A much-improved performance by the Sharks in an entertaining game saw them lose narrowly to a very good Barnes Eagles side.  But they gave an excellent account of themselves with a fine attitude on show just two weeks after losing badly to the same side.  A draw probably would have been the fair result. So plenty to be positive about.After a rousing team talk from Craig and Vince, the Sharks went out determined to give a good account of themselves, and they started superbly.

They were quick to the ball, determined in the tackle and passing neatly. In the first few minutes, they penetrated the Eagles’ defence several times, with Ben making a great surging run down the left, and Nile and Francis both making good runs and delivering decent crosses down the right.

The Eagles seemed surprised by our quick start, but they are a good side and they soon found their rhythm, passing well and looking dangerous in attack. It quickly settled into an entertaining, skilful game with both teams competing fairly and creating good chances with excellent football.

With Alejandro back in the defence the Sharks were much more assured, with Gabriel at right back and Phin at left back looking solid and determined.

Up front, Francis, Nile and Ben were combining well and creating chances – and eventually the Sharks deservedly took the lead after good work from Gabriel and Francis. Francis slipped the ball to Nile, who turned his man superbly, steadied himself and slotted home from the penalty spot. An excellent goal.

They say a team is most vulnerable just after scoring and so it proved for the Sharks. The Eagles immediately attacked down the left and although Gabriel held up the play well, they lopped the ball into the area. It bobbled about and very unkindly hit Martin and bounced nicely for the Eagles’ striker to poke it home. And unlucky goal to concede and unfortunate for the Sharks.

But their heads didn’t drop. They encouraged each other and got on with the game.

They continued to pass well and create chances as did the Eagles and the highly entertaining first half closed with a 1-1 scoreline.

The second half continued in the same vein.  The Eagles’ slight physical advantage came into play more as the game wore on, but the Sharks mostly held their own.

The Eagles played quick balls forward to their big striker, who was strong and good at holding the ball up. But the defence handled him well, and Rory was sharp and alert, coming off his line when needed with confidence. His distribution was excellent too – with good throws and long kicks up field.

As the game swung from end to end, the Eagles got the breakthrough with a good run from their little left winger, who managed to skip to the bye line and deliver a great cross into the area. The Eagles’ big striker got his foot to it and it bobbled into the net for a 2-1 lead.

But again, the Sharks didn’t let their heads drop. They kept playing good football and showing great determination.  One good move saw Ben, Nile and Phin exchange passes on the left and Phin surged into the box.  An Eagle stuck out his leg as Phin went past, and got nowhere near the ball as he brought Phin down.  A clear penalty.

Gabriel bravely stepped up to take it but slightly scuffed his shot and it landed kindly for the keeper, right in his arms. A shame, but again, there were no remonstrations and the boys just got on with it.

As the Sharks pushed for the equalizer, the Eagles were able to use their long ball to the striker and only some great last-ditch defending from Alejandro and Ben denied him on a couple of occasions.

At the other end Martin’s superb corners were causing havoc.  One perfect delivery fell to Nile on the penalty spot. He dug the ball out and fired towards goal only for an Eagle to get a deflection on it and see it over for another corner.

The Sharks were finding themselves in good 3v2 positions in attack, but often the final ball just let them down – either played too late or not quite reaching the target.  With a little more composure, they could have created some great chances.

As it was, the Eagles anticipated well and showed their own character to keep us at bay. Right at the end, they had a great chance when their striker fired a fantastic shot past the diving Rory.  Luckily the ball hit the inside of the post and bounced clear.

Then time ran out for the Sharks as the final whistle went.

Although they’d lost, a draw would not have been unfair, and they certainly deserved something for their effort and attitude. They were a totally different team to the one who lost 6-2 to the same opponents just two weeks previously.

Barnes Eagles are a very good side – they have climbed the table to sit in second place now, so to run them so close was a great achievement for the Sharks.

Let’s hope this signals the start of a new phase for the boys, with the great attitude and determination combining with the good football and some goals to show.

Well done for showing some Sharks’ spirit boys – let’s keep it up till the end of the season now.

Damien