|1||Paul Chewter (7)|
|2||Ed Shorter (6)|
|3||Pete Rundle (6)|
|4||Michael Cherry (8)|
|5||Sam Hill (6)|
|6||Jim Moon (7)|
|7||Sean Ingleson (7)|
|8||Matt Reeves (6)|
|9||Ben Large (6)|
|10||Kevin Jordan (6)|
|12||Jak Cook (6)|
|13||Phil Hoare (6)|
|Hildenborough AFC Res||1|
Finally after 41 days with out competitive football we returned to action with an away fixture with Wilderpark, who earlier in the season almost shocked us with a well headed goal to take the lead in the first half and, after a second half equaliser, we only snatched victory in the dying minutes.
With this in mind, and the knowledge that despite their lowly league position they are more than capable of a goal or two we approached the game knowing this was to be no push over, especially as in our weather induced extended break, Wilderpark have managed a few games to keep up their match fitness whilst ours was wasting away.
The game started on this bright but blustery afternoon, and the early exchanges brought back dire memories of last seasons meeting here when both teams failed to play much football and Wilder nicked a slender victory. Like last year, complete passes were few and far between early on and it was clear that we were a little rusty. Fortunately Wilderpark were also struggling to get any rhythm in the opening exchanges and also posed little threat to Mark in goal.
Having chased a ball around a field for 15 minutes or so, the memories of football came back and the cobwebs were blowing away as we became more familiar with each others games once again, runs were starting to pay off and passes were more refined and reaching there destinations with Sean, Sam and Cherry having more influence on the game in the middle of the park, and they were utilising the width of the pitch bringing in Kev and Jim more often as the half wore on.
Despite the football improving and Mat and Ban working hard to run off defenders and create space and openings, we just couldn’t break down the home defence, which was matching us in terms of work rate at least. However it was the home defences inability to clear that gave us our first effort of note well into the half. Sean was instrumental in pressing the home team back but after a succession of headers around the edge of the area Mat darted in to unleash a fierce first time shot that flew narrowly over the bar.
We also managed to force a number of corners with Ben and Matt’s persistence and Sean was putting in great deliveries, but one Kev Jordan header aside we were still unable to trouble the home ‘keeper.
With further strikes from Matt and Sean, our domination of the game was increasingly obvious but without the telling goal, and with Mark not making one save in the first half there was a feeling of frustration as we went in at the break with the scores still drawn at 0-0.
No changes were made at half time as we sought to increase the pressure on the home side. But, as always with a 0-0 score line there was always the threat that Wilder could snatch a goal against the run of play and their number 10 stood out as the main threat as he continued to shake off challenges and hold the ball up for the home team to attack. But with the defence in no mood to be giving things away we looked increasingly comfortable at the back.
A good passage of football that started at the back and involved a number of players, particularly Kev down the left saw Matt put a rasping cross ball beyond the back post for Cherry to finish with a clinical first time shot across the front of the keeper to nestle in the side netting to finally give us the lead we had deserved.
In a bid to freshen things up in attack and put the game beyond doubt, Sam, who was having a subdued second half in comparison to a very decent first, was replaced and Phil Hoare made his reserves debut to go up front with Ben whilst Matt pushed out wide and Jim, who incidentally was making his first start in over a full season, squeezed inside to take Sam’s central role.
The goal made the game far more open and both teams were looking more constructive in possession of the ball and the game was becoming more end-to-end than the first half.
Pete was withdrawn after a knock and Jak was introduced to the right of midfield and a reshuffle was required and Cherry clotted in at the heart of defence.
The home team were starting to assert more pressure as they sought an equaliser to our increasingly slender lead at a time when our lack of match fitness was starting to show and into the last twenty minutes they were forcing a number of corners at which they are quite deadly. In the end Mark had to react quickly to stop a glancing header sneaking in to the top right hand corner of the goal to maintain our lead and to allow us to extend our unbeaten run to an impressive 9 games.
At the end of the day we managed to get the three points which was the most important thing, rusty performance and lacking of match fitness aside, there were some very promising moments in the game when the passing was simple yet hugely effective, our understanding of each others game was also good and in the 1st half especially, vocally we were much better. But the most pleasing thing was everyone’s determined attitude and work rate that won us the game against a side hell bent on getting something from the game. Up front Ben and Mat worked hard despite not getting much change from the home defence, and the midfielders all contributed with some brilliant passing but Man of the Match went to Cherry for his contributions both in attack where he got the decisive goal and in defence where he fought to keep the clean sheet.
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