Another narrow victory for the Sharks against Hanworth Sports – just weeks after the home match finished 2-1. This one was even closer as the Sharks went into a seemingly commanding 3-0 lead at half time before being pulled back to 3-2 in the second half and coming under some sustained Hanworth pressure. Only three goal line clearances and some great saves for Joe ensured the Sharks took all three points in the end.
The Hanworth pitch is quite small, as we remembered from last season. And that makes for a tight match without much room for our usual expansive running game.
And so it proved as the Sharks again struggled to find their rhythm against a determined Hanworth side. The game was heavily bogged down in the middle, with both sides packing the midfield and denying each other any space. Hanworth were working very hard in defence and breaking up our moves well.
Reverting to our usual formation, we had Rory at right back – where he had an excellent game – and Alejandro and Phin in their usual positions ahead of Joe in goal. Jake continued his good form in the defensive midfield role, while Wiktor and Sebas were in central midfield with Gabby at right wing and Nile on the left.
Hanworth were causing few scares, but the Sharks were finding it hard to break through and create clear-cut chances. The Sharks won a series of corners and looked dangerous as Gabby and Nile floated in great balls. But Hanworth were resolute and the Sharks just couldn’t find the finishing touch.
Eventually the breakthrough came after good work in midfield between Wiktor and Sebas. Sebas found himself clear of the defence and the offside trap. He strode into the area and chipped the ball delightfully over the keeper for a 1-0 lead.
Minutes later it was 2-0 as Nile played in a great corner which the keeper could only parry. Sebas arrived at the far post and leapt high to head the ball home. A nicely taken goal, his second, and 2-0 to the Sharks.
The subs came onto the field now – Jason, Ben and Jakub and the Sharks pressure continued. They were looking more comfortable now, with Hanworth restricted to occasional bursts into our half. Joe was alert and quick off his line when needed and Rory, Phin and Alejandro were really solid at the back.
The third goal soon came as Jason won the ball on the right, surged down the wing and played in a great cross. Ben met it first time and fired towards goal only to see it cannon off a defender and clear. Ben chased it and won the ball back, beat his man, looked up and played a great pass across the area to Jakub who was coming in off the right wing. He hit it hard and perfectly first time, and it flew into the net for 3-0. That’s the third match in a row Jakub has found the net – great scoring form!
And so half time came and it looked secure for the Sharks. But the second half was to prove anything but easy.
Hanworth were really quick out of the blocks and put the Sharks under immediate pressure. The boys looked a little shell shocked for the first 10 minutes, coming under a virtual bombardment of attacks.
Somehow they repelled many of them, but they could only hold out so long. Hanworth scored two goals despite some resolute defending from the Sharks. And at 3-2 with 15 minutes left it looked as though the game might slip away.
But the Sharks showed great character to hold out.
The attacks kept coming form Hanworth, but the Sharks held them off. Joe saved at least two point blank shots, Rory cleared off the line twice and Phin cleared another that was heading for the net.
At the other end the Sharks were creating good openings but frustratingly fell foul of the offside flag on numerous occasions when they would have been clean through. Many of the decisions looked very tight.
One through ball did make it past the offside flag, where Jakub raced onto it, only to fire over the bar. And Gabby and Wiktor both had shots that just went wide.
But it was a great rear-guard action that defined the second half. Right to the end, Hanworth were pushing and right to the end the Sharks held out.
When the whistle finally went, there was relief all round. They’d held out bravely for 3-2 and all three points. Great spirit and great determination – especially from the boys at the back.
Again, the Sharks never quite found their flowing game, but they did enough. And they say the sign of a great team is winning when you’re not at your best. I think the best is still to come from the Sharks this season, but they’re still top of the league as it stands with three wins out of three.
As we suspected, Division 3 is a lot tougher, and the teams are more evenly matched. It looks as though the boys are going to have work really hard for their wins this season.
The tough games continue with an away match against Waddon Wanderers this weekend – our rivals from two seasons ago. They’re a good side and we drew 0-0 with them at the pre-season tournament recently, so it should be a tight game.
So well done on holding out and taking all three points on Sunday boys – and let’s hope we can continue the winning start with another three points against Waddon.
Thanks to Nick for running the line this week.