Sat 2nd Mar 2019
Sponsored by The Fosketts
TAFC First team 4-1 Stotfold
TAFC goals: Jon Clements (2), James Verney, Lee Stobbs
WE RECLAIM TOP SPOT FOLLOWING FINE WIN
With the race for promotion hotting up we leaped over Hadley (who were without a game) to take top spot on goal difference with a game in hand. We have 9 league games left with our biggest challenge probably coming from 3rd placed Biggleswade FC (they drew 2-2 at Leighton Town) who are 3 points behind but have 2 games in hand. Biggleswade United are also still in the hunt but they are 5 points adrift having played one game more. Our last 2 games are against the 2 Biggleswade teams so an exciting end to the seasons looks in prospect.
After a blip at the start of 2019, when we picked up just one point from 3 games, we have found our form just at the right time with 13 points collected from our last 5 unbeaten games. This has coincided with the arrival of Jon Clements from Welwyn Garden City who put on another star performance with 2 goals and an assist against Stotfold after collecting pre-match the Club's Player for February award.
On paper this looked a mismatch with us sitting in 2nd place whilst the visitors were propping up the table having won just one of their first 26 games. But the arrival of new manager Marce Collington has galvanised the team and they came into the game on a good run of form with just 3 defeats from 9 games which included a moral boosting 1-1 draw at Biggleswade FC.
The visitors did not start like a team facing relegation, showing plenty of intent to get forward and attack in numbers. They created the first moment of danger after only 4 minutes when a cross from Junior Murray caused us some problems and Connor Sansom did well to claim the ball off the toes off winger Khy Cyrus.
Our first moment of intent came a minute later when Ashton Campbell was played into a shooting position and his effort was saved at the near post by keeper Tyla Dez Dickinson, the first of a number he would make during the game. Soon afterwards a short corner routine involving George Ironton and Kieran Turner led to a dangerous low cross into the area which an unmarked Mark Riddick stabbed wide.
It was turning into a fine, open attacking game and Dickinson did superbly well to come out and bravely block an attempted lob from Jon Clements who was presented with the opportunity by some fine play from Ashton Campbell.
Our Achilles heel in recent months has been our tendency to concede the opening goal so we should not have been too surprised when Stotfold drew first blood in the 15th minute. It stemmed from a cross into our area which we failed to clear properly (I thought our defender was impeded but I seemed to have been the only one to think that!) and when the ball fell to Jermaine Francis he shot home giving Connor Sansom no chance. Score 0-1.
We responded positively to this set back with Jon Clements firing a left foot shot over from a promising position after Ashton Campbell had knocked the ball onto him. However, we only had to wait 6 minutes for an equaliser which was set up by some great play from George Ironton on the left wing.
He kept the ball skillfully before dispatching a fine cross to the far post where it was met by a firm header from James Verney which hit the inside of the post and went in. The keeper tried desperately to hook the ball out but the officials were clear that the ball had crossed the line. It was James's 6th goal from 10 games which is a great return for the young local lad. Score 1-1.
We started to take control and Ashton Campbell went close when he latched onto a long ball down the middle and although his shot beat the keeper it missed the target. The visitors had a couple of very big defenders including the towering Calvin Petrie but any concerns that they would cause us problems from their first corner in the 27th minute were allayed when Connor Sansom showed great hands to pluck the ball out of the air.
We were playing some great stuff and keeper Dickinson did well to make a fine save from Kieran Turner following a super dribble into the area and then claim a dangerous cross from Ashton Campbell after he went round the full back to the bye line.
We finally took the lead in the 37th minute following a high quality move and impudent finish. Kieran Turner picked out Jon Clements intelligent run across the area with a precise pass which Clem then nonchalantly flicked past the keeper for a superb goal. Score 2-1.
With 4 minutes to go to half time Jon Clements nailed on his claim to be Man of the Match by extending our lead when he ran onto a long ball and calmly slotted the ball past the keeper at the second attempt to take his tally to 3 goals from 5 starts. Score 3-1.
Stotfold had started the game well and played some decent football and looked lively all round the park but they had rarely seriously troubled our defence after scoring. However, their clever midfield player Jermaine Francis decided to have a pop just before half time which forced Connor Sansom into a good diving save and fortunately Dave O'Conner was on hand to clear the loose ball.
After the early setback we recovered well to take a commanding 2 goal advantage into half time. HT Score 3-1.
After a lively and entertaining first half the second period was a bit stodgy. The visitors were quickly out of the blocks from the restart and enjoyed a lot of possession and territory in an attempt to get back into the game. They won a number of free kicks in potentially promising positions which they wasted with poor deliveries which were generally over hit. They also won a few corners but we were able to nullify the danger from their tall players.
We appeared to be content to just hold onto our 2 goal margin and goal scoring chances were in short supply at both ends. The game then became more evenly contested and neither keeper was tested.
We did come to life on the hour mark when James Verney sped away down the right and found Jon Clements with a fine cross but for once Clems touch let him down when he was in a good position. We still had to be aware of the threat from the visitors and Dave O'Connor did well to head away a very dangerous cross into our area, but generally this was a rare occurrence.
We did go very close to another goal midway through the half when Ashton Campbell met James Verney's free kick at the near post and his firm header looked a goal all the way until Dickinson produced a stunning reaction save to tip the ball round the post.
Both sides made changes which had little effect on the game and Stotfold had to play out the last quarter of an hour with 10 players after midfielder Josh Miles was shown a second yellow card, which was perhaps a bit harsh because this was not a dirty game. With 10 minutes to go Stotfold felt we should have had a man sent off when Dave O'Connor had to resort to a last ditch tackle after a poor goal kick from Connor. It was perhaps a touch and go decision but for whatever reason the Referee decided on a yellow card.
The oppositions main danger came from Jermaine Francis and although he struck some nice shots with his cultured left foot he failed to hit the target and so Connor Sansom had a fairly easy afternoon.
We wrapped up a very satisfactory afternoon with a 4th goal 3 minutes into added time when Kieran Turner produced a fine pass to release Jon Clements who unselfishly turned down an opportunity for a hat-trick by passing the ball to Lee Stobbs to slot into an empty net. The opposition felt the goal should have been disallowed for offside but the officials disagreed, but in the grand scheme of things it wouldn't have made any difference. FT score 4-1.
A welcome 3 points against a tough side who didn't play like a team staring at relegation. We have 9 league games left which will be tough but we have hit form at just the right time with 13 points collected over the last 5 games during which we have scored 16 goals. But have Biggleswade FC lost a bit of form? In their last 4 league games they have picked up a mere 5 points. Time will obviously tell.
After the game Ian Richardson expressed his satisfaction by saying "A great response from the boys after going behind. You can see in the dressing room after the game that they have a great belief that we can still win this title . Nine big games ahead!"
Our next fixture sees us travel to 7th placed Baldock Town. This will be another tough game against a side that had not lost for 16 games but then surprisingly went down 2-1 at Harpenden Town on Saturday.
TA:1 Connor Sansom 2 Tommy Twelves 3 Brima Johnson 4 Mark Riddick 5 David O'Conner (15 Joe Fitzgerald 83) 6 Carl Mensah 7 George Ironton (14 Roy Byron 74) 8 Jon Clements 9 Ashton Campbell (12 Lee Stobbs 74) 10 Kieran Turner (Capt) 11 James Verney.
S:1 Tyla Dez Dickinson 2 Zach Decker 3 Kai McArthur 4 Josh Miles 5 Calvin Petrie 6 Tommy Carroll (Capt) 7 Khy Cyrus (12 Charlie Cullen 88) 8 Mark Ansell- Carter (16 Marco Faria 55) 9 Joe Ryan 10 Jermaine Francis 11 Junior Murray (14 Eben Mbona 74). Subs not used: 15 Dan Harper 17 Matt Fallon.
TA:Jon Clements (37, 41), James Verney (21), Lee Stobbs (45+3)
S:Jermaine Francis (15)
Pictures here: https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AuN1kP4_tM3cmDg&id=3B14DBE5D07D17FF%21110366&cid=3B14DBE5D07D17FF