Sat 4th Nov 2017
Spartan South Midlands Premier Division
Sponsored by Paul Vockins Ground Control
TAFC First team 2-0 St Margaretsbury
TAFC goals: Elliott Goward (2)
ELLIOTT'S DOUBLE EARNS US A MUCH NEEDED WIN
The Autumn leaves may have only just started to fall but even at this early stage of the season this was a classic 6 pointer between two teams struggling at the wrong end of the table. We came out on top to narrow the gap on our opponents and the other teams around us thanks to a brace of goals from Elliott Goward, his first for the Club.
But we are not out of the woods yet, we still remain second from bottom, but this victory will hopefully restore some confidence and act as a springboard for us to go on a winning run.
This was a game neither side wanted to lose and one both sides would have seen as winnable because Bury and ourselves were in a terrible run of form going into this encounter. Between us we had won only 3 of our 24 league games and our current form showed 5 straight defeats whilst Bury had just one win from their last 8 games.
With so much at stake and with poor current form it was not surprising that the game was scrappy and at times lacking in quality. It was also unsurprising that tension flared up on a couple of occasions with the Referee brandishing 5 yellow cards to us and 4 yellow and one red to Bury. Having said that in the main it wasn't a dirty game but the Referee did have a tough job on his hands.
So what was the secret behind our win? Well it turned out to be eggs, beans and toast! Ian and Colin used their culinary skills (see photo below) to give the players a nourishing pre-match meal. Evidently their cooking skills didn't extend to bacon and the word on the street is that Debbie's job is safe but it obviously did the job!
With skipper Dan Steadman and Max Hercules out injured we made a few changes with James Butler and Dave O'Connor teaming up in the centre of defence for the first time this season. Interestingly the last time DOC played in the back four was on 12 September at Wembley. Sam Joliffe moved forward into central midfield and took over the captains arm band.
We started well and should have taken the lead after only 94 seconds. We kept possession from kick off and Jack Seaton's long pass sent Jack Read through on the keeper, but Jack's left foot shot went wide. Six minutes later it was Bury's turn to miss a good chance when their right back Aaron Crockett intercepted a pass and seemed to run straight through our defensive cover but he also failed to hit the target.
With both sides struggling for form the first goal was going to be crucial and fortunately we were able to claim that honour in the 10th minute. Ryan Sturges was the instigator with a run and pass to find Elliott Goward who ran through an open defence and calmly slotted the ball past the keeper for his debut goal and to give us an early advantage. Score 1-0.
Bury tried to retaliate through left back Conor Clarke who saw his fine effort go wide and then Jack Read produced a nice turn after being picked out by a penetrating pass from Tommy Twelves but his resulting shot was also wide. Joss Lillis produced a nice back heel to find Ryan Wade but his attempt was sliced well off target.
Just past the half hour mark the game boiled over following a couple of incidents which the referee dealt with by showing six yellow cards, three to each team. It was the prelude to what was going to be a very busy and difficult afternoon for the young official.
The visitors tried desperately to get back on level terms as half time loomed and Jack Hopwood had to make two fine saves from free kicks taken by set piece specialist Ryan Wade who also tested Hoppy with another shot but we were able to hold onto our slim but vital lead going into the break. HT Score 1-0.
Our opponents started the second half strongly with us clearly determined to hold onto our one goal advantage. Wade sent an early shot well wide and Dave O'Connor produced a superb tackle to thwart Bury centre forward Courtney Clay as he bore down on goal. There were calls for a penalty but it was a clean, fair tackle from DOC.
Around the hour mark Joss Lillis struck a firm shot that flew across our area and later Jack Hopwood tipped over a shot from Ryan Wade. As the game progressed the threat from our opponents started to diminish and we started to look reasonably assured in defence.
We brought on Jack Sunderland and George Carbery and changed things around a bit by moving Elliott Goward into the centre and pushing Jack Sunderland out to the wing where his pace started to cause the visitors defence some problems.
In the 72nd minute some of us in the stand thought we had scored following a fine move involving Mark Riddick and Jack Sunderland but Elliott Goward's close range finish from a cross found the side and not the main netting. But Elliott didn't have to wait to too long to add to his tally, just 2 minutes in fact.
Jack Sunderland and Luke Dunstan were involved in the move that ended with ball being played to Elliott who turned superbly and struck a fine shot past the keeper from the edge of the box. Elliott joined us from Sun Sports and made his debut against Bury on 23rd September but his progress has been hindered because of an unfortunate broken nose so it was great to see him rewarded with a couple of goals. Score 2-0.
We had one more opportunity to add to our score when Luke Dunstan robbed Bury captain Jamie Stephens and fed George Carbery but Carbs shot was easily saved by the keeper.
Tempers flared again six minutes from time when Clay stuck an elbow into Jack Seaton's face and he was given a straight red card . The Referee also issued yellow cards to two of our players for responding to the nasty injury inflicted on their team mate. Jack was replaced by Steve Nott-Macaire to make his debut at the grand old age of 41.
With a two goal lead and facing 10 men we held on with some comfort to keep our first clean sheet of the season and most importantly of all claim three vital points. FT Score 2-0.
This was an important win as a defeat would have seen us drop to bottom place after Crawley Green's surprising 1-1 draw against top of the table Berkhamsted. The situation would then have looked much bleaker but at the moment the Premier Division table is looking congested down at the bottom end and whilst we still have a lot to do to get out of trouble we are only a few wins away from moving up to mid table.
This was a much better performance and we looked defensively stronger but we must recognise we still have a long way to go before we are safe. Perhaps Ian and Colin can come up with more epicurean delights for future games!
We now take a break from league action with two cup games coming up. On Tuesday we entertain our closest neighbours Berkhamsted for a Herts Charity Shield cup tie. The visitors currently sit on top of the table and last year beat us in the final of this competition with two very late goals to lift the trophy for the first time. So this will be a stiff test for us.
Then on Saturday we have a second round FA Vase game at home against Ely City who play in the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division. So this will another tough game.
TA:1 Jack Hopwood 2 Tommy Twelves 3 Jack Seaton (14 Steve Nott-Macaire 85) 4 Mark Riddick 5 James Butler 6 Dave O'Connor 7 Ryan Sturges 8 Sam Joliffe (Capt) (12 George Carbery 66) 9 Jack Read (15 Jack Sunderland 63) 10 Luke Dunstan 11 Elliott Goward. Subs not used: 16 Ben Johnson.
SM:1 Adam Seymour 2 Aaron Crockett (15 Danny Charles 59) 3 Conor Clarke 4 Billy Murray 5 Jamie Stephens (Capt) 6 Nick Briggs 7 Chris Webb 8 Luke Provenzano (12 Mason Todd 66) 9 Courtney Clay 10 Ryan Wade 11 Joss Lillis (14 Daniel Ungudi 75). Sub not used: Jon Stevenson.
TA:Elliott Goward (10, 74)
Master Chefs Colin and Ian!