A highly entertaining friendly between the two Twickenham teams ended in a 3-3 draw, with some great football played by both sides and a fine spirit shown throughout. The Sharks took an early 2-0 lead, but the Tigers fought back to 3-2, before the Sharks levelled things up late on in the second half, and might have won it at the very end with a couple of good chances. But overall a draw was probably the right result.
The Tigers are sitting mid table in Division One (two leagues above the Sharks) so it was always going to be a test for the boys. And with Phin and Martin down to rest, two thirds of our regular, rock solid defence was missing, so there were a lot of positional changes to incorporate.
Gabriel filled in at left back with Jakub at right back and Alejandro controlling the centre back position. Wiktor and Francis took the midfield positions and Nile lined up as striker, with Ben waiting to come on. And the Sharks started brilliantly.
They moved the ball around quickly and dangerously with the front three combining well and the defence looking solid and composed. Nile, fed by Wiktor, shot from the left and the Tigers’ keeper tipped the ball around the post. Wiktor himself shot just wide after great approach play with Francis and Nile, and moments later Francis did the same from the edge of the box. A goal was surely coming as the Sharks totally dominated play.
Eventually it came as Wiktor received the ball from Francis, skipped round three Tigers and slotted the ball home from the middle of the area. Great goal and a great start for the Sharks.
Another quickly followed as the front three combined again and the ball fell to Nile on the left hand side. He beat his man, lined up his shot and powered it into the roof of the net from an acute angle.
The Sharks were sailing now and it looked as through they’d push on for a big score. Gabriel limped off with a slight injury and Ben took up an unfamiliar position at right back. But as with the rest of the players, he took to his new role well – tackling back and pushing forward when he could.
By the midway point, the Tigers were starting to come to life and Rory had to be alert to come off his line and collect a few through balls and gather some speculative shots. But still the Sharks looked most likely to score next. They continued to create chances, but just couldn’t find the finishing touch.
At half time, things looked secure enough for the Sharks – and they surely just had to carry on where they left off the get a great victory.
Rory and Jakub swapped places in goal and at left back and Gabriel came in at right back, allowing Ben to push forward to a more familiar right wing role.
But the Tigers had roused themselves for the second period, hustling our midfielders well and forcing errors, and catching us short at the back on a number of occasions.
Their passing game was coming together, while ours seemed to stutter a bit. Suddenly the Tigers were right back in it, with two quick goals from their impressive striker.
And then they took the lead as another slick move saw the striker hit the post and the ball roll unfortunately straight to another Tigers’ player who slipped away the goal. 3-2 to the Tigers and a massive turnaround.
The Sharks started to get their game together again though and exerted pressure, creating their own chances now. And it was real end-to-end stuff, as both sides pushed on for more goals.
Wiktor and Francis were causing problems and one lovely though ball from Francis to Ben was just cut out by a Tigers’ defender. It would have been the ball of the season. Gabriel, Ben and Francis were floating in good corners, and Nile was getting in some great crosses, but it looked again as if it might not be their day.
Eventually the equalizer came as Wiktor slipped Francis in on the right wing. He used his pace to beat his man and fired a low hard shot across the goal, which beat the keeper and nestled in the corner of the net. 3-3.
Now it looked as though there would only be one winner as the Sharks kept pushing. As the minutes ticked by, the ball fell to Ben unmarked on the edge of the area. He shot first time, but the ball looped just over the bar.
One last chance came as Alejandro won the ball well in defence and passed it to Wiktor in the middle. He controlled, looked up and played a great pass to Ben in acres of space just inside the Tigers’ half. As Ben took it in his stride and accelerated, it looked as though the Sharks might just get the winner. But the Tigers’ keeper was alert and rushed out of his goal as Ben hurtled on. The pair clashed with a crunch and the ball slipped wide, as both required attention.
It was to prove the final chance of the match as time ebbed away after the restart.
A great game to watch and a great workout for the boys. The Tigers are a good side, who pass the ball well and it’s great credit to the Sharks that they matched them on the day. Well done both teams!
It’s back to the League next week, with a tough-looking away fixture to Ashford Town. But the Sharks are due a win again and it would be a great place to get it against a physical team who have started pick up points after a shaky start.