Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Bloods battled until the very end, as they exit the FA Vase

Saffron Walden 2 – Berkhamstead 3
12th December 2015

After checking the weather constantly all week and promoting the match on Twitter, the day had finally come. Could we match, or even beat our amazing FA Vase run from last season?

On Friday evening, I sat there listening to the rain come down, praying the game would not be postponed. The club and supporters had done a lot of work promoting the game, which was sponsored by the Curry Club.

I did my research on Berko. Berko are playing well in their own league, and are in the top 3 of their domestic league. The Comrades – as they like to be called, were not going to be easy, and would push the Bloods to the limit. I met the chairman and he was very impressed by my mugs…Plug!

I arrived early, and set up my stall to sell the new mugs. I caught up with all the regulars and had one of Andrew’s bacon and beef burgers. I do recommend them. I have been to every away match this season, and I can confidently say that the food quality and range, is the best I have come across all season. You will do well to beat our team in the canteen!

Enough plugging and onto the beautiful game!

After the hand shake between the teams, I presented Dan Grindrod with player of the month for November. Well done Dan. Very much deserved.

TEAM: Floyd Croll, Paul Abbot (Pabbo), Jamie Solkhon (Rocky), Matt Snelling (Mashy), Ben Lawrence (Beast), Ryan Fleming (Rhino), Craig Calver (Wig), Jake Noble (Bobby) (Spike Bell – 81 mins.), Graeme Turner (G Man), James Thomas (Zinedine), Dan Grindrod (Viking) (Louis Harper – 51 mins.). Substitutes (not used): Joe Murphy (Boss), James Crane (Road Runner), Neil Andrews.

The First Half

Not much happened in the first few minutes, until Berko’s Tom Carter had a long range effort but it sailed over the bar. Rocky did well to close Carter down, which put him off his shot.

Berko were looking good, and controlled the ball well. They sent a dangerous ball into the box, but Rhino cleared the ball well out of the danger zone.

Our first attempt on goal came from Zinedine. G Man did very well to hold the ball at the corner flag, and wait for support from Pabbo. Pabbo cured his cross; which found Zinedine’s head, but his header was straight at Smith (Keeper).

12 minutes in, and Wig won us a throw in the Beast’s territory. The throw was delivered into the box, but it was well cleared by Parrelly.

17 minutes in and there were no clear chances for anyone. It was all a little bit cagy, and no one wanted to make a mistake.

20 minutes in, and we had another opportunity from a Beast throw. The throw was flicked into the box by Nobby, but was cleared by Berko. Berko broke from the clearance, and won a corner kick. The corner kicker went straight over everyone and out for a goal kick.

22 minutes in, and Berko scored a great goal from long range. Hawes latched onto the ball, and struck a wind assisted shot from about 20 yards out which curled into the top right hand corner, giving Croll no chance to save. It was a lovely goal, and worthy of an applause from both sets of fans.

Berko started to grow in confidence after they took the lead, and began putting pressure on the Bloods. They were looking good for their lead.

Nash-Barker hit a lovely strike but it sailed over the bar, and didn’t force a save from Croll.

Wig started to show his skills, by taking on the right back. The right back tried to effortlessly to control Wig, but failed to hold on to him. Wig managed to get a cross in, but it was well claimed by Smith.

38 minutes into the match, and there was more pressure from Berko, who had won a corner. The corner was difficult to defend, due to the windy conditions, but Rhino made a great clearance, which almost set Wig on a run.

40 minutes into the match, and Pabbo conceded a soft penalty. Hawes stepped up to score comfortably from the penalty spot, to put Berko firmly in control.

Croll was left in no man’s lands, after the Bloods didn’t intercept a threatening long ball. Croll made the decision to come off his line, and managed to get a hand to the ball, before the Berko player had chance to control the ball and shoot.

The half time whistle went and Berko had deserved their 2-0 need. The fans were looking glum, but I knew we had another 45 minutes to go, and believed the boys could do it.

The Second Half

I was praying for an improvement from the lads in the 2nd half. My prayers were answered with-in 90 seconds. A Beast throw was flicked on by G Man. The ball dropped for Zinedine, who turned and shot straight past Smith, making it 2-1. It was game on!

Just as I thought our luck had changed, Carter scored a cracking goal for Berko. Carter found some space, just inside the 18 yard box, and his shot dipped just under the cross bar. Another great goal from Berko!

The fans spirits did not drop, and neither did the lads heads. Mashy stepped it up, and ran with the ball through the midfield at full speed. He played a through ball to Wig, but Wig was challenged and couldn’t get a shot in. This was what we wanted to see. Attack, Attack, Attack! I wouldn’t have cared if we had lost 10-1, as long as we gave it everything.

51 minutes in the match, and Louis Harper replaced Dan ‘The Viking’ Grindrod. Keep working hard Dan, and well done for winning player of the month.

55 minutes into the second half, and the Bloods were going for it. The lads had won a corner, which was well delivered by Harper. The ball dropped to Zinedine, but his shot was well blocked by Berko.

Zinedine came very close to making it 3-2 after meeting Wigs zipped cross. The cross travelled at a fast pace, and I didn’t expect anyone to get there. Zinedine did, but his should was 5 yards wide.

60 minutes in and Mashy did extremely well to send a dangerous low cross, between the 6 yard box and the goal line. Rocky came charging in, and tapped the ball at an angle, into the back of the net from 3 yards out. It was a brilliant reaction from the lads, and we truly believed that we could win. Great link up play from the lads!

65 minutes into the match, and we were working very hard. Mashy was playing like it was his last ever match. The lads were pushing the defence and not giving up. We had time on our hands, and we looked the favourite to win.

G Man had an incredible effort, which was well saved by Smith. We all thought it was going to rattle the back of the net. It was a great save from Smith to keep us all in suspense. The corner came in, and met Rocky’s head, but his effort was just wide.

Zinedine went for a worldy, to top off his excellent scoring record. He brought the ball down, and pushed it onto his left foot. He tried to curl the ball into Smiths top right, but it went slightly wide.

Smith was winding up the crowd, by taking as much time as possible in taking his goal kick. The fans started counting down, to get the referees attention. It was not fair, and in my eyes he was cheating. I know wasting time is a slippery tactic, but not when you have 20 minutes to go. It doesn’t show much ambition to a side that dominated the 1st half. Eventually the referee gave Smith a yellow card.

Nobby passed a lovely through ball to Wig. Wig played it on his right foot, and just as he was about to shoot, the Berko defender put in a block, which awarded the Bloods a throw in Beast territory.

The Bloods were growing frustrated with Smith as Zinedine was being impeded, while he prepared for a corner. He pushed Smith over, and was given a yellow card.

81 minutes into the match, and Spike Bell replaced Nobby. Another positive performance from Nobby!

83 minutes into the match, and Croll made the save of the match. We gave away a free kick which was just outside the area. The shot was taken well, and Croll dived and palmed the ball against the post, and out for a Berko throw. Croll had just given us a lifeline.

Bell pushed on up the wing, and played the ball to Harper. Harper went for a long range effort, but it was well saved by Smith, which resulted in a corner to the Bloods. The corner was well defended.

Wig did very well to win us a free kick near the corner flag. Harper crossed the ball, but the wind took it, and it went over the players and off.

The high paced action didn’t end, and Hawes was sent off for a reckless challenge on Rocky. The Beast was not happy, and ran over to ‘politely’ tell Hawes he was out of order. I am not surprised as the tackle could have really hurt him. The Beast was given a yellow card for his ‘handbag’ reaction.

After all the commotion called down, we had one last opportunity with the free kick. Croll had decided to join the action, and we were hoping for a Schmeichel special. It was our last throw of the dice……Unfortunately we didn’t capitalise from the free kick and lost the match 3-2.

I want to thank all the players for giving it their all in the second half. Come back efforts like that make me so proud to be a Blood. I hope we can build on this and climb the TNPL.

My man of the match goes to Mashy Snelling. Mashy played his heart out, and in my opinion gave his best performance of the 15/16 season. He was gutted when he came off the pitch, as he knew we could have won. I thanked him for giving it his all.

Well done to all the lads. We may be out of the cup, but we showed spirit and determination.

The next first team match is on the 19th and is away to Gorleston. So put your thermals on as its going to be chilly. The ressies are playing at home against Wivenhoe, so get down the Catons Lane to support Manser’s champs.

Thanks for reading

Some of the pictures are done by Jamie Pluck

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