Sat 30th Dec 2017
Spartan South Midlands Premier Division
Sponsored by Debbie & Will Dunstan
TAFC First team 3-1 Holmer Green
TAFC goals: David O'Connor, Jack Read, Jack Sunderland
WE END 2017 WITH A MUCH NEEDED WIN
After a difficult season we gave ourselves a much needed end of year boost with a victory over Holmer Green that lifts us off the bottom of the table and up 4 places to 18th. We are still far from safe but we do have games in hand over all the sides around us and could climb up to a comfortable mid table position if we win these.
This was the 39th encounter between our 2 clubs and after a fairly quiet first half the game improved in the second period. We enjoyed the better possession and chances but were kept out by a dogged performance from a youthful Green team who were kept in the game by a series of superb saves from their keeper Luca Gaster.
The visitors came into the match on a decent run of 3 wins and a draw from their last 6 games and they made a positive start at The Grass Roots Stadium. They won an early corner followed by a long throw that gave an opportunity at the far post to defender Ryan Parson who sent his volley over the bar.
We were sluggish during these early stages (perhaps too much Xmas turkey!) and there wasn't much action on the pitch to get excited about. We started to see more of the ball with Jack Read curling a shot over the bar after being found by a nice cut back from Chris Vardy, but neither keeper was called into action. Following a corner Sam Joliffe had a shot cleared by a defender and Green left back Oscar Harrison produced a decent shot on target but it didn't trouble Jack Hopwood.
As the half wore on we started to show more signs of life, winning a number of set pieces and beginning to pose a threat. Sam Joliffe got his head to a terrific free kick from young Max Hercules forcing the keeper into a fine blocking save. From the resulting corner Luke Dunstan's header was cleared.
A Max Hercules pass picked out the run of Chris Vardy whose shot was nicely saved by Gaster with his feet. A minute into added time we managed to get the breakthrough we were looking for when Dave O'Connor headed home his second of the season from a free kick curled in superbly from the right by Chris Vardy. Score 1-0.
After a dull start to the game we went in at half time just about deserving our slim lead. HT Score 1-0.
Fortunately for the spectators the second half was a great improvement on the first with Jack Read forcing another fine save from Gaster 2 minutes after the restart, with the Green keeper getting down low to turn away the shot.
There was a bizarre incident when the Referee awarded us a penalty then changed it to offside when he saw the linesman's flag go up. This may have distracted us as the game took a different twist when Green grabbed a surprise equaliser in the 56th minute. From the free kick the ball was played down the middle somehow catching us out and Leo Blackman was allowed to run through and coolly tuck his shot just inside the post. Score 1-1.
The visitors elation was short lived as we went back into the lead again within three minutes. A Max Hercules corner was headed back across goal by Dave O'Connor for Jack Read to nod home from close range. Score 2-1.
Our attempts to grab an all important third goal to put daylight between us and Green were foiled by Gaster who produced a series of superb saves. Two from Chris Vardy from close range after he latched onto a super cross from Jack Read were well worth the entrance fee then he produced an equally good save from a Luke Dunstan volley. When Vards was set free by a defence splitting pass from Luke Dunstan and did eventually beat the keeper a defender was on hand to clear the ball before it crossed the line.
With just a slim one goal lead we were vulnerable to Green getting another equaliser and the visitors had their good spells of attacking play but they found our defence in an unforgiving mood and they failed to test Jack Hopwood. The visitors played some nice football and attacked in numbers with impressive midfielder Matt Wooster usually at the heart of their best moves.
They were handicapped when Gary Lines was sent off in the 82nd minute. The Green Skipper had trod a fine line getting the benefit of the doubt for a nasty tackle on Dave O'Connor in the first half but despite being warned by the Referee he went on to commit a number of silly fouls and was eventually shown a second yellow card. .
We were desperate to get a 3rd goal and so we brought on Jack Sunderland who made an immediate impact when he rose from the bench in the 89th minute. His first contribution saw his shot deflected up in the air and heading for the net until Gaster managed to get back quickly and tip it over the bar. From the corner Dave O'Connor's header was blocked on the line but Sundy was quick to stab it home from close range. Score 3-1.
Sundy nearly added some icing to the cake when he thumped a shot just over but the final whistle saw us collect 3 valuable points. FT Score 3-1.
After a slow start we improved greatly in the second half and although the visitors keeper was superb we could have been a bit more clinical in front of goal, but we fully deserved the victory over a gallant Holmer Green side. It continued our recent good form over them with 7 wins and a draw from our last 8 encounters.
Special mention for DOC, who reminded me in the bar afterwards that he not only scored but set up the other 2 goals. Good to see him back in the starting line up after a season plagued by injury.
Also special praise for Jack Sunderland who opened his First Team account this season with the crucial 3rd goal. Sundy seems to have been around for ages having played at every level in the Club from Youth to First Team but he is still only 23. He has played over 200 games and scored 61 goals and it was great to see him come and make a difference. We just have to make sure he doesn't lift any more sofas!!
Next Saturday we can put our league struggles to one side when we entertain Essex Senior League side Hullbridge Sports at The Grass Roots Stadium in the FA Vase. The victors will go into the 4th round and will be just 3 rounds away from a Wembley final. A win will take us into new territory and hopefully there will be a big crowd to cheer us on.
Neither side is exactly flying at the moment and both will think this is a winnable game, so it should be close and exciting. We will hopefully have a full squad available, not sure about Tommy Twelves as Watford are at home. Also Ian Richardson took Elliott Goward off as a precaution as he will be a key player.
TA:1 Jack Hopwood 2 Colm Parrott 3 Chris Mason 4 Mark Riddick 5 Dan Steadman (Capt) 6 Dave O'Connor 7 Luke Dunstan 8 Sam Joliffe 9 Chris Vardy 10 Jack Read (12 Elliott Goward 64) (15 Jack Sunderland 89) 11 Max Hercules (14 Steve Nott-Macaire 81) Sub not used: 16 Luke Jones
HG:1 Luca Gaster 2 Kieran Cathline (15 Jonty Summerell 66) 3 Oscar Harrison 4 Gary Lines (Capt) 5 Ryan Parsons 6 Jamie Britnell 7 Tom Peddle-James 8 Curtis Stone (12 Ollie Humphries 77) 9 Alex Rice (14 Marcus Horwood 72) 10 Matt Wooster 11 Leo Blackman. Subs not used: 16 James Jarrott 17 Dean Munday.
TA:Dave O'Connor (45+1), Jack Read (59), Jack Sunderland (90)
HG:Leo Blackman (56)