ROBIN HOOD ATHLETIC 1 SHELLEY AFC 1
By Matt Wright
Last Saturday Hood welcomed Shelley FC, who themselves have started the season very strong. The squad again was hit by a lack of bodies as we again had lads carrying injury and playing through pain. Nevertheless we entered the game knowing we could get a positive result with the squad we fielded today.
The team was unchanged from the previous week as a result of the positive performance, and that may have seemed a little harsh on Luka and Rich who came on after 35 minutes and put in top performances. Achieving continuity has been a real struggle this season to date as we really down to the bare bones, loosing key players for lengthy periods of times with unavailability week to week hampering our progress ultimately putting us where we are.
In the warm up we lost Bulby to a recurrence of his hamstring injury, this meant we shuffled the deck as Luka came in to the middle and Coupes who we put on the left hand side. We started brightly in fairness and we adjusted to the direct approach of Shelley pretty well. Prior to the game I gave the players the information of the opposition and today was the first time since the Stanley District Cup game we had taken it on board. Browny, Lewis and Harold again we showing tremendous signs of reliance and working as a unit as they dealt with the direct play well.
The only chance of note in the first half for Shelley was from a free kick 35 yards out. The free kick was well hit but tremendously saved by Alex Cottrell who came through bodies to make a good stop. As Shelley were getting the ball forward quickly they were at times over committing, good winners from the defence set off some swift attacks as we found space behind. James Lister and Danny Bridges were getting into some great positions only for the final ball to be lacking. Dale Pickering had an opportunity to make score or create an opportunity but whilst he was running at the defence, he checked back which contributed in all the momentum out the attack going, chance missed. Our only real notable opportunity where we could have potentially taken the lead was through a free kick from Declan Parker who saw his deflected attempt just out of the reach of the prolific Rich Coupe. Rich had come on after approximately 20 minutes for Captain Chris Brown, with what has now been diagnosed as a grade 2 tear on the calf.
The half-finished and we went in level but happy with the way we had played our football. We defended well, especially after the early changes (Luka and rich) and created 2/3 goal scoring moments. The message was more of the same, but this half I wanted a few more strikes at goal.
The second half began and it was a case of ‘much the same’. Shelley with a clear plan of playing a territory game, gave us the opportunity to defend well and build attacks form the back. It is important to note that Luka who was in the middle of the park worked himself into the ground, doing all the hard work Tunney often gets applauded for. Luka competed physically well with 3 big CM’s allowing the space and freedom for young Dec and dale to express themselves. We started to create a few more opportunities but nothing clear cut, Jamie Lister and Danny Bridges despite looking sharp were been well marshalled by the Shelley back 3. Ligger did have an opportunity but narrowly missed the top right corner. On 65 minutes a clearance was miss hit and good work by Danny Bridges forced the ball into the area as ruched onto it, Jamie Lister instead on the turn drilled the ball just wide of the gaol, this was a sign of things to come. On 70 minutes a ball over the top was well dealt with by Harold who steered it up the line, a fluent move resulted in Danny Bridges bearing down on goal and he did the business in smashing the ball home form the angle. A move that reflected our attitude to playing with the ball on the ground. 1-0 and on balance a well-deserved goal for the brand we were trying to produce. For the next 10 minutes we continued to look dangerous and some great switches of play from young Declan turned us from defence to attack in no time. The final 10 minutes arrived and Shelley had decided to gamble, they threw on 3 giants and were effectively playing with 4 fwds. They utilised the long throw they had in their armour as the number 4 launched it in from all angles into the box. Alex Cottrell made 2 fantastic saves, with one in particular up there with the best ive seen as a reaction stop. We had our luck as in injury time the ball was headed onto the crossbar by Dale Pickering… but it was at that point our luck ran out. A miss placed clearance went out and gave Shelley the chance to throw another ball in, this time it was flicked home but the pressure told on us in the 93rd minute. Just before the final whistle from the restart we found ourselves 2v1 and as our luck was, Jamie Lister slipped as he was about to pass the ball to Jinky for a 1v1… the final whistled followed.
A disappointing draw and the mood was very low. As a manager you can’t really say too much as words mean nothing at the time as emotion takes over. In my humble opinion I thought we were very good for a 1-0 win but the pressure of balls into box with the height they possessed and our lack of it in the end told. With our lack of height the Robin Hood players really displayed courage and bravery attacking balls and clearing it. A game where a direct approach stole the points away from my team that wanted to play the ball to feet a move it quickly. Despite calls from people who may have been there watching, we will not adopt a lump it approach, our players do not suit it and it isn’t good to watch, please support the players as I ask them to be brave and play the game.
Shelley despite scoring late should be commended for the sheer persistence and attitude in forcing an equaliser. We wish them luck for the rest of the season.
That’s 8 points dropped from avoidable draws now, let’s hope that doesn’t define us come may.
The lads put the team before themselves today with some very selfless running and work. Special mention to Alex Cottrell who made some tremendous saves (stop and have a drink with the lads to share that praise now) Lewis Richardson who was solid as a rock throughout, and finally to Mark Ryan who deservedly received MOM from his peers for his hard work off the ball that often goes unnoticed.