Staurday 22nd March 2014 @ Maidensbridge Primary School
Dudley and Brierley Hill 0 – 1 Erdington and Saltley
Team: Alex; Callum, George, Ethan; Amari, Kruize, Marc, Leyton; Shilo Sub: Mudassar
Our best team performance of the season? Yes. Our greatest show of guts, bravery and determination? Yes. A day to be proud of? YES! The boys truly stood up and were counted yesterday morning against the West Midlands champions elect. The boys should be even prouder of their performance, considering that Dermot, Michael and Ramello were absent (all three had played in 100% of the games this season) and the fact that Mudassar was called at 9am on the morning of them match and asked to make his competitive debut!
Cup football offers teams the chance to put league form to one side and throw the form book out of the window. The Ton were beaten when we visited Dudley before Christmas and we were taught a few lessons by Wolverhampton in our last outing.
However, Tonn and I stressed before the game that we needed to fight for every ball today and work our socks off. From the very first whistle, we both knew that the lads were pumped up and ready for a battle. Amari won at least five balls in the air within the first ten minutes. The midfield were closing down the opposition all over the pitch. Shilo was chasing down every lost cause and dropping into midfield when an extra body was needed. The defence stood strong and repelled a number of superb Dudley corners that David Beckham would have been proud of. Then there was Alex. Swapping defence for goal, the Hodge Hill centre back stepped in between the posts to fill the very large gloves of Dermot. If he was nervous before the game, it wasn’t evident and he made a number of courageous saves in the first half to shut Dudley out.
With the game evenly poised at 0-0 at half time, we decided to make a tactical change. We wanted to get Ethan on the ball in deeper positions, but at the same time we didn’t want to lose the influence that he offers in the centre of the pitch. By swapping Marc and Ethan around, we guaranteed tenacity and composure in midfield, coupled with a defence who could start counter attacks with one majestically played ball. Whereas we had our backs against the wall in the first half, the second half saw us step up and take control of the game for long periods. Marc was bossing the midfield battle, heroically supported by Leyton, and Shilo, Kruize and Amari continued to work their socks off going forward. A number of through balls were chased down by Shilo, only for the state of the pitch to preventthe St. Matthews striker from latching onto any of them. With five minutes left on the clock, Ethan floated in an amazing free-kick and Marc lost his marker, before slotting the ball away and sending the Ton Army into raptures. Dudley refused to lie down and take defeat and attacked our goal with ferocity during the closing stages. Alex pulled off two class saves to make sure he kept a clean sheet. First he sprinted out of his area to volley a through ball clear as the striker closed in. Then with a minute or so left, the Dudley striker sprinted clear and looked certain to equalise, only for Alex to dive bravely at his feet and tip the ball wide. George (who normally plays in midfield) and Callum continued to meet everything that was thrown at them and with the support of their captain Ethan, cleared the ball for one final time before the game was brought to a close.
With the final whistle came a huge sense of relief but an even bigger sense of pride. We told the lads after the game that this was the first time we had really played as a complete team, which sounds daft when you consider we’ve already done the double, but Tonn and I genuinely believe it was our best performance of the season. Special mention must go to the Dudley boys who played a huge part in a great game. Both sets of management and supporters were treated to a magnificent show of skill, spirit and effort. Well done Dudley and good luck for the remainder of your season.
Man of the Match: Marc, although we could have picked any player!
Well done Erdington and Saltley! Up the Ton!