A great performance from the Sharks, with some excellent football and fine character on show, but not quite the result they wanted or deserved on the day. But as with many of the recent narrow defeats there was plenty to be positive about.
With Alejandro out of action with his broken collar bone, there was a bit of reshuffling to do at the back, with Martin stepping in at centre back. He was superb throughout; disciplined, determined, calm under pressure, anticipating well and showing real command. An outstanding display.
Gabriel filled in at right back to start, where he also excelled, defending doggedly and linking up well with Francis on the right. Phin was his usual self – full of running, good tackling and excellent link up play.
Up front Ben and Wiktor joined Francis and caused all kinds of problems with their speed and slick passing.
The Sharks started very brightly, passing accurately and quickly and creating openings against a good, well organised Waddon side. Waddon used their strength to good effect, with some dangerous long throws and powerful long range shooting, but the Sharks coped well in the early exchanges. Jakub, who started in goal, showed great handling and gathered well and distributed intelligently.
But it was the Sharks who were playing the better football and looking the likeliest to score. So it was against the run of play when Waddon opened the scoring with a long ball played into the Sharks’ box, which was poked home from close range, with nothing much Jakub could do. They then scored another very soon afterwards as the Sharks were a bit rocked by conceding the first goal.
A Waddon defender won the ball in the centre and strode towards goal unchallenged by the hesitant Sharks. He took a speculative shot which Jakub seemed to have covered. But it took a wicked deflection off one of our defenders and into the net.
An unlucky goal to concede and one which might have seen some heads drop on the Sharks team. But in a great show of character it seemed to spark them into life.
The rest of the first half was all Sharks, with some great chances created. Ben, Francis and Wiktor were really unsettling the Waddon defence and playing some great interchange football. Martin, Phin and Gabriel were linking up well with the front three and it seemed a goal would surely come for the Sharks.
Ben had a great chance when he was fed intelligently by Wiktor on the left. He held off his man and fired in a good hard shot with his left foot. The keeper looked beaten, but the ball went agonisingly past the post. Wiktor – who despite his sinus infection was lively and full of energy and clever play – had a shot just past the post himself, and Gabriel fired in a few dangerous corners after good work between him and Francis down the right.
The main danger at the other end was coming from long balls and throw-ins, but the defence held firm. And when the Sharks’ goal came, it started from some solid defending.
Martin picked the ball up after anticipating well and played it to Francis on the right. He quickly played it to Ben, who controlled it and slipped it to Wiktor on the left. Wiktor took it in his stride, beat his man and fired a good left foot shot across the goal. Again the keeper looked beaten and this time the ball nestled in the back of the net. A great goal, well worked and well deserved.
The Sharks continued to press for the rest of the half, but just couldn’t find another breakthrough. They played some great football and had some excellent 3v2 opportunities, but the final ball just eluded them on several occasions.
But at half time, the Sharks had reason to feel pleased, and to believe they could get something out of the game.
Rory went into goal for the second half and Jakub slotted into the striker’s role, giving Wiktor a well-deserved rest. Nile came on for Francis, who despite his recent hamstring problems was looking sharp and dangerous.
Waddon were quickly into their game and pushed the Sharks back for the first few minutes. Rory had to be at his best to hold onto a few long shots and one looping volley that came down from miles in the air. But he was well up to the task and caught the ball confidently. He was quick off his line when needed and showed great speed and bravery to dive and gather a loose ball on the edge of the area at one point.
So the Sharks held out and started to get their game together again. Nile was showing great determination and strength up front and he turned his man a number of times, creating chances and winning corners.
Then came the best chance of the second half for either side. Nile won the ball well in the middle, carried it forward and played a great through pass to Francis on the right. Francis latched onto the ball, controlled it and played it cleverly across the box to the unmarked Wiktor at the far post. Wiktor struck it perfectly – low and into the corner – and it seemed the Sharks had an equalizer.
As we all waited for the net to bulge, the Waddon keeper dived brilliantly to his right and somehow managed to turn it round the post for a corner. A stunning save, but desperately unfortunate for the Sharks.
As the minutes ticked away, Ben and Nile took up the full back positions and both showed great form in unfamiliar defensive duties alongside the outstanding Martin.
Jakub, Gabriel and Francis all created problems at the other end, but the Sharks just couldn’t find a way through. The final whistle went and it ended 2-1 to Waddon.
On the balance of play, the Sharks probably deserved at least a draw. It was good game of football, but overall I think the Sharks played the more attractive game and matched Waddon for most of it. And remember, Waddon have won the league by miles – only dropping two points all season. But in both games against them we’ve looked their equals.
If we could be a little more clinical in front of goal, and a little more careful and accurate with our final ball, we’d be unbeatable on most days.
It’s been a eventful and useful first season for the boys; they’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way, had a lot of fun and played some genuinely outstanding passing football.
The boys have clearly developed over the year and that’s been great to see.
While the league season is over now, there are some friendlies to come as well as the tournaments, which are always a good experience.
Then it’s on to 9v9, which is new to everyone. But we have a great basis to build on.
Well done on your first season boys; let’s enjoy the tournaments and come back even stronger in September.
Thanks to Kasia for the photos. Excellent as usual.