Sat 30th Sep 2017
Spartan South Midlands Premier Division
Sponsored by John Brannan
TAFC First team 3-3 Biggleswade FC
TAFC goals: Chris Blunden (3)
CHRIS BLUNDEN ON SONG
Chris Blunden will not have had a more memorable week having scored a hat-trick on consecutive Saturdays plus a goal in midweek. His latest exploit saw him put us into a commanding 3 goal lead after only 34 minutes against league leaders Biggleswade FC from which we should have gone on and comfortably won the game, but defensive frailties that have dogged us this season allowed our opponents back in the game and in the end we had to settle for a point.
Having won the Division 1 title last year Biggleswade have stepped up to the higher level like a duck to water and they started the game full of confidence. Twice in the early stages our opponents broke through our defence with Jack Hopwood making good saves from Lee Northfield and Alex Marsh. Later Hoppy made another good catch from a longer range effort from Ryan Inskip.
After winning our 2 previous games we are starting to regain some of our old confidence and new signing Elliott Goward, who was making his first start, sent a good shot just wide after 45 seconds and was making his presence felt with some fine forward passes for Chris Blunden.
In the 16th minute we were awarded a free kick on the left hand edge of the box which Chris Blunden smashed home. It was a superb strike that gave keeper Sam Wyer no chance and it was just the boost we needed. Score 1-0.
A minute later our guests had to reshuffle their line up when full back Josh Holmes went off injured to be replaced by tall forward Justin Leavers who would later play a key role in the game.
Jack Hopwood made another good save from Marsh after the visitor's number 9 had latched onto a free kick that had been flicked on. But we were playing some good stuff as well and a fine pass sent Chris Vardy away down the right with his cross picking our Chris Blunden who was unable to hit the target with his header.
The visitors are a young side who like to play the ball out from the back but we were pressing them and forcing them into making mistakes with our own youngster Luke Dunstan leading the way with some terrific play. Luke is only 20 but was making his 140th First Team appearance.
In the 27th minute Elliott Goward's superb pass found Chris Vardy on the right and the resulting cross picked out Chris Blunden in a packed penalty area. But Chris worked hard to find some space then turn and fire an accurate shot into the corner. It was a fine finish to double our lead. Score 2-0.
Our supporters were in dream land 7 minutes later when following the award of anther free kick just outside the box Chris Blunden did it again, firing the ball past the despairing dive of the keeper and into the far corner for his 2nd hat-trick and 7th goal in 3 games over 7 seven days. Score 3-0.
The visitors looked shell shocked and the game should have been effectively over. Justin Leavers sent a header from a free kick well wide and Ryan Inskip struck a nice shot straight at Hoppy but the visitors were not creating the chances they did at the beginning of the match.
But 3 minutes into added time at the end of the first half they were awarded a corner which has become a bit of an achilles heel for us recently. In what looked like a rehearsed move the ball was played to the unmarked Inskip and although he miss kicked the ball it found Leavers who stabbed home from close range.
That was the 3rd game on the trot that we have conceded from a corner and although we were still in a very good position it gave our opponents a glimmer of hope. HT Score 3-1.
Elliott Goward looked as if he had broken his nose and was replaced at half time by young Max Hercules who himself got injured later on and was substituted by Jack Read..
After the excitement of the first 45 minutes the opening stages of the second half were scrappy with neither side creating anything of note. That suited us and we were looking comfortable but midway through the half we switched off and allowed our opponents back in the game.
It stemmed from a ball knocked up to Leavers who played out to Lee Northfield who was in acres of space and ran through to score. It was a nicely taken goal but it has to be asked where was the marking and why were we so open when we had a 2 goal lead to protect. Score 3-2.
There was now a sea change in the game as the visitors sniffed an opportunity to get something from it that had looked beyond them and we were forced to defend as the confidence level in Biggleswade players grew. We were not getting forward much or pressing them like we did in the first half although a Tommy Twelves cross was spilled by the keeper but we were not alert enough to take advantage of the opportunity.
The game became tetchy as the tension started to build up with the Referee flashing his yellow card on 7 occasions, 4 to our players and 3 to the opposition. In 79th minute we succumb to an equaliser and again we only have ourselves to blame when we gave away possession just outside our area and the ball was played to Leavers who scored past Jack Hopwood. Score 3-3.
Both sides had late opportunities to snatch a winner with Northfield firing over the bar after a cross fell to him and a free kick fell to Ryan Reeves in the area but the keeper came out quickly to snatch the ball off his toes. Our best chance came when Chris Blunden's pass found Jack Read in a great position in the area and unmarked but Jack was unable to control the ball. There were also some last minute anxious moments when a header from Leavers was cleared off the line, although it wouldn't have counted anyway because the offside flag went up and the last action of the game saw Jack Hopwood clear a dangerous cross from Northfield off for a corner. FT Score 3-3.
Despite the disappointment of dropping two points that should have been in the bag we are starting to show signs of rediscovering our form from last season and we can take some satisfaction from the past week with 2 away wins and a draw. We can also take some solace from pushing a very good Biggleswade side full of young academy players from professional clubs all the way. Our visitors must also be given a lot of credit for coming back from a 3 goal deficit, not may teams would have had that self belief.
Having discovered our shooting boots again with 9 goals scored in the last 3 games it is quite clear our problems relate to our poor defensive performances. A comparison with last seasons highlights the problem.
In the first 13 games last year we scored 19 goals, conceded 11 goals and kept 5 clean sheets. This season over the same number of games we have scored 19 goals again (with 9 of those coming in the last 3 games), conceded 22 goals and kept no clean sheets. So its clear we have to improve defensively, that includes all the players not just the 4 guys in the back four.
But to end on a bright note we must congratulate Chris Blunden on what has been a terrific week for him and we hope that it will continue into the further games.
On Tuesday we play another Biggleswade side, this time United in the Premier Division Cup. United will be sick of the sight of the Grass Roots Stadium because this will be their third visit this season, with honours shared so far with one win each.
On Saturday we return to league action with a trip to our bogey side Hadley although we did do the double over them last season.
TA:1 Jack Hopwood 2 Ben Johnson 3 Tommy Twelves 4 Mark Riddick 5 Ryan Reeves 6 Luke Dunstan 7 Ryan Sturges 8 Sam Joliffe (Capt) 9 Chris Vardy (15 Ronnie Blagdon 72) 10 Chris Blunden 11 Elliott Goward (14 Max Hercules HT) (12 Jack Read 90). Subs not used: 16 Dan Steadman 17 Jack Seaton.
B:1 Sam Wyer 2 Adam Hunt (Capt) 3 Josh Holmes (17 Justin Leavers 17) 4 Patrick McCafferty 5 Dorren Woodend 6 David Lenton 7 Taishan Griffith 8 George Riley 9 Alex Marsh 10 Lee Northfield 11 Ryan Inskip. Subs not used: 12 Conor Inskip 14 Matt Richardson 15 Joel Agyeman 16 Tyler Ingham.
TA:Chris Blunden (16, 27, 34)
B:Justin Leavers (45+3, 79), Lee Northfield (64)