The team sheet was emailed out, no captain ST, no vice-captain Matt… Someone thought it was a good idea to give the armband to Willmott, maybe the added responsibility would be the making of him, or maybe not! Away at top of the league will a bare 11. A baptisim of fire and a veritable David and Goliath proposition lays ahead.Over the next 48hrs, a couple of players were found to bolster the team, many team sheets were written many formations scrutinised, not much work was done on Friday, mainly texts and phone calls with Big Jon Dann, Al & ST.As Captain for the day Willmott was driving to the game, word comes out that 13 is now 12 and a whole new formation and team sheet had to be conjured up on route to the game. Classic 5s.We are going 4-4-2, Sean Dyche style, the team was told in the changing rooms, as was the bulk of the team talk and tactics so people could let it sink in and visualise what we were about to do. Reference was made to ‘if Southampton can beat City & Everton can beat Arsenal’The warm up started with a water gun malfunction, soaking a few of the team and the bags, not what you want on a cold February morning. Alastair running off to get his tracker he left in the car, missing his own warm-up routine, we did some stretching as best we could, a few rondons and a 2 on 3 to get the blood pumping but not the best warm up by any means.Willmott lost the toss, but walked from the half way line shouting, ‘I may have lost the battle but we will win the war!’The game starts and its fairly even, we were passing the ball around nicely, retaining a bit of possession, Connor looking very slick and composed at the back, Jackson was making things happen in the middle and Westy was on it up top, we looked and felt solid, the extra man in midfield was stifling their possession and attacks, but we have been here before.
Before you know it, H&W won a short, we had seen their routine pre-match but still we failed to deal with it, it was simple but effective, injection, stopped, passed to the spot, hit bottom corner(…). It wasn’t long before they followed this up with another. Then, Zac comes off the bench, and it wasn’t long before he ran into the D controls a superb cross from Westy does a little Indian dribble and tucks in under the outstretch keeper 1-2. Bosh. Then they scored again, another error and before you know it was 3-1 after being caught in possession. It was all falling apart. Individual errors costing us yet again. But with some positive encouragement, (and some war cries, we knuckled down and just like that got two quick goals, bang, bang, 3-3 at half time. What a half of hockey, and more importantly, we are right back in this game.
The half time team talk was one of motivation from skipper Willmott, was he feeling ok? He also brough some half time oranges, not seen since the 1990s. They went down a treat. Vitamin C clearly required. The technical info came from Westy, something about 3, a 2 and a trapeze, everyone nodded.The second half was all Southgate, blowing that 2 goal lead just before half-time we found out later, killed them mentally.We were knocking the ball about for fun, Arun and Sajiv having great games at left and right back. Raj playing the holding midfielder role worked a treat. Dunc playing left mid but slightly central left mid, linking up with son Jackson was nice to see, Jackson allowed to get on the ball and with his speed and tricky getting passed players into advanced positions. James played right midfield a new favoured position perhaps! And at times swapping with Arun in defence! Alastair, putting in the hard yards, worth mentioning Captain Willmott turned up drinking cough medicine and coughing and spluttering throughout, at one point we thought he was going to keel over, he duly subbed himself off and became coach for the last 15 minutes. A master stroke or luck? As next thing you know with 10 minutes to go its 3-4 Southgate, then with 5 minutes to go, the ball breaks to Westy who smashes an absolute rocket into the net 3-5 and the final whistle.What a game, what a comeback. What a performance from all 12 players on the pitch. The beer after the game never felt so good.MoM was Zac for two goals and some lovely forward play. DoD was Alastair, well just because.