Another excellent win for the Sharks against a very committed Abbey Rangers team. There was a hat trick for Wiktor – and a first goal for Elliott to everyone’s delight.  Playing 8-a-side, it was difficult for the Sharks to adjust at first, but in the end their passing game clicked into gear and they ran out worthy winners. They also passed the 100 goal mark in the league for this season in this game – and are now top scorers in the division with an impressive 102 goals!

Abbey Rangers were late arrivals in Division 4, dropping down from Division 1 earlier in the season, and whilst they have had mixed results, we were wary of taking them lightly.  They only had a squad of 8 players, so we agreed to match them 8-a-side rather than take a man advantage.

But the new formation took some getting used to.  It made our midfield a man light and left the boys a bit bewildered in possession at first, looking for players who just weren’t there.

As the Sharks were coming to terms with things, Abbey Rangers were proving to be a decent side – strong in the tackle and quick on the break with some neat passing skills.

As usual though, our defensive formation was up to the task – with Alejandro, Jake and Rory very disciplined at the back and Elliot covering brilliantly from his defensive midfield position. Jake continues to impress in the right back role and Rory is showing himself to be an excellent left back – hard to beat and calm and composed in possession. In midfield, Wiktor was on his own in the centre – with Francis and Nile taking the wide roles. 

Eventually the Sharks started to get the hang of the formation and were applying some pressure on the Abbey goal. Nile made good progress on the left and shot narrowly wide. Wiktor shot from the edge of the box but the keeper saved well. And Francis found himself free on the right, but his shot was blocked.

It was still a fairly scrappy affair in the middle, and Abbey were provng dangerous with the occasional break – but it felt as though a Sharks’ goals was coming. Ben, Martin and Sebas all came on from the sidelines and the pressure continued.

The breakthrough came after great work from Sebas who played it to Ben, who in turn slotted a great through ball to Wiktor, who’d timed his run to perfection.  Bursting through the defence, Wiktor coolly curled the ball into the bottom corner for a 1-0 lead.

The roles were then reversed as Wiktor played a delightful through ball to Ben, who sped away, controlled the ball and played it early and firmly into the goal past the stranded keeper.  2-0.

Martin was playing in some great corners – but Abbey were defending well.  It seemed a goal should come from one eventually.  And so it did.

Martin crossed the ball perfectly to the waiting Ben a few yards out. He half controlled it, but reacted quickly to the dropping ball and slammed it into the net before the keeper could reach it.  3-0 now and a fair reflection of the Sharks’ pressure so far.

They continued to press for the rest of the half with Sebas and Wiktor going close.  But it went into half time at 3-0 to the Sharks.

Second half picked up where the first had left off. The subs were coming thick and fast now as we tried to give everyone enough playing time and enough resting time with the reduced players on the pitch. It meant a few people playing in unfamiliar positions, but the boys coped well, showing their versatility.  Francis played at right back for a while, Martin and Jake played right wing and Nile played left and right midfield!

Abbey Rangers continued to look threatening on the break and were very determined, never giving up and always making it difficult for the Sharks.

But the fourth goal came as Abbey tried to clear their lines. The goalkeeper played a high ball, which dropped to Wiktor 25 yards out. Taking it first time, he volleyed it back towards goal, where it looped over the keeper and into the net for a spectacular goal and his second of the game.  4-0 – and his first touch after coming back on from the sidelines.

The Sharks were really into their flow now with Sebas, Wiktor, Francis and Ben all exchanging neat passes and playing great through balls in the final third. Martin found himself clear a few times on the right, but the Abbey defence were proving difficult to penetrate – even at 4-0.

The fifth goal came after another corner from Martin which bobbled around the area and fell to Francis, who cleverly poked it home into the bottom corner.  A good neat finish.  And that was the Sharks’ 100th league goal this season – an incredible achievement in just 17 games.

Then Sebas surged into the box on a great run and was upended right in front of the referee.  He had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.  Eager for Elliott to claim his first goal, the team waited for him to come on as a sub, and he stepped up under the pressure to slam the ball home with an unstoppable spot kick.  Everyone was genuinely delighted for Elliot – and now the whole team has scored at least once this season.

Abbey had continued to pose problems on the break and they eventually got their reward with a goal. After some confusion at the back, the ball fell to an Abbey player who simply had to knock it into the net. A real shame for the Sharks – and especially Jakub, who did everything well on the day – not to keep a clean sheet. But it was probably deserved for Abbey Rangers for their effort and spirit throughout.

There was still time for some more action as Wiktor almost completed his hat trick – and then did so minutes later. First he was sent clear by Sebas with a lovely through ball. Taking the ball round the onrushing keeper Wiktor steered it towards goal only to see it cannon back off the far post.

Soon, he did have his third and the seventh for the Sharks when he waltzed through the defence beating three men with superb control and skill before slipping the ball past the keeper.  A fine way to round off his hat trick.  

As the match drew to a close Martin had a free kick chance from around 20 yards.  He curled a beautiful shot over the wall which dipped perfectly – only for the keeper to do well and turn the ball over the cross bar.

And that was the final action. 7-1 to the Sharks. All in all a good day’s work, with an unfamiliar formation and tough opposition. Well done boys.

The win means the Sharks need just a draw on Sunday against Hanworth to guarantee promotion as one of the top two. Hanworth are no easy team though, as we know, so we’ll have to be at our best to see them off. Ideally we want a win, of course, to maintain our chance of winning the league. It should be a good game!

 

Thanks to Jim for running the line this week. And to Kasia for her lovely photos.