Playing at Allen Hill is always a bit strange – I wouldn’t say cursed although results there have been a little tough to get against Shore recently, but mostly that’s just because they have had some good players more than anything else.
On Saturday we had a classic Allen Hill moment, players were late, lost and no showed – mostly for the reserves which was a shame as a win against a tough Shore team would have put some real pressure on Fencibles, instead it looks tough to catch them now. During the week I tried to prepare the players for the travel component of the North Shore challenge, I warned them about allowing extra travel time and I posted up both names, being Allen Hill Stadium and Dacre Park for the millennial’s to use for their google search (actually I’m pretty sure once they do a google search it tells them the travel time as well – maybe that’s not that useful once you have already left late…)
Still I’m confident my instructions stopped one player from heading to QBE stadium by mistake……
On a more serious note we did have players unavailable for a genuine and scary reason as Reserves player John Murphy who was a key part of the club last season and had just returned from a 6 month sabbatical and was preparing to don his Ellerslie colours for the first time this season was hit by a taxi on Friday night and was probably lucky to only suffer a badly broken leg – A bitter blow for John but he had the support of some of his teammates in Adam Barkley and Joe Junge who recused themselves of playing duties to be with their teammate and friend through his Hospital and Surgery experience, John’s family are still overseas so it was very important for Adam and Joe to be there! We didn’t announce this news to the teams before their games as we didn’t want to distract them too much – some people knew and I’m sure we all wish John all the best with his recovery.
So to the Reserves game – a tough challenge against a Shore team who beat us in the end quite convincingly in the first round and on what was a very tricky pitch as well – it had drained well but was still soft on top and hard underneath which made footing a bit of an issue at times – some of the younger guys with only the one pair of boots struggled even more!! In team news there was a welcome back to the squad for Rowan Corbett who had been on holiday and Alex Arnold who made his first start in Reserves, a well-deserved start.
The game started well with Ellerslie doing well with the ball and creating a few opportunities across the front three of Rowan, Karar and Leon with Monju in behind them in the 10 role. To be fair we probably wasted a couple of chances but also should have ended up with a man advantage when the Shore GK raced out to challenge Monju outside the box – was it not for the foul Monju would have had the ball on the edge of the box with only a defender who had retreated into the goal to beat – the definition of an obvious goal scoring opportunity. (for those who are yelling at your screen now that the GK wasn’t the last man, stop reading now as you need to go pick up a copy of the laws of the game and catch up). The referee however either didn’t want to effect the game so early or is still operating on the now defunct laws – either way the end result was only a yellow for the GK . That didn’t slow us down initially as we kept pushing for a goal and a nice ball forward that was flicked on by Monju to Rowan who sprinted clear and finished well past the GK to open the scoring.
That was the extent of the scoring in the first half – as Rowan took his leave to sit on the bench for the First Team and U17’s player Andre Fruh took a spot in midfield and we shuffled the team around to suit. Shore did come out better in the second half, and as the game wore on we weakened, something that is systematic of not having a full bench and also there has been a noticeable drop in training attendance from a few players in the reserves so conditioning is not maybe where it should be. When Shore equalised we did stage a mini revival but not long after that Luke MacKay got hit by the cramp demon and had to be replaced, Nick Shaw came in for him into a midfield role and Karar I think dropped to fullback. Our last sub saw Marshy enter the game for Karar who was required for First Team duties, a well deserved call up again for Karar who has made massive leaps with his game this season.
Shore grabbed another two goals in the second half to win the game – I don’t have the times or scorers as the Referee didn’t have access to comet so has not filled in the info on the match report.
The result makes it tricky for us to hunt down Fencibles at the top of table and also means staying in second may be a challenge with third place Waiheke coming to Michaels Ave this weekend – a crucial fortnight for the Reserves so seeing good numbers at training would be a good start!
For the First Team we faced a bit of a challenge – with Dan McLean away we called up Seb who has been immense for the Reserves this season and has performed well for the First Team whenever called upon so it was great to see him pick up his 46th First Team appearance – Adam Scott kept his place in the side and Conrad returned in midfield as did Jordan Bresler.
Early on in the game we looked ok and moved the ball around reasonably well on the tricky pitch and Shore pressed us high to find an early error, which was not forth coming. However in the 20th minute a couple of defensive lapses combined with some good play from Shore cost us a goal. Rahman Bashir started the attack on the left flank and was well tracked by Sam Twigg before he passed the ball inside to Sam St De Criox who had not been tracked by Dylan – Sam made an excellent 1st time pass to Sean Latimer who had dropped off our backline and turned and played a little dinked ball over the backline to Sam St de Croix who had made a run from deep and had enough space to control Sean Latimer’s excellent pass and finish inside the right hand post – a nice little goal but one that could have and maybe should have been stopped at several points.
At halftime we spoke about how we were going to get back into the game – we had looked decent in midfield in stages with Dylan getting the ball in some good areas and Sam proving a threat in behind his fullback – we just gave away a lot of ball in the final third which released the pressure on what was a solid but not spectacular backline for Shore.
The second half however was not kind to us and we regressed and as the game wore on we struggled more and more – of course it could have been worse as only 3 minutes into the second half the referee awarded (harshly in my view) a penalty to North Shore after Rahman Bashir got inbehind us and chopped the ball back in the box and lost his footing as Jordan came in to shut him down – was there a little bit of contact, I didn’t see much but the referee was certain. However the footy gods were smiling on us a little and Conor Tracey with all his experience made what we thought was a crucial save to deny Sam St de Criox a second goal.
Sam St de Criox didn’t wait long to make up for his effort from the spot as he slammed home a nice outside of the foot shot after a patient buildup that saw our midfield pulled to one side of the field and an intelligent ball to a late run from Sam saw him with the chance to bury his shot which he did well – this goal triggered a few changes as we brought on Ben Shaw and Rowan Corbett to try and shake a goal loose from the tree and mount an unlikely comeback
Unfortunately all that happened is that Shore grabbed a third goal to kill off the game – this one was a little unlucky as a deflected pass wrongfooted Seb and then Sean Latimer who had two assists at this point managed to beat our last defender and beat Conor in goal with a nice angled strike.
Not an ideal game for us but Shore are a very decent side and with Sam St de Criox they have a gem of a player – Shore certainly belong in the argument for second place with Waiheke and MAP the other serious contenders in my mind.
This weekend we get to see promotion hopefuls Waiheke up close and personal in what will be a tricky set of games for us – check it out at 12:30pm for Reserves and 3pm for First Team at Michaels Ave Reserve.