Sat 14th Oct 2017
Spartan South Midlands Premier Division
Sponsored by Debbie & Will Dunstan
TAFC First team 2-4 Leighton Town
TAFC goals: Mark Riddick, Chris Blunden
WE ENDURE A DISMAY WEEK
Goals from Mark Riddick and Chris Blunden came to nothing after some appalling defending, something that has blighted us this season, condemned us to yet another defeat, our 3rd of the week.
Our latest setback against Leighton Town leaves us still in 18th place in the Premier Division and any pre-season optimism after a fine campaign last year has been replaced by the realisation that we now have a fight on our hands to move away from the relegation zone, especially as the 3 teams below us all have games in hand.
So what has gone wrong? The simple answer is that as a team our defending has been shocking this season conceding 23 goals in 11 league games and overall no clean sheets in 17 games. This was highlighted in this game when we gave ourselves a chance by taking the lead twice then handed the points on a plate to Leighton with some basic mistakes.
Its true that we have been handicapped by an long list of injuries and players being unavailable particularly in defence. For this game we were missing the likes of Tommy Twelves, Jack Seaton, Dave O'Connor, James Butler, Elliott Goward and Colm Parrott but all teams face injuries and we just have to get on with it. Our problem is that we have been making silly errors particularly from set pieces and this was a feature in this game when we conceded from corner then free kick then made 2 defensive mistakes.
The shortage of defenders meant we were forced to move Luke Dunstan to an unfamiliar left back role with George Carbery starting his fist game of the season. The visitors came into the game on the back of a good run of just one defeat in 8 games and it was no surprise that they started strongly and looked the better side in the early stages.
As early as the 3rd minute Jack Hopwood did well to cut out a dangerous cross after an opposition forward was allowed to get to the bye line and from a corner a minute later James Hatch had a shot cleared. We started to respond with some promising attacks with Chris Blunden having his shot blocked after a flowing move.
In 14th minute we had a great chance to open the scoring when Chris Vardy and Chris Blunden combined to send through young Max Hercules who unselfishly tried to set up George Carbery for a tap in when he was well placed to score himself. Unfortunately his pass was intercepted.
That missed opportunity was soon forgotten as three minutes later Mark Riddick opened his account for the club by converting a Max Hercules corner. Score 1-0. It was great to see us score from a corner when our record at defending them has been so poor this season, but our joy was short lived as 10 minutes later Leighton equalised also from a corner when we failed to clear our lines properly and the ball was played back into our area where James Hatch produced a spectacular over head kick to rifle the ball past keeper Jack Hopwood. Score 1-1.
A feeling of dj vu started to creep in but we bounced back to re-take the lead in the 30th minute. It stemmed from a free kick that Mark Riddick helped on to Chris Blunden who turned superbly to get away from his marker and slot the ball home. It was a true poachers goal and his 13th of the season, a very good return playing for a side that has been struggling. Score 2-1.
Jack Hopwood cleared a dangerous cross with his outstretched leg to ensure we ended the half with our noses in front against an in-form side lying 13 places above us in 5th place. HT Score 2-1.
We suffered a blow when Sam Joliffe came off soon after the restart with a groin strain to add to our burgeoning list of injuries and Ryan Reeves came on as a replacement. In the 57th minute a fine move involving Chris Blunden and George Carbery set up Max Hercules but his firm shot was superbly saved by the Leighton keeper Tom Wyant.
Leighton were starting to look more threatening and their sub and leading scorer Lorrel Smith started to make his presence felt. Smith managed to get round the back of our defence but again Hoppy came to our rescue to cut out the cross. We had a lucky escape when Lewis McBride struck the post with his colleague smashing the rebound well off target although it wouldn't have counted even if he had hit the net as the flag went up for offside.
In the 68th minute Leighton were awarded a free kick and we lined up expecting it to be knocked to the far post but sub Jack Pursey caught us napping by playing the ball out wide to his skipper Don Marsala whose cross was tucked away by McBride. Score 2-2.
You could see the confidence drain from our players and three minutes later disaster struck when we failed to deal with a routine ball down the middle and Lorrel Smith took full advantage to put his side ahead for the first time in the game. Score 2-3.
We brought on Jack Sunderland and Josh Hart, who was making his First Team debut, and Sundy almost made an immediate impact, latching onto a pass from Chris Blunden and laying it off to George Carbery. Unfortunately although Carbs was well placed he sent his shot agonisingly just wide of the far post.
The final nail in our coffin came 10 minutes from time and again it was not a moment to treasure. A simple clearance was required but we ended up given the ball to the lively Smith and he was tugged in a vain attempt to recover the situation. A penalty was awarded which Marsala smashed past Hoppy to make the margin of victory far greater than it should have been. FT Score 2-4.
We can bemoan the self afflicted nature of this latest defeat but the solution lies in our hands. Fortunately our game next Saturday against Edgware has been called off because they are in action in the FA Vase so we have a two week break to get some players back and get our act together for our next game which is at home to newly promoted Harpenden Town on Saturday 28 October. This will be another tough fixture as Harpenden have made a good start in the Premier Division and are currently 6th in the table.
TA:1 Jack Hopwood 2 Ben Johnson 3 Luke Dunstan 4 Mark Riddick 5 Dan Steadman (Capt) 6 Max Hercules (14 Jack Sunderland 79) 7 Ryan Sturges (12 Josh Hart 79) 8 Sam Joliffe (15 Ryan Reeves 47) 9 Chris Blunden 10 Chris Vardy 11 George Carbery. Sub not used: 16 Lewis Smith.
LT:1 Tom Wyant 2 James Towell (12 Jack Pursey 56) 3 Kai Ashley 4 Luke Marsh 5 Tom Guiney 6 David Murphy 7 Dom Marsala (Capt) 8 Carl Tappin 9 James Hatch (15 Ricky Wigg-Booden 79) 10 Alex O'Brien (14 Lorrel Smith 52) 11 Lewis McBride. Subs not used: 16 Tom Bryant 17 Matt Moran.
TA:Mark Riddick (17), Chris Blunden (30)
LT:Hatch (27), McBride (68), Smith (71), Marsala Pen (80)
Following report taken from Leighton Town's website
Saturday 14 October 15:00 - League
Tring Athletic 2Leighton Town F C 4
Second Half Comeback Secures 3 Points For Town
By Andrew Parker
Town made the short trip to Tring on Saturday but at half time it looked as if the hosts would continue their winning sequence against Leighton, who have not beaten them since their relegation back to the Spartan South Midlands League.
Leighton fielded an unchanged side after Tuesday nights win at Hoddesdon with Lorrel Smith who was unavailable in midweek included in the substitutes. Town started brightly but failed to create any real chances in the opening ten minutes and it was a shock when the hosts scored first after winning a corner in their first attack . The corner was driven in low from the Tring right and seemed to bypass about 8 Leighton players before being knocked in from close range by a waiting Tring player. Town pushed forward to try to find an equaliser but their final pass was never accurate enough and Tring defended sensibly.
In the 25th minute James Hatch scored a spectacular equaliser from about 12 yards to get Town back in the game. Tring went in front again when some poor defending by Leighton allowed the hosts to score a simple goal.
Leighton kicking up the slope in the second half soon had other problems when Alex OBrien had to leave the pitch with a thigh injury in the 51st minute, he was replaced by Lorrel Smith and the lively forward was soon causing problems for the Tring defence with his pace.
Four minutes after this substitution Town brought on Jack Pursey to replace the injured James Towell. Leighton levelled the scores in the 67 th minute when Lewis McBride cut through the Tring defence after some clever work by Dom Marsala and drove a low shot into the bottom corner.
Town were now playing at a better tempo than in the first half and 3 minutes after the equaliser Lorrel Smith put them in front after rounding the keeper to slot home.
Town then made their 3rd substitution when Ricki WiggBooden replaced James Hatch.
About 12 minutes from time Lorrel Smith sprinted past his marker who clearly grabbed the strikers shirt leaving the referee no choice but to award an obvious penalty. Dom Marsala strode forward and drove his penalty high into the net.
Both sides continued to push forward but Town were able to maintain their two goal lead without any major scares.
Town are now unbeaten in 3 games but they will have to show better form next week at Burnham if they wish to make further progress in the FA Vase.
Report by Roy Parker