many of them convincing victories, and only lost three times. They entertain the division winners, Shefford & Sandy, in their final match of the season this week, which would be a good opportunity to put down a marker ahead of 23-24.