Sat 17th Feb 2018
Spartan South Midland Premier Division
Sponsored by Brian Rutherford
TAFC First team 2-4 Stotfold FC
TAFC goals: Jack Read, Jack Sunderland
WE SUFFER POST CUP HANGOVER
After our historic FA Vase exploits we returned to the more prosaic requirement of collecting league points to move away from the lower end of the Premier Division table. Facing bottom of the table Stotfold, who had won just one of their last 25 games, we unfortunately blew our opportunity to put some distance over our Bedfordshire rivals and we now find ourselves mired in a relegation dog fight.
With Jack Hopwood departing to Aylesbury United we started with promising 19 year old Lewis Todd in goal and the newcomer's first act was to pick the ball out of the net after only 31 seconds. It was an unfortunate start for the young keeper who could not be faulted for any of the goals conceded and can feel let down by his colleagues in front of him.
Having been without a game for two weeks due to the bad weather the players had clearly not switched on from kick off and paid an early price when a simple move set free Joseph Ryan who produced a nice first time finish to put the visitors in front with less than a minute played. Score 0-1.
We nearly made matters worse 5 minutes later when a poor kick out and a tame challenge nearly let full back Michael Simpson through on goal. The early set back did finally jolt our players into a response and we were unlucky when Elliott Goward's fine free kick clipped the far post. However an equaliser soon arrived in the 14th minute.
Elliott Goward started the move by winning the ball and spaying a fine pass out to Chris Vardy on the right. Vards accurate cross into the area picked out Jack Read who took the ball down and finished smartly for his 14th goal of the season. Score 1-1.
Relieved at quickly getting back into the game we settled down and started to enjoy more possession and territory. Jack Read had a half chance from a Chris Vardy pass but the ball wouldn't drop quickly enough and there were other promising opportunities that we failed to take advantage of due to some solid defending by our opponents and some over opportunistic efforts on goal when there were colleagues who were better placed.
Stotfold's main threat came from set pieces which enabled big centre back Tommy Carroll to get forward but they failed to test Lewis Todd. However mid way through the half they missed a sitter when a long ball to the far post was laid back across the area to Terry Billy who with the goal at his mercy missed kicked and had to watched in horror as the ball trickled harmlessly wide of the post.
But we looked the more likely of the two teams to score and we went mighty close on the half hour mark when Dave O'Connor's defence splitting pass sent Jack Read through on goal but a superb save from keeper Matt Fallon denied Readie a second goal.
This was a good period for us and a fine move down the left involving Chris Mason and Elliott Goward saw the ball pulled back to Max Hercules who smashed a spectacular effort just wide. We were pressurizing the visitors defence and Mark Riddick's cross to the far post fell to Chris Vardy's left foot and his superb volley was matched by an equally superb save from Fallon again.
So after a slow start we went on to have the better of the first half and would have had a slender lead but for some fine saves from the visitors keeper. HT Score 1-1.
We had a great chances to take the lead early in the second half but Jack Read's shot hit the side rather than the main net. Stotfold responded with a fine cross from Kieran Barnes that Ryan headed over when it looked easier to score. Ben Johnson then had to come to our rescue with a timely interception to head the ball back to Lewis Todd.
The visitors were lively more than threatening in the first half but looked a different proposition in the second period helped by a dip in our performance. Whatever the reason we started to give the ball away too easily and couldn't seem to get going.
Stotfold were now the better side and it was no surprise when they retook the lead in the 63rd minute when their lively young forward Kieran Barnes volleyed the ball home after we failed to clear our lines properly. Score 1-2.
We had a chance to equalise soon after when Colm Parrott and Jack Read set up Mark Riddick with a clear shooting opportunity of the edge of the area but Mark's effort went over the bar.
Barnes and Ryan put presentable chances over the bar but in the 80th minute we conceded a penalty and Barnes took the opportunity to grab his second of the game and put some day light between them and us. Score 1-3.
Four minutes later Barnes beat our offside trap and coolly slotted the ball home to set Stotfold well on their way to their first ever victory in Tring. It was the youngsters hat-trick and doubled his tally for the season. Score 1-4.
Substitute Jack Sunderland added some much needed urgency to our attack and was rewarded with a goal three minutes from time, but it proved to be too little too late and we paid the price for a poor second half performance. FT Score 2-4.
To say that this was a very disappointing performance and result would be a massive understatement. It is puzzling that after recovering well from an early set back and playing well in the first half why we were so poor after the break. A win would have given us an 8 point advantage over Stotfold but instead we find ourselves dropping down to 20th with a just 3 points gap over them.
We do have a lot of games in hand over our relegation rivals (6 on Stotfold, 5 on Crawley Green and 3 on Holmer Green) but of course that doesn't necessarily guarantee points on the board.
Its fair to say that Stotfold were a lot better than their record at first suggests and based on their second half performance they fully deserved to win. They have evidently signed on 5 new players and they have some good youngsters and you could see them climbing away from the bottom. A closer look at their results shows that this was going to be a tougher game than their stats suggests as although they have lost 6 of their last 8 games they were all by a single goal margin including a narrow defeat to Berko.
We desperately missed the presence of Luke Dunstan and Tommy Twelves in midfield and although Luke will be available for the games coming up Tommy's injury may mean a longer lay off for him.
We have two games coming up against fellow relegation strugglers so it is in our hands to climb up the table. But it wont be easy as on Tuesday we travel to Colney Heath where we rarely do well then on Saturday we entertain London Tigers who have already beaten us this season.
TA:1 Lewis Todd 2 Ben Johnson (16 Steve Nott-Macaire 81) 3 Chris Mason (14 Colm Parrott 67) 4 Mark Riddick 5 Dave O'Connor 6 George Carbery 7 Max Hercules 8 Sam Joliffe (Capt) 9 Chris Vardy 10 Jack Read 11 Elliott Goward (12 Jack Sunderland 74). Sub not used: 15 Dan Steadman.
S:1 Matt Fallon 2 Reece Stokes (15 Mark Ansell-Carter 49) 3 Michael Simpson 4 Cian Sweeney 5 Tommy Carroll 6 Charlie Briggs 7 Liam Sweeney (Capt) 8 Russell Clark 9 Terry Billy (17 Meschack Henderikson 67) 10 Kieran Barnes 11 Joseph Ryan. Subs not used: 12 Dean Auburn 14 James Chisholm 16 Luke Burkett.
TA:Jack Read ( 14), Jack Sunderland (87)
S:Joseph Ryan (1), Kieran Barnes (63, Pen 80, 84)