24 Oct 2021 in Match Reports
What a game today with excitement from start to finish - although after the first five minutes I definitely feared the worst.
We already knew that this Juno team would be a tough challenge; and considering we'd made a point of telling the lads how important it was to have a fast start; we were disappointed that we looked lethargic on the pitch. We were second to every ball. We weren't passing the ball; we weren't moving into space. Juno on the other hand were the exact opposite. They were passing the ball around us and looked more and more threatening with every attack.
After string of successive corners, our mild resistance was broken. After 4 minutes, their fifth corner came in from the right and despite having 3 decent chances to clear our lines we contrived to pass the ball to their striker who poked it home for a couple of yards out. 0-1 and Juno were clearly the team on top.
As the half progressed we started to work our way back into the game. A couple of really good saves from Ahyan had kept us in the game, but we were starting to threaten in attack. 14 minutes in and we won a throw near to the left wing corner flag. Armaan launched a powerful throw into the box with caused panic in their defence. Dan took advantage and raced in from a back post position to poked the ball into the far corner for 1-1.
On balance we were fortunate to be level as we had been limited to a few breakaways as most of the game was still being played in our half. Our goal didn't change much in terms of the overall pattern of play and Juno were unlucky on 17 minutes to hit our back post straight from a corner after it had flown past everyone in the box. We managed to scramble the ball clear and raced straight up the other end of the pitch. Sam and Dan interchanged well before Dan smashed a long range shot against the Juno woodwork. This game was starting to hot up!
Two minutes later, Juno's pressure told as we once again failed to clear the ball. We were committing suicide in the box and again allowed our failed clearances to fall to one of their attackers to make it 1-2 to Juno. Juno again deserved their lead, but we still looked a threat on the break. Straight from the restart we pushed forward and when the ball broke to Sam he hit a thunderous shot which smashed off the post again. Really unlucky as it was a tremendous effort.
Four minutes later Harrison interchanged a couple of passes with Armaan in midfield in one of the few passing moves I remember before feeding it through to Abid. Abid elegantly dribbled around a defender before playing in Sam who was again unlucky to see his snap shot go just wide of the near post.
With three minutes to go before half time, we completed an unwanted hat-trick of gifted goals. We hadn't learned from the previous two mishaps and again allowed the ball to wriggle through to their forward who gleefully smashed in their third to make it 1-3 going into half time.
It was disappointing that we seemed to be playing like strangers and had forgotten how to pass the ball. We reminded the lads that we needed to be more aggressive, work harder and just put our laces through the ball when we were under pressure. We'd given away some soft goals and we were down, but certainly not out. I know the Stripes have a mental strength that few teams in our division can match so we got ourselves fired up for the second half, ready to show Juno what we're made of.
But then we endured the worst possible start to the second half. After just two minutes Juno attacked in numbers and our midfielders and wingbacks failed to chase back. It was 4 against 2 and the result was inevitable. 1-4 to Juno and frankly they deserved their lead. I shouted over to the lads to say that they deserved that because of their lack of effort and thankfully they responded to this criticism.
Two minutes later our man-of-the-match Armaan won the ball in midfield and drove forward before firing a shot narrowly wide. Armaan had led by example in the first half and was head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch. He was the catalyst for a comeback of epic proportions. Everyone suddenly started to follow Armaan's example and finally we were starting to play the kind of football that had propelled us to third in the division. The game had suddenly swung in our direction and we started to pile the pressure on Juno.
After 35 minutes, Dan was brought down on the inside left channel. Our forwards crowded the keeper as he lined up his shot. There was an unbelievable amount of pushing and shoving in the box including the keeper and two defenders who were shoving Harrison hard in the back as the kick was about to be taken. For some reason, the referee let this go, but Harrison clearly felt aggrieved. And he dished out his own form of punishment just a minute later.
Sam took a corner from the right and Harrison was again being man-handled in the box, but he used his strength and stood his ground to send a right foot volley flying into the roof of the net for 2-4.
This was now game on and the players knew it!
Our players now seemed to have an extra spring in their step and were first to everything. Straight from the restart, we forced another corner which Sam came over to take. He played another dangerous corner into the box which Abid met with a first time volley. His shot was brilliantly blocked but the rebound fell straight back to Abid who made no mistake from 7 yards out. 3-4.
We were all over Juno at this point, but they were still a danger on the break. After 40 minutes they looked certain to score as a through ball was played to their forward. Ahyan bravely raced out to meet the onrushing attacker and did just enough to put him off and force him to play his shot just wide of the post. Excellent goalkeeping from Ahyan again proving his importance to the team by keeping us in with a shout.
And just 3 minutes later it was 4-4. Dan received the ball on the inside left and neatly turned his defender. He then drove purposefully towards goal before firing in a low shot from distance past the keeper for a well-deserved equaliser.
It was nip and tuck for the next few minutes in an exhilarating game until on 50 minutes Juno retook the lead. They broke through our lines and raced through on goal. A low shot was fired into the far post and seemed to clip it as it went out for a goal kick; however, after a few minutes and some debate the referee decided that the ball had actually clipped the inside of the post and gone through a hole in the side netting. 4-5 to Juno and I think that was the right call.
Having fought our way back from 4-1 down that might have knocked the stuffing out of most teams, but not us. We stepped up another gear and put Juno under an unbelievable amount of pressure in the closing minutes. Their penalty area was so crowded that it was difficult to pick our way through and we even blocked one of our own shots as we flooded the box with players. Panic was setting into the Juno defence and after 54 minutes a goal bound shot from Armaan was handled. After an agonising few seconds the referee blew for a penalty.
Armaan had every right to take the penalty, but as Captain, he decided he wanted Dan to take it. And it was the right decision and Dan calmly stepped up to slot the ball into the side of the nets for his hat-trick and to make it 5-5.
We finished the stronger of the two teams, but couldn't quite find the winner as the game finished 5-5.
A tough game and a fair result in the end which maintains our 3 point lead over Juno.
A much improved second half saw us snatch a draw when we looked defeated, but we must start faster in games if we are to avoid having to fight our way back into games.
Well done lads for the fantastic comeback. True grit and true determination. Unbeaten in 5 games now.