DownloadedFile-8A breath-taking win for the Sharks to start the year in exciting style, as they pipped a very good Barnes Eagles side with a last minute winner, having lead 3-1 and looking comfortable with just minutes to go.  As they were pegged back to 3-3 with the clock running down it looked as though they’d have to settle for a disappointing point.  Until super striker Jakub popped up …

In this bizarre season where we seem to play every team home and away in consecutive weeks, we’ve passed the halfway mark in the league without having met Barnes Eagles.  [And of course, having now played them away, we’re due to meet them at home next week!]

So they were an unknown quantity and their results so far didn’t give us much of a clue.DownloadedFile

The pitch was heavy and muddy but certainly playable.  And a very close encounter it turned out to be.

Barnes are a strong side and they play good passing football.  Their defence was especially strong, with their central defender outstanding all game.

The Sharks lined up with Joe in goal, Rory at left back, Martin at right back and Alejandro central.  Phin slotted into the defensive midfield role with Wiktor and Jason in centre mid and Jakub and Nile on the wings.  Jake and Gabby were ready to come on as subs along with Francis who was a last minute change for Elliott, who’d injured himself in the warm up.

It was a tough first half for the Sharks, who found Barnes quick in the tackle and quick to move the ball through the midfield.  Chances were few and far between, with Nile and Jason wriggling free on a couple of occasions, but nothing clear cut.

DownloadedFile-2At the other end, Barnes were making their own inroads with good passing, but Martin, Ale and Rory were just able to keep them at bay.  Joe didn’t have much to do, but handled well when he was called into action.

As the game headed towards half time, it looked as though it would end in a stalemate. Overall the Sharks were the better team and creating more chances without getting a really clear cut chance on goal.

Then the ball boke to the edge of the area after another Sharks attack and fell to Wiktor, who chipped it over the defenders and the diving keeper and into the net.  A really classy goal and a great time to score – seconds before the halftime whistle.

Second half, Phin moved into centre midfield with Jake as left back, Gabby as right back, Martin as CB, Ale as DM, and Francis on the right wing. It seemed to give the Sharks renewed vigour as they really started to impose themselves on the game.DownloadedFile-3

Gabby came close after a superb run the length of the pitch and Wiktor and Jason both had good chances that went just wide.

Phin was having a superb game in the centre – winning tackles, playing lovely through balls and pressing Barnes high up the pitch.  Alejandro was alongside, also showing his class with calm tackles and excellent use of the ball.  Controlling the midfield meant the Sharks were now controlling the game.DownloadedFile-4

The fluid front line (with regular subs on and off) of Jason, Francis, Jakub, Nile and Wiktor was causing Barnes real problems.

A second goal seemed inevitable and it came from a great through ball from Martin who cleared from his own half and sent Jason clear one-on-one against the keeper.  Jason kept his cool and neatly clipped the ball past the keeper and into the net.  A direct goal and a well-deserved two goal lead for the Sharks.

The Sharks then perhaps took their feet off the gas – and Barnes scored a bit of a freak goal to get them back into the match. The Sharks failed to clear a corner and with the ball bobbling around on the edge of the box a Barnes player hit the ball high into the air.  It flew wickedly over Joe for a somewhat lucky goal.DownloadedFile-5

But still the Sharks were in control – and soon they had their two goal lead back.  Wiktor jinked into the area and played a neat ball to Jakub, who controlled it and smashed it past the keeper for a well-taken goal.  3-1.

Then Phin played a great through ball to Nile who chased it to the left of the area with a Barnes defender on his shoulder.  As they reached the ball the defender shoved Nile over and he tumbled to the ground.  It looked like a definite penalty and the ref, who had a clear view, blew his whistle and pointed to the spot.

Martin stepped up to take it – and despite a hard shot, the keeper managed to push it up and save it. Unlucky for Martin – just one of those things.

DownloadedFile-6Still, at 3-1 and cruising, all seemed fine for the Sharks.

Then they seemed to switch off again and Barnes suddenly found themselves right back in the game.  Another ball was not cleared properly and it bobbled through a packed goalmouth to a Barnes player who stabbed it home from six yards out.  3-2 with five minutes left.

The momentum was with Barnes now who could sense an unlikely point at least.  As the time ticked away and it seemed the Sharks would hold out, Barnes launched an attack down the right.  Somehow the ball found its way to their striker who slid it home from a narrow angle.  3-3 and desperately disappointing for the Sharks.DownloadedFile-7

There were only seconds left now and the Sharks kicked off.  But there was real determination from the boys and they worked the ball for one last chance.  Jason chased a good through ball form Gabby down the right and showed great strength to hold off his man and play a good cross into the box. Wiktor just got there ahead of the keeper and managed to keep the ball in play. Looking up and showing great composure, he picked out a great pass to Jakub who hit it first time with his right foot. Two or three Barnes players were on the line making desperate lunges for the ball.  But it cleared them all and nestled in the back of the net.  4-3 and a fantastic last gasp winner for the Sharks!

That really was the last of the action as the ref blew the whistle when Barnes kicked off.

DownloadedFile-9It was a fine show of character from the boys, who let Barnes back into the game and could easily have crumbled in those closing minutes.  But they fought on and got the win their overall play had deserved.   Phew!

The win keeps the Sharks top of the table as we head towards the end of the season.  Just five games to go now – and the Sharks are well-placed to take one of the two promotion slots again.

It’s Barnes Eagles again this weekend at home.  After this week’s late drama, we certainly won’t be taking them lightly.

Well done Sharks!  A good – if nerve-wracking – win to start 2013. More of the same on Sunday please.

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Thanks to Jim for running the line this week.

And thanks to Kasia for the pics. The eagled eyed among you will have noticed they are not from this weekend, but from our Ashford game late last year, which I didn’t get around to posting.  So here they are this week!