Sunday 8 September 2013
Village started their 2013-14 league campaign with a frustrating 1-1 draw against Sporting Manchester on a dry and sunny Sunday morning that had led to mutterings of "perfect conditions for football".
The starting lineup gave Village first team debuts to new boy Paul Carter up front and recently transferred Craig Orrock in defence whilst manager Jason McAuley covered the absence of regular goalkeeper Jeremy Baker, who was no doubt kicking every ball in his sleep over the pond!
Village dominated the early periods of play with Jez Ure and Ant Parkin seeing lots of the ball on the right hand side. The team started brightly with plenty of confident passing from the back that led to numerous attacks, especially down the left hand side with an early cross from Paul Golds headed over by Carter on 10 minutes.
This pattern of play continued with Alex Wilson and Sam Connell winning the vast majority of headers in the middle of the park and the ball being played out wide quickly when in possession. Two long shots followed from Ure after more passing from the back and a Tom Reece long throw was headed out of the area.
The team were in control of the game with plenty of possession and Golds, Reece and Alex Wilson all drawing free kicks or winning corners through determined play that unfortunately weren't being capitalised on with poor crosses not finding the towering targets of Carter, Connell and James Wilson in the penalty area and the opposition easily clearing the danger.
On 33 minutes a rare piece of sloppy play at the back saw Orrock concede a free kick that gave McAuley his first serious test of the day as he saved comfortably down to his left. Two minutes later Village were celebrating following a mistake down at the other end as Carter intercepted a weak pass back to their goalkeeper, took it to the right and cooly slotted the ball into the bottom left hand corner with a well placed finish to open his Village account.
Sporting Manchester were clearly frustrated as one of their forwards resorted to shooting at Village's goal from the resulting kick-off. Village were well on top and looking more likely to score again quickly with a low Reece shot saved well on 38 minutes, followed a few minutes later, by a free kick swung in from the left after Carter had been fouled holding the ball up well.
As the minutes ticked by till half-time, 43 became Village's unlucky number as the momentum suddenly shifted to the opposition and a rare attack saw a corner awarded after several good blocks by the defence. The corner was headed out but straight back to the oncoming opposing left back who crossed the ball straight back into the box. The quality of the ball in led to an unexpected mix-up by McAuley and his defence and whilst he made a good save from a strong header he could only push the ball back to the attacker and the ball was headed up and into the left corner of the net.
Both teams squandered possession following the restart and we went into the half-time break level. The manager was quick to hold his hands up for the equaliser but motivated the team to keep playing the quality football that his team had shown in flashes throughout the first half and that if they made the pitch as big as possible by getting the ball out wide to Reece and Jordan Langford then more chances would undoubtedly follow.
Play resumed with no tactical changes and Village regained their momentum quickly and looked the more likely team to add to the scoreline with Alex Wilson having the best chance blocked after a smart turn and dribble from the improving Golds.
On the hour, the play had become very scrappy with Village's midfield continuing to win most of the 50-50 balls but, with 61 played, Sporting broke down the left and, whilst the ball appeared to go out for a Village throw in, the ball was delivered across goal and the on rushing forward just missed it as he sprinted and slid in, giving the Village players and supporters on the sideline a real scare.
Village pressure quickly resumed, with the opposition struggling to cope with the pace and determination of Golds. His cross from a throw was met by Carter whose on target shot was saved on 63 minutes, quickly followed by a terrific ball over the top by Golds to Langford that was driven across the area from right to left but only found empty space. Two minutes later, Carter was found once more by Golds, having intercepted the ball, but his volley was driven high over the bar.
The first change was made on 72 minutes as Sal replaced the solid, yet sometimes nervous, Orrock, who should be pleased with his first league appearance for Village. The manager switched the team to a 3-5-2 formation with Reece and Parkin now the wing-backs and, dare I write it, Langford in the hole behind Carter. This gave Village the width that had been highlighted at half-time and further chances ensued with Connell and Reece shots from outside the area saved on 77 and 80 minutes respectively.
Time was running out for Village to find the winner that they richly deserved but the team didn't resort to too many long balls as this tended to result in the loss of possession and following a flowing move from left to right a quality Parkin cross was desperately cleared for another Village corner. Unfortunately, once more Village failed to find a team mate and the ball was headed clear.
McAuley replaced Reece for Chris Mog on 84 minutes in a like-for-like swap but the game had become very scrappy once more as both teams tired. However, there was still time for one more chance apiece with Village's arriving first after Golds was fouled on the right side. Ure swung the free kick in deep but the ball just wouldn't all at a Village players' feet.
As the seconds ticked by, Sporting Manchester were awarded a last minute free kick after a foul by Sal that was delivered from left to right, was met by a Sporting head but luckily fell at the feet of the keeper and McAuley caught it comfortably removing the danger.
As the final whistle blew shortly afterwards, the Village players and supporters alike reflected on a well earned first point of the season but knew that it wouldn't have been an unfair result if they had left with an opening win to the new campaign. The team looked promising with a really positive start and as the weeks tick by, together with the players to return to action and the improving Carter every week, better performances can surely be expected.
The team surprised manager, and stand-in goalkeeper, McAuley with their level of performance and fitness, showing that the recent competitive friendlies were well worth completion. It was an early point well earned and with the whole team slightly disappointed that it wasn't three it shows the ambition of the team that will hopefully lead to a successful season for the Village 1st team.
Full time: 1-1