The A’s match against Grads Red was moved, postponed, cancelled, re-scheduled & eventually played at West Beach. After all the rain we’d had mid-week, this was a good move – the pitches down there always hold up well.
Kevin had a couple of tough decisions to make – with midfield ‘heavyweights’ Mark and Scotty both out, Kev went for the youthful exuberance of Rob & Gabe in the holding roles, the other important change for us was Bunny coming back to central defence after having a couple of weeks off with knee trouble.
Obviously this was a massive game for our boys. After the belting we took from Westminster last week, we were sitting 1 point off the relegation zone, so playing the top team in the league Grads Red (they were actually 2nd by 2 points with 2 games in hand) was always going to be a tough ask.
The first half was a pretty even battle, but as the half wore on we began to gain the ascendancy. the back 4 of Bunny, Crab, Joe and Kirsten were looking solid & Gabe and especially Rob were in complete control in the midfield as we made the Grads guys chase for much of the half. Jose & Steve were pushing the Grads defence, but Anoop was struggling to get into the game.
The best chance of the half though fell to Gabe, as Steve was released with a beautiful through ball, he raced toward goal before squaring the ball beautifully – Gabe struck it low & hard, but the Grads keeper made an excellent save.
At the half Kevin told the boys to stick to their 1 & 2 touch game and asked them not to turn as much (as Grads were winning the ball from players who tried to run with the ball). He also switched Jose & Anoop to try to bring Anoop into the game & reminded our guys that we have the speed advantage, particularly over the Grads defenders.
The first 15 minutes of the second half were an absolute pleasure to watch as our boys pushed the ball around beautifully. It came as no surprise then when we broke the deadlock. Steve again broke free, this time on the right wing before cutting the ball across for Gabe (again!). This time though Gabe’s shot was perfectly struck for a 1-0 score.
Minutes later another lovely piece of play (this time on the left) ended with Anoop, who made no mistake hitting the shot low across the right upright before going in.
After this Crab & also Gabe has chances to score as well, but we were unable to break through for a third goal.
Grads Red were then sparked to life (or we dropped a little) as their midfield began to gain the ascendancy. Kevin rung the changes, bringing Harry on for Kirsten & then Justin replaced Titus.
Unfortunately though Grads Red managed to score (a failed clearance attempt from a long throw) & they could taste blood. The Reds scored a second soon after, as the left winger’s cross was completely mis-hit & sailed in the far corner bringing the scores level.
Thankfully though our boys got their shape back in the remaining 10 minutes to stop the run.
The end result was a 2-2 draw. Before the game i’d say most of us would have settled for that scoreline. But in a game where we had more of the ball, more shots at goal, more clear chances… well more of every important stat except for goals…Not surprisingly, the boys came off pretty disappointed.
The positives from this though should be plainly obvious. 1. We’re capable of matching it with the best; 2. We moved a point away from relegation; 3. We proved we can be competetive even without Scotty & Mark available.
This result should really give the boys a boost. The A’s have a week off now, so a good chance for people to get over any niggles & hopefully finish the season off strongly.