A very tough game for the Sharks this Sunday but a good fight back saw them end the match well and almost grab all three points.  They came back from 2-1 down and are still undefeated almost halfway through the season.  But it certainly wasn’t easy. 

Ashford Town had some very big lads indeed – literally towering over our boys.  We were certainly the better footballers, but their size seemed to intimidate and unsettle the Sharks in the early exchanges.  The cold and the rain didn’t help either, and the Sharks were coming under a lot of pressure from high balls and corners, but did well to weather the storm, as the defence and Rory held firm.

The boys were finding it hard to get the rhythm of their passing game going and Ashford were a very physical side, often pushing things (literally) to the limits of fair play.  But the Sharks held on and eventually took the lead thanks to a penalty correctly awarded for handball following a corner.  Gabriel stepped up and coolly slotted it away for a 1-0 lead.

Ashford continued to hoof the ball into our area, but it looked as though the Sharks would hold out for half time.  But with seconds to go, another high ball landed in the area and despite some great effort the Sharks just couldn’t clear their lines.  After some pinball-pinging in the area, an Ashford foot finally got the touch to send the ball into the net. 1-1 at half time.

The Sharks’ heads were understandably down having lost such a late, scrappy goal, but Craig’s half time team talk geed them up.  He explained they were the better players, that they were the only ones playing real football and that Ashford’s size was nothing to be afraid of.  If the Sharks kept playing their passing football, they’d get their rewards.

Ashford continued where they’d left off with plenty of physicality and plenty of hoofing at the start of the second half.  Again the Sharks struggled to keep the ball well enough.  Unfortunately, one clearance was hoofed straight back towards Rory’s goal.  It sailed high and came down right inside the cross bar.  No chance for Rory and a lot of luck for Ashford.

That seemed to sting the Sharks into action and they really came to life. Suddenly they were quicker to the ball, they were strong in the tackle, and they were passing around the Ashford giants and beating them for pace.  The Sharks created chance after chance – with Jakub having a blinder down the right hand wing, beating players with determination and skill and whipping in dangerous crosses.  But the goal wouldn’t seem to come.

Meanwhile our boys were suffering in the tackles – Alejandro had to come off feeling ill and Martin had to come off after a nasty clash of heads, forcing Ale back on – not ideal! Eventually Phin had to be called on from his rest day to make up the numbers and he was thrown right into the action in defence.

By now, the Sharks’ quick passing game was really coming together and eventually a slick midfield move involving Wiktor, Gabriel and Francis lead to a beautiful through ball for Nile, who finished with aplomb past the Ashford keeper.  2-2, and a thoroughly deserved equalizer.

By now, there was only going to be one winner as the Sharks pressed forward for the three points.  Nile went close again, but their keeper saved well.  But it wasn’t to be.  The final whistle went and we had to settle for a point.

In the circumstances it was a terrific comeback from the boys who showed great character and belief to keep playing proper football.  Whatever we might think of Ashford’s approach to the game, we will meet tough teams and we need to be able to cope with them.

So well done Sharks for showing spirit and determination and for continuing to play passing football in difficult conditions. Thanks to Jeremy for stepping in to referee: I perhaps didn’t give you the easiest game to debut for the season!

And so to THE big one next weekend, away to Waddon Wanderers – who are now top of the table, ahead of us by one point.  Like us, they’re undefeated all season so far, and have an almost identical record to us in terms of goals scored and goals conceded. Should be a great match to watch.

Go for it Sharks – win and you’ll go back to the top of the table!