A tense and closely-fought game against Kingswood Falcons saw the Sharks fall to their first league defeat of the season by the narrowest of margins. The Sharks had fought so hard and played so well throughout the game a defeat seemed harsh, but in the end Kingswood’s extra physicality and better shooting were the difference. But the Sharks can be immensely proud of their efforts. 

After the 7-3 drubbing in the recent Cup game, we were hoping for a better display from the Sharks – and we certainly got one.

Joe was back in goal, with Elliott and Alejandro swapping roles at CB and DM. Phin and Martin took their usual positions at full back.  Wiktor and Seb were CM with Ben and Francis left and right wing.  Gabby and Jake waited on the sidelines to come into the action.

The first half was a great, evenly matched battle. Kingswood had won the toss and elected to play downhill so we knew it would be a tough 30 mins.

As it was the Sharks more than held their own. The defence was firm and determinedly solid.  Elliott excelled at centre back all game, while Phin and Martin were at their very best: dogged in the tackle and careful and considered with their use of the ball.

Joe had to come off his line a few times as high balls were played into the sloping pitch, but he was quick and snuffed out the danger confidently. He had to make excellent close range saves once or twice and again the Sharks had to clear off the line.

In the middle Alejandro, Wiktor and Sebas were working hard and playing intelligent through balls. On the wings Ben and Francis were getting in behind well, without ever really finding the final ball.

Ben especially was finding success down the left, beating his man and dribbling past two or three into the box, but just unable to find the right ball at the end. On one occasion, he wriggled free and found Alejandro unmarked on the edge of the area.  He shot, but didn’t quite connect properly, and the ball went frustratingly wide of the post.

To be fair, Kingswood are a very good team. They are quick, play good balls, and use their physicality well. And they defend superbly.

And so after an entertaining and tight first half, the game was deadlocked at 0-0. (No giving away 3 goals in the first 5 minutes this time!). And the Sharks would be kicking downhill second half.

So we kicked off full of confidence, but wary of the threat from Kingswood.

Gabby had come on in the first half for Sebas and Jake now came on for Francis.  And the pattern of the game continued.

Kingswood are very quick to the ball and were looking to make their physical presence pay. While the Sharks were starting to get some good flowing moves going on the slope. Time and again though, we just couldn’t find the right ball for the final pass.

In one good move, Ben fired a good shot in from the right but it was cleared for a corner. Gabby floated the corner in and Jake got his head to the ball, but couldn’t quite get enough power on it and the keeper caught it safely.

Then, against the run of play, Kingswood opened the scoring. Their left winger got the ball on the edge of the area, turned and fired a high shot towards goal. Joe could do nothing except push the ball into the roof of his net. It was a powerful shot and a good goal – but really frustrating for the Sharks.

Still, they didn’t let their heads drop and they pushed for an equaliser, which soon came.

Alejandro, who had a superb game in the defensive midfield role received the ball from Sebas in the centre.  Evading a challenge neatly, he played a beautifully measured through ball into Wiktor’s path. Wiktor used his pace to out-sprint the defender and the on-rushing keeper and he poked the ball low into the net.  Great finish, great set up and a great equaliser for the Sharks. 1-1.

It looked as though the momentum was with the Sharks now, until the defining moment of the second half came minutes later.

Kingswood were on the edge of the Sharks area and their striker was about to shoot. Bursting back from midfield Alejandro made a brilliant last-ditch sliding tackle to deny the opportunity. But he stayed down in obvious agony – and we all wondered what had happened.  Had he broken something? ?

As he slowly caught his breath, we realised it was not quite as serious, but still a very nasty stud-gash right on the side of his shin pad. It was a game-ending injury though and Alejandro had to be carried off.

It was not a foul in any way – just a freak accident, a result of Alejandro’s commitment and fearless determination to win the ball.  (The Kingswood player involved was genuinely concerned for Ale and came across at the end of the game to check he was ok).

But it meant Alejandro was out of the match. And that seemed to have a big impact on the Sharks, who were a little shaken by the injury and a little bereft of leadership in the middle of the pitch for a while.

Seconds later Kingswood scored. Their giant of a player picked up the ball halfway inside the Sharks half and dribbled towards goal before unleashing a powerful shot, which soared over Joe and into the net. Unstoppable.

Such a blow for the Sharks.  But there were still 15 minutes left.

Once they’d settled themselves down in Alejandro’s absence and Jake had slotted into the DM role, they began to find their passing and started to press for the equaliser.

After his good first half it seemed Ben had been targeted and he invariably found himself with two men marking him in the second half – one of whom was usually the Kingswood giant. There were some tasty challenges in those final minutes, but the ref deemed them fair.

Francis was finding room on the right and Sebas and Wiktor were working the ball well though the centre – and there was some really great interplay now. But as it had been all game, the final ball wasn’t quite the right one. Jake had a chance on the edge of the area from a Francis corner, but he pulled his shot wide.

And so the minutes ticked away and the Sharks just couldn’t find a goal. Finally the whistle went and the 2-1 scoreline signalled the first league defeat of the season for the Sharks.

In fairness, a draw would probably have been the right result given the overall pattern of play.  But Kingswood took their chances when they came, so they also took all three points.

There were plenty of positives for the Sharks – with a drastically improved performance from the cup game just a few weeks ago.   So well done to all the boys.

The fixtures computer(!) continues to throw the tough games our way – we’ve got another hard one against Claygate on Sunday. They are undefeated this season and have only conceded one goal so far. So the Sharks will have to be at their very best.

Let’s hope we continue to see more of the real Sharks, as on Sunday.

 

Thanks to Mark for running the line this week.