A great away win for the Sharks where they showed superb character to come back from 2-0 down, played some great football and shared the goals again amongst 5 different scorers – including an excellent first Sharks strike for Rory.    

It was a windy day in Woodmansterne, which played a big part in proceedings, and due to the resting and substitute rota, the Sharks’ starting line up had an unfamiliar feel to it, with Elliott and Jake in the back line, Gabriel in the defensive midfield role and Rory as striker.

The Pumas were quick off the mark at the start of the game and used the wind and sloping pitch to their advantage, putting the Sharks under pressure as they were getting used to their new positions.

Some early confusion led to the ball dropping kindly to a Pumas striker who stabbed it past a diving Jakub. 1-0 within the first few minutes.

The Sharks were struggling to get any real control of the ball – and the Pumas were using the wind to pump early, long balls forward, and causing real problems for our defence.  And suddenly, the Sharks found themselves 2-0 down. A long ball from the Pumas keeper was hooked forward from the midfield and the swirling wind caught it and send it looping over the Sharks’ defence.  Jabuk rushed out to meet the ball well, but the striker just got there ahead of him and managed to poke it into the net.

This was a real test for the Sharks now. 2-0 down after just ten minutes and finding it hard to get any rhythm and passing going. But as we’ve seen already this season, the Sharks have got a new level of determination and belief – and so the fight back began.

Alejandro came off the bench to settle the defensive line and Elliott stepped back into his usual defensive midfield role.  And slowly but surely, the Sharks started to find their feet.

Wiktor began to control the midfield with his clever play finding Francis and Nile on either wing, who were starting to cause problems for the Pumas. Jake and Martin as full backs were solid and determined and started using the ball well to stretch the play.

Francis beat his man a couple of times, but couldn’t quite find a Shark in the box with his cross. On the other side, Nile played an excellent early cross in behind the defence, but Rory was inches away from connecting. In a completely unfamiliar role as striker, Rory was starting to hold the ball up well against the big Puma defenders and playing neat balls into the wingers.

A Sharks goal looked increasingly likely. And it came minutes later.

Wiktor picked the ball up the middle and played a great through ball to Rory, who found himself free.  Using great strength, Rory held off his man, raced into the box and slotted the ball past the diving keeper with some aplomb – a really fine debut goal.

Now the Sharks were really dominating and taking control of the game. Nile, Francis and Wiktor all came close as they sought the equaliser. Ben came on in the left wing position and continued Nile’s good work on the flank – beating his man and winning a corner.  Martin floated the ball in and it pinged around the box before dropping to Wiktor on the penalty spot. He controlled it well, turned and fired a great shot into the net for 2-2.

As half time approached, it looked as though the Sharks might complete the turn around and secure the lead.  Another corner caused confusion in the Pumas’ defence and the ball fell to Ben who shot, only to see the ball cleared off the line by a defender. Then Francis exchanged passes with Rory and shot low at the near post, but the keeper saved it well.

And so the half ended all square, but the momentum was definitely with the Sharks who had fought back superbly. They’d have the advantage of the wind and the slope of the pitch second half, and we were confident they could go on and win the game, despite the shaky start.

And that’s what they did, with a magnificent second half display.

Nile came back on in his more usual striker’s role and Rory slotted in to the left back position. And it wasn’t long before Nile found himself on the score sheet. A great ball from Francis found Nile on the edge of the box, where he controlled the ball, turned and stabbed a shot into the bottom corner. 3-2 to the Sharks.

Minutes later it was 4-2 as the keeper spilled a shot from Wiktor – and there was Gabriel to hammer it home.

Ben then found himself free after a great through ball from Gabriel, but the keeper saved his shot well.  From the corner, Wiktor played in a dangerous cross which fell to Jake at the far post.  He made no mistake and slammed the ball home for 5-2.

Ben was then upended on the left wing and Alejandro lined up the shot from the free kick.  He played a brilliant curling ball over the wall, which the keeper could only parry – and again, there was Nile to slam the ball into the net.  A great free kick and great following up from Nile.

Jake then had a spell in the right wing role, where he really excelled, showing fine running and putting in some magnificent crosses. One cross found Ben unmarked, but his first-time through ball was just cut out by the defender.

From the corner, Francis worked the ball well to Gabriel who picked it up on the edge of the area. He steadied himself and fired in a beautiful curling shot which nestled in the far corner.  7-2 to the Sharks: an excellent finish from Gabriel and a fitting end to the game. 

Overall it was a superb performance from the boys. They had to show great spirit after going two goals down so early on. They might have crumbled at that point, but their heads never dropped – and they continued to play their intelligent passing game, mixed with determination and hard tackling at the back to turn things around.

Well done Sharks!

It’s Hanworth Sports next week, who lie just behind us in the table in third place – and who, like the Sharks, have only lost one game all season so far to Oxshott.  Should be a cracking game.

Thanks to Ray for running the line this week.  And to Kasia for her excellent photos.