A good win for the Sharks in a real ‘pea-souper’ fog, with difficult slippery conditions. AFC Walcountians Pumas made life difficult for them, but in the end the Sharks’ passing football shone through to give them a convincing win and a well-deserved clean sheet.
The autumn fog was so thick at Imber Court, it was touch and go whether the match would take place. But visibility improved by the minute and we could see both sets of goalposts from the ends of the pitch, so the game went ahead.
The Sharks were straight on to the front foot, but it took them a while to find their rhythm. Credit to the Pumas, who were quick to close down the play and got plenty of men behind the ball to frustrate the Sharks. Throughout the game, the Pumas just seemed to get a foot in the way or make a last ditch tackle to deny the Sharks.
But the Sharks were still creating chances from the off. Ben was surging down the right wing with some good, aggressive runs, but his crosses just couldn’t find a teammate. On the other side, Nile, playing well in an unfamiliar left wing role, was also finding plenty of space and causing problems. Wiktor played him in with an excellent through ball and showing great strength Nile ran into the area, set himself up and fired in a powerful shot only to see the keeper save and hold the ball well. The goalkeeper for the Pumas was very impressive throughout with his excellent handling – I don’t remember him spilling the ball once, which is very unusual at this level. It was clear the Sharks would have to be good to beat him.
A couple of Sharks corners came and went with Jake, Ben and Wiktor almost getting on the end of the ball, but the Pumas were holding firm.
Finally the breakthrough came when Nile and Phin played a clever short corner on the left and Nile picked out Wiktor in space on the edge of the box. Showing great awareness, Wiktor saw Ben on the penalty spot and played a good pass into his feet. Under pressure from a defender Ben managed to hold him off and scoop the ball into the net first time with a fine left foot shot. A really well worked goal and a good finish.
It was pretty much all Sharks from then on for the rest of the half, but the Pumas continued to frustrate and were managing to win the ball in midfield and break away occasionally. As usual the Sharks’ back line was solid, with Gabriel, Alejandro and Phin covering well and Rory showing his sweeping skills to collect the ball when called upon. Sebas deputized well for Elliott in the first 20 minutes, until he came on to resume his usual role with calm authority.
Meanwhile, the Sharks were continuing to threaten without adding to the score. Francis came on in the right wing role and started causing havoc immediately, beating his man and sending in dangerous balls. One sweeping move saw him take on his man and send a perfect through ball into the area. It fell beautifully for Nile who took it with his right foot, but he just couldn’t quite connect with enough force and the keeper saved.
As half time approached, an almost identical move resulted in the second goal. Francis again beat his man brilliantly on the right and played in an early ball. It fell to Wiktor who dummied the ball (at least that’s what he told me afterwards!) and it fell to Nile again in space. This time he made sure he connected properly and he guided the ball confidently into the net with a good right foot shot.
The second half saw some changes in positions, with Gabriel taking up the striker’s role, Jake coming in at right back and Sebas into as attacking midfielder. Jake was superb at right back; he’s really coming to terms with the pace and intensity of the games as the weeks go by, and he was aggressive and determined in the tackle and clever with his use of the ball. Great stuff.
At the other end, it didn’t take Gabriel long to make his mark. The Sharks are getting really good at playing through balls from midfield into space for the front men, who are excellent at holding their runs and using their pace to beat the offside trap. Sebas picked the ball up in midfield and played a superb pass into Gabriel who held his run and then showed great composure to hold off the defender and slot the ball past the keeper into the bottom corner. A very classy goal.
Minutes later Sebas found himself clear after another brilliant through ball from Francis. Again, Sebas showed great strength to power into the box and good composure to slot the ball past the diving keeper. 4-0 now and a good reflection of the Sharks’ dominance.
Phin came back on for some time in the striker role with Nile filling in excellently at left back. And as the final ten minutes ticked by, he was desperately unlucky not to get onto the score sheet.
It was pretty much all Sharks apart from one Pumas foray into the box. Rory saved brilliantly from close range when it looked a certain goal – and he pushed the ball away to safety at the same time. Very confident goalkeeping – and saving the clean sheet which was well deserved.
The chances kept coming at the other end, as the Sharks pushed for more goals
There were ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ aplenty as the ball just wouldn’t fall for the Sharks or shots were blocked by brave Pumas defending. One incident saw Wiktor play in Phin who turned and shot only to see his effort rebound. The ball then fell to him again but he just couldn’t dig the ball out for a shot.
The final goal came as Wiktor waltzed into the area and played a magnificent curling shot into the top corner. Somehow the keeper managed to get his fingertips to the ball and pushed it onto the cross bar, only for Francis to follow up with a good shot and goal inside the near post.
They play the return fixture against the Pumas next Sunday – and I’m sure they won’t be taking anything for granted given how hard the Pumas made it this week, despite the final score line.
Well done Sharks – a good solid performance and some fine football as usual.
Thanks to Andrzej for running the line this week. And thanks to Kasia for her excellent pics despite the conditions.