Well, it was a tough start for the Sharks after the Christmas break coming up against a very

good Lions side, who looked transformed from the team we played earlier in the season.

A good fight back from the Sharks after going 3-0 down early on, they couldn’t quite find the equalizer and so went down to only their second defeat of the season.

The Sharks seemed a bit sluggish after the Christmas festivities and struggled to get their passing game going against a determined and energetic Lions team. Our usually dominant defence looked shaky and hesitant and we quickly saw ourselves under pressure.

The low winter sun was also a problem for Rory and the defence, shining right into their eyes for the first half after the Lions had won the toss and switched ends.

The Lions took the lead from a corner, which bounced off Martin and agonisingly over the line. Another goal quickly followed and the Sharks had hardly got into gear yet.

They kept plugging away though and were just starting to look like they could string together some moves when they conceded the third after some good wing play from the Lions.  It looked like it could be a really bad day at the office for the Sharks.

But credit to them, they fought back well when their heads could have dropped. Jakub came on and injected some energy on the right, and Alejandro (on emergency stand by due to Ben feeling ill on Saturday night) came on to steady the strangely out of sorts defence.

The lads were starting to pass and create some chances of their own. Ben won a free kick on the left wing, played the ball short to Phin, who rattled in a shot, which deflected out for a corner.  Jakub fired the corner in and the ball bobbled around dangerously before the Lions cleared their lines. This was better from the Sharks.

Another corner came from another good Sharks move as half time approached. Martin went over to take it and floated in a great ball.   Again there was confusion in the Lions’ box as they tried to clear the bouncing ball.  Eventually it fell to Ben, who swung his leg and managed to stab it towards goal – despite a desperate effort from a Lion’s defender and the goalkeeper, the ball crossed the line and the Sharks had the goal they needed. Now they were back in the game.

At half time, Vince switched the formation to put Gabriel in a midfield role and split the two forwards, to give us a bit more solidity in the middle, where the Lions had been enjoying too much space.

The switch paid immediate dividends as the Sharks attacked from the start of the half.  Ben and Francis were finding more space to use their pace and Gabriel was winning balls in the middle of the park and denying the Lions time and space on the ball.

With only a minute gone, Gabriel played the ball out to Francis on the left. He beat his man and hared down wing, spotting Ben in the middle running in unmarked.  Francis played a perfect ball across the area to the near post and Ben finished calmly, first time, to make it 3-2.

At this stage it looked as though the Sharks would go on to win the game; the momentum was really with them.  But despite applying the pressure, they just couldn’t find the equalizer. Phin, Gabriel, Alejandro, Martin, Francis and Nile all had chances from range, but the Lions defence was very determined, and somehow snuffed out every attack.

Ben then suffered a nasty fall and banged his head, bringing a hiatus to the game and losing some momentum. By the time the substitution was made, the Lions has regrouped and started to exert more pressure.  As the Sharks pushed for the equalizer, the Lions tried to catch us on the break – and only some great defending from Alejandro, Martin and Phin (and the post!) kept the score down.

Rory had suffered a leg injury in the first half and so Jakub stepped in for the second half and pulled off some magnificent saves to deny the Lions their 4th goal.  One save, from a free kick, was outstanding, as he tipped the dipping ball over the cross bar.

Eventually time ran out and the Lions had deservedly won. The Sharks had shown great spirit to get back into the game, but in the end it wasn’t quite enough. The Lions are a good footballing team who pass well and show good strength. They’ve only lost two games all season and are now just two points behind us in the table.

Of course, it’s always going to be hard when you give a team a three-goal head start – and the Sharks can take a lot of pride from their mini fight back.

Let’s hope we can get back to winning ways next week with another tough game against Target Sports – who provided their own fight back in our first match against them to get a draw from 4-1 down.

Could be interesting on Sunday!

Damien

Thanks to Kasia for the photos.