A narrow win for the Sharks against a plucky Kew Park Rangers side who took the lead and frustrated the boys for large periods. But the Sharks showed great character to come from behind and secure the three points in the second half.
Another new team this year, Kew Park Rangers Royals were looking for their first win of the season, while the Sharks were looking to make it 5 out of 5 in the league and bounce back from their cup defeat last week.
Missing Elliott, Phin and Wiktor to the half term holidays, the Sharks had lots of players in fairly unfamiliar positions, but still felt they should have enough to take the points. In truth, it was a rather stuttering performance, and the Sharks struggled to get their usual fluid passing game going. Kew made it hard with some great tackles and determination, and it looked as though it might be one of those days for the Sharks.
They started brightly enough though, and created chances, but couldn’t seem to put them away. Kew attacked in numbers, often having three players in advanced positions, which put the Sharks under unusual pressure when the ball broke to the Kew attackers.
We’d decided to go with Ben and Sebas as a midfield duo and, in Elliot’s absence, to leave the holding midfielder role empty. But Kew’s attacking formation and their numbers in the middle made it hard for Ben and Sebas to impose themselves – and we often looked outnumbered when under pressure.
But upfront, Francis was making his usual inroads on the right, with Jake causing problems up front and Nile on the left wing.
In the first few minutes, it looked as though the Sharks would make a break-through soon enough. Francis beat his man twice and surged into the box, only to shoot wide and then see his cross turned behind for a corner. Kew were defending well and somehow getting blocks and deflections in. Another great run from Francis led to a superb cross, which Jake hit first time beautifully – but it just whizzed past the post. Then Francis hit a stinging shot, which cannoned off the bar – and minutes later he had the ball in the net with a lovely chip. But it was ruled out for offside.
Then, Kew played a high ball into our half, which bounced into no man’s land and a Kew striker picked it up on the edge of the area. Jakub stood up well and saved the first shot, but it bobbled back out to the striker who smashed it home for a Kew lead.
And so they held on until half time, with the Sharks still struggling to get their passing game together.
The second half was much better. Gabriel and Sebas took the midfield positions with Gabriel dropping deep. Martin had come in at right back, alongside Alejandro and Rory on the left, who had a good solid game, putting in some excellent tackles and playing some calm, clever balls into Ben and Sebas on the left. Ben had taken up his more usual left wing role with Jake and Nile alternating up front.
The Sharks gradually got their passing game into gear and were virtually camped in the Kew half for the whole 30 minutes, aside from one or two breakaways.
But it looked as though the goals would never come.
The chances kept coming, but the ball just wouldn’t go into the net. Francis continued his superb form on the right, linking up brilliantly with Martin and exchanging passes well. Ben was making an impact on the left, while Sebas and Gabriel were getting space on the edge of the area. And Nile was working the striker role well. All of them had shots which were blocked, saved or went narrowly wide.
Finally the breakthrough came after a shot by Gabriel was only parried by the keeper and Sebas raced on to the loose ball to poke it home. Phew! Good anticipation and a good finish under pressure from the keeper.
Now the Sharks could go on and win it, surely.
And it was all Sharks, with some great football from them at last. Martin and Francis exchanged passes on the right and Francis played a wonderful ball to Martin who raced onto it and into the area – but he shot just wide. Then Ben picked up the ball on the left, cut inside and played a perfect ball to Nile in space on the penalty spot, but he was just offside. Then it was Sebas’ turn, who played a one-two with Ben and slipped him in with a great through ball – but again it was narrowly offside.
Then Alejandro got in on the action. Showing his usual prowess in the centre of defence, he collected the ball, stepped into the middle and played a superb pass for Francis in space, who turned and shot, only to see the Kew keeper save again.
The came the moment that made us think the Sharks might have to settle for the draw. From another Sharks attack, the ball bounced out to Gabriel on the edge of the area, where he caught it perfectly on the volley, crashing a thunderbolt shot into the bottom corner. Somehow, the Kew keeper stuck his arm out and pushed the ball past the post. An unbelievable save from a wonderful shot.
Seconds later, the Sharks found themselves under pressure for the first time in the second half, as Kew broke free, but Jakub picked up the ball well. He had another good game between the posts, catching a couple of high balls very comfortably, and getting his body behind shots with confidence. He also distributed the ball very well with accuracy and power.
At the other end, it was Sharks’ pressure on the Kew keeper that finally led to the winning goal. Pressing high up the pitch from a goal kick, Francis picked up the ball on the edge of the area, used his pace to get free and poked the ball past the diving keeper. They’d left it late – but finally the Sharks had the lead.
And that’s how it finished.
Overall, the Sharks deserved the win on the balance of play and the chances they created. They showed great character to come from behind and find the points on a day when they weren’t at their scintillating best. Credit to Kew Park Rangers Royals – they made life very tough for the Sharks and can count themselves unlucky not to have got their first point of the season.
So the 100% league form is intact for the Sharks, who have a week off before travelling to Oxshott on 6th November. They also have a 100% record so far, so it should be an interesting and exciting game.
Well done for pulling it out of the bag this week Sharks – and enjoy the rest of half term.
Thanks to Jim for running the line this week.