Sacred Heart 4 – 0 Uni Whites

After coming off a very disappointing loss the week before there was a definite air of apprehension for the clash against Sacred Heart who we though wouldn’t be as strong as Pembroke and were themselves coming off an 8 nil drubbing. Alas it wasn’t to be with an overall decent performance but poor finishing on our part. For the third week in a row we weren’t assigned a ref so Sacred Heart did the game.

After the lack of experience last week we welcomed back Cam, Chairman Lev and Matt Hawyes. I myself was particularly pleased by this as it brought a lot of extra noise to the pitch. The Pembroke game was decidedly quiet despite my best efforts. Matt H was the man in goal with Cam and myself in the centre. Matt G and Johnson were right and left back respectively with Simon as the defensive mid. Centre mids were Luke and Lev, with wide right being Matt G’s brother Dan and wide left Lee. Up front was Fairuz.

The first 15 or 20 minutes was a complete onslaught by Sacred Heart with the whites straight away on the back foot. Sacred Heart had a man Everest as their striker with their captain roving and up back they had a man mountain. So with Sacred heart attacking hard, and their height, our clearances would just pop straight back in and give them another go. They were particularly effective on the flanks being able to slip balls in behind on the left and doubling up on poor Matt on the right.

To be honest I can’t remember the first goal at all except that it came early and led to the complete dominance of Sacred Heart in those first 20 or so minutes. During this time they had about 8 or 9 corners in a row but with my marking efforts the man Everest only once got to the ball resulting in a solid save by Matty. During this period we were able to do some pass stringing but in general the team’s touch was horrible so the ball usually spilled back to them on or about halfway. The dominant period was largely ended when Matt H and I conspired to let me take a goal kick and I simply pumped it up the pitch. It had the desired effect of pushing Sacred Heart back and opened up more space allowing us to really start stringing some flowing passing moves together. We looked particularly dangerous on the left flank where Lee was able to find lots of space behind their Voldemort lookalike of a fullback. Unfortunately final balls were subpar or the first touch was poor leading to rushed or blocked shots. A few shots on target were not powerful enough to worry the keeper.

The second goal was sort of against the run of play as we had been largely in control of the game for 15 minutes or so. Cam had the ball on halfway and went to pass it back to me so we could go round the back but it was a tad too far in front and I was a bit flat footed as well. Their winger was able to beat Matt G to the loose ball and then my last ditch tackle attempt. To be honest Sacred Heart almost fluffed their chance as the winger didn’t take the shot but rather tried to pass someone else in (or Maty saved but I was still getting up so missed a little of the action) but the ball broke to man Everest after a scuffle and he slotted home.

So 2 down at halftime but in the game as we had been playing around them quite well with our short passes. Coach Chris did a Mourinho and made three changes replacing Dan G, Lee and Johnson with Manny, Jay and Ollie S respectively and this made an immediate impact as for the first 10 minutes or so of the 2nd half Whites were completely dominant but with some bad finishing attempts and excellent saves we conspired with their keeper to put up a bubble around the goal that persisted for the rest of the match. Jay was particularly excellent in this time having a bit more pace and confidence on the ball than Lee to exploit the space behind Voldemort. The third goal came from a fast break where we lost the ball in midfield and it broke to their captain who got lucky and had his well hit shot saved by Matt onto the post but then bounce off his back and in. Clearly all the luck was with Sacred Heart was the feeling by this stage.

About midway into the half they were awarded a penalty for a silly push by Matt G (although nowhere near as silly as Suarez biting Ivanovic). They squeezed it past Matt but we spotted that the ref hadn’t blown his whistle to say it could be done so we got him a second attempt but again it was squeezed past. By this stage I could see frustration in all the Whites, particularly as a bit of bias crept into the ref’s game and didn’t help our attitude. However, Luke won a penalty with good body placement resulting in something akin to picking up and throwing rather than just a push in the back. We all nominated Fairuz to take it as we had confidence in him but he fluffed it and resulted in a simple save for the keeper as the ball went about half a metre high and 1.5 metres to his right. Fairuz admitted after the game that he changed his mind just before striking as to where he was putting it so hopefully lesson learned.

So a game that truthfully we should have won by 3 or 4 goals ended up as another drubbing but plenty of positives as the Whites were largely in control of the game. Key points I at least noticed is that we need to be more physical from the start, particularly against the mountainous men we will encounter. Not rough, just stronger so that we aren’t pushed off the ball and the other team knows they’re under pressure. Fitness as well will be an issue for a while, but I can see the makings of a good team that just needs to get tougher in general  and learn to shoot with conviction.