ROBIN HOOD ATHLETIC 2 WHITKIRK WANDERERS 1
By Matt Wright
Senior Challenge cup day as we welcomed Division 1 high flyer Whitkirk Wanderers to the Coach Ground as we looked to get to the semi-final for the second year in a row.
The task today would be great as we had to face a physical Whitkirk side with 10 fit players. The rest of the squad was made up from injuries, doing me a job in desperate times. John Tunney Holidaying, Chris Coupe and Rich Coupe both missing to go with the injured Joey Ritson and Mark Ryan displayed a real challenge the squad faced.
We started on the back foot as the direct approach from Whitkirk made it difficult to get out of our half. To our credit our defensive shape really worked as they were restricted to long range efforts sailing off target. On the 20 minute mark Chris Brown used his feet well to win the ball and play a fwd pass, only to be kicked in what only can be described as an off the ball incident it was that late. The referee had no option and quite rightly sent the Whitkirk fwd off. Now this caused mayhem and I really felt for the referee here as he did in many people’s eyes the right thing but not for the disgruntled visitors. Up until this point the game was fairly even and they enjoyed possession so it was a real turning point. Perennial hit man James Finlayson found room on the left, cut back inside and saw a great effort deflected wide. It was a sign of good things as then Jamie Lister hit a powerful strike just wide, before another reckless challenge gave us a free kick in a dangerous area. Declan Parker who’s delivery at these points are generally up there with the best about dually delivered, the keeper fumbled a great ball into the box and the prolific Lewis Richardson fired home his first for the club from all of 4 yards. 1-0. Playing against 10 men our use of ball was beginning to tell, moving the Whitkirk team around but a lack of quality on the ball really stopped us from kicking on. HT 1-0
In truth they were not really a danger now they were down to 10 men as their direct approach was nullified by the fact they had 1 man up front. Our use of ball poor and our patience wasn’t up to scratch as we turned over possession when we could have really rested on the ball and move them about. I asked Dale to play abit deeper as we could then build an attack rather than have to be so precise in moving the ball to him facing our own goal.
It was up to us in how we forced this game and it required us to step up a few gears in the process to do so, that was the challenge.
We started the second half brightly as they now changed a few personnel, we continued to move the ball better and this frustrated them to say the least. A total lack of discipline followed as they went diving in time after time with shouts of ‘Snap him’ heard. Not ideal but now this was a real test of character as we needed to front them up. To our credit not one player took a backwards step, we flew into tackles and played our football with the ball on the deck. It was long after another free kick and another delivery from Declan Parker found Chris Brown with the simple task of heading home….browny could only head over though so it stayed 1-0. Shortly after the impressive Corey Eaton again put a great ball in for Jamie Lister to narrowly head wide. Ligger then off a corner could and should have finished the game off but again a goal line/post clearance stopped us doubling our lead.
Whitkirk was without their threat though as they continued with the direct approach to get a rare opportunity but Alex Cottrell was well alert and made a great 1v1 save to keep us ahead. As we pushed again for a second a Corey through ball was on cleared to Matthew Gould 40 yards out, with the keeper off his line widgey could only hit the roof of the net as he put too much power in the strike. The pressure paid off as a sweeping move from back to front with some selfless running found Widgey 1v1 and slotting home really well to double the lead. 2-0 and we deserved it. Whitkirk at this point after collecting a few more yellows threw caution to the wind and they won a corner. From this corner a free header at the back post was bulleted into the goal..2-1 and a nervy end in store. We sat back and invited the pressure but despite this defended well and a late corner for Whitkirk found Harold breaking from deep and a lobbed effort narrowly missed the target. The game finished 2-1 and progression the semi-finals awaited.
In truth a very physical game and you can see why Whitkirk are successful, they are a big strong unit and look to intimidate opponents, credit to us as we stood up to that especially with 3 teenagers involved. We didn’t react and continued to try and play our stuff, albeit we were nowhere near we want to be. This happens when you make 4/5 changes weekly to the team unfortunately.
Today Browny, Harold and Lewis really played well and didn’t make an error all game, Widgey was his driving best in midfield and our front 2 were livelier than their defenders, which was a levels thing. Lewis getting MOM with widgey piped to the post.
My final word to the squad was, getting to the next round was all that mattered, it could quite as easily have been 4/5/6 today but we will play better and lose. A win is a win and we learn from it taking it into next week’s game.
Leeds FA Senior challenge cup semi-finalists we are …..again!
Good luck to Whitkirk for the rest of the season, they are up there in their league for a reason and I wish them well in their pursuit of promotion.