HEADLINGLEY 4 ROBIN HOOD ATHLETIC 3
By Matt Wright
County Cup 2nd Round day saw us travel across to West Yorkshire league rivals Headingley AFC. Last season this competition saw us reach the 1/4 final stage, narrowly losing out on a semi-final place. This was the furthest the club had been for a number of years so we went on the search of another run.
Again as our season has gone so far we find ourselves without a number of players with Mark Ryan added to the lengthy injury list now. A thread bare squad, something not ideal at 1st team level is becoming to be our Achilles heel at the moment as I am asking players to fulfil sometimes unfamiliar roles for me. To the players credit, they are giving me everything they have which is always humbling to see as a manager of a football club. John Tunney returned to the squad today with Matthew Gould and Paul Mitchell coming along to warm up and test their respective injuries, this alone in a boost to moral numbers and competition for places wise.
We started the game brightly and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves with opportunity at goal, Jamie Lister firing narrowly over from the edge of the box. This was a sign of things to come, in the opening 15 minutes we had 5 shots all narrowly off target which was the instruction prior ‘shoot more’. The build-up play prior to these opportunities at times was the best ive seen us as we exposed the lack of width from a very narrow Headingley AFC. Headingley didn’t go without their threat as the front 2 of Headingley were in particular lively, with a few long distance chances off target. The back three of Harold the helicopter. Rich and Lewis dealt well with the initial onslaught. Rich in particular despite lacking the speed that maybe Harold has, reads the game really well and continues to grow in stature from a 4 year absence from football.
We broke the deadlock on 30 minutes where an excellent ball forward from the impressive Corey Eaton was gathered by Danny Bridges who squared for Jamie Lister to half volley home, in what was a great attacking move and finish. 1-0 and we looked good for it deserving it with the style we played. 4 minutes later Headingley broke down the left, a squared ball seemingly harmless was deflected into the path of the fwd. who smashed home from close range 1-1. Against the run of play and a real kick in the teeth, but we must learn mistakes will continue to cost us long term. We continue to play our attacking brand of football which was pulling the Headingley team around. John Tunney looked impressive on his return and gave us what luka last week in that solid back bone but that bite allowing Declan Parker and Dale to really pick great forward balls and join in. On the 40 the minute we scored again, this time a long ball from Alex Cottrell was expertly brought down by Jamie Lister (with help), Ligger broke forward at pace and a great run off the ball from Danny Bridges left Chris Coupe unmarked at the back post to roll back the years to slot home…2-1. HT.
We spoke about the threat that Headingley posed with the attacking threat they posed through the front 2. They were getting a lot of possession through the midfield as they played a diamond so by dez dropping an additional 5 yards and been set goal side we would hopefully stop the pulling around of Tunney and Declan. Despite a strong 30 minutes an off colour 15 where we could have been better, gave them hope.
The second half started and we were quickly back into the swing of things as we controlled the ball and moved the Headingley team around well causing numerous openings for the front 2, who like the first half were just narrowly off target on each occasion. On 55 minutes a goal against the run of play as a shot on target from inside the 18 yard box slipped under Alex Cottrell’s body to make it 2-2. This deflated us for the next 10 minutes but Alex quickly made up for this by tipping a strike onto the bar to make an excellent save. Rich Coupe came off with an hamstring pull on the 65th minute so we moved Tunney back and introduced the now injury free James Finlayson. Our talisman throughout the course of last season we sent him on with the job of scoring our winner. Jinky rarely fails to deliver and he does what he does best by scoring what we thought was going to be the crucial goal. A good build-up of possession found Corey who put an excellent ball into the box finding Jinky 8 yard out, he headed against the post the volleyed home the rebound in style giving us the 3-2 advantage. Late in the game Danny Bridges pulled up with our 4th hamstring in 3 weeks. Matthew Gould replaced him and slotted into midfield. Headingley after 83 minutes equalised with what was a real soft goal. The fwd. received the ball out on our left hand side and far too easily got the by line squaring the ball for a tap home to make it 3-3. Very soft and a poorly defended goal. Just as the game was heading for penalties we again gave away the ball in our own half, they pumped the ball into the box that was not dealt with, and the ball was bundled home to make it 4-3. Widgey had a great chance late on but the ball was headed over despite working hard to reach the ball from a ligger cross.
The game finished and it was hard to take, we defend well in general what lets us down is the decision making in key areas ( our own half ). Mistakes by a lack of concentration, I ask the squad to be decisive and defend with intent and act instinctively. If we give the ball away in our own half we will concede as it puts us under pressure with players in attacking areas, if we lose concentration we make incorrect decisions. That was the difference today and credit to Headingly they took full advantage of that today. They didn’t have to work too hard for the goal as the were on a plate, that is where we learn and that’s where we win games comfortably if we make them adaptions.
Good luck to Headingley in the next round, they play an excellent brand of football on a great surface.
Next up for Robin Hood is a home league fixture against Horbury Town. Kick Off is at the slightly earlier time of 2pm.