A close and highly entertaining game between two evenly matched sides saw the Sharks take a point to maintain their unbeaten record in the league this season. They could have taken all three points in the second half, as they had two shots cleared off the line and a free kick just tipped around the post. But it wasn’t to be.
Waddon Wanderers are old foes from the 7-a-side days; every game we’ve played against them has been tight. This clash was to prove no different.
On a bright, crisp Autumn morning, the Sharks lined up with Jakub deputising for the resting Joe in goal and the usual back line of Phin, Alejandro, Martin and Elliott. Wiktor and Jason took the central midfield roles with Sebas and Ben on the wings.
The Sharks were playing up the slope and into the sun first half, and it was a fairly scrappy affair as both teams tried to get control of the game. As we discovered against Kingswood recently, the slope makes a massive difference, with the team playing downhill having more of the play in the opposition half.
It was the same on Sunday as the ball was naturally drawn towards the Sharks area. The boys were under some pressure as Waddon tried to take advantage – and the defence and midfield were having to work hard to keep them at bay.
Slowly the Sharks started to find their way into the game, passing as best they could and making dangerous breaks into the Waddon half. Wiktor got in a great cross which was cleared for a corner and Sebas and Ben both got free but couldn’t quite find the room for a clear shot.
And while the ball was regularly drifting downhill into the Sharks half it was a fairly even battle, in which it seemed either team could open the scoring.
The deadlock was finally broken by Waddon midway through the first half as the Sharks tried to clear the ball, but saw it come back to a Waddon player on the edge of the area. He dribbled forward, steadied himself and shot into the far corner, beating the outstretched Jakub with a well-placed effort. 1-0 to Waddon and frustrating for the Sharks.
They’d been under pressure but they’d defended well enough up until then, with Phin and Martin repelling attacks on the wings and Elliott and Alejandro clearing things up in the centre. Elliott got back to clear one shot off the line.
In goal, Jakub was quick to come off his line and clear and he showed good hands on several occasions. So it was a real shame to concede a fairly soft goal.
But it seemed to galvanize the Sharks, who really started to exert their own pressure at the other end. Francis and Nile came on for Jason and Ben, while Rory came on for Martin.
The Sharks were finding their through balls more regularly now and Wiktor, Sebas and Francis all found themselves running free in quick succession, only to be tackled at the last moment.
Alejandro and Martin both fired in lovely free kicks from the left, which sent Ben and Nile clear – only for them to be tackled by the well–disciplined Waddon defence.
Then the equalizer came, as Wiktor played in Sebas and he ran clear with just the keeper to beat. Keeping his cool he slotted it low to the keeper’s right and the ball nestled neatly in the back of the net. A well-worked, nicely-taken goal – and definitely deserved for the Sharks.
And so half time came with the match perfectly poised at 1-1 and the Sharks playing down the slope.
The second half was a really entertaining, end-to-end game, which could have gone either way in reality. But as we hoped, the slope helped the Sharks and they had the best of the chances.
We ensured lots of fresh legs were available with lots of subbing second half. The midfielders especially were having to work very hard – so we swapped them around as often as possible without disrupting rhythm.
Special mention to Rory who went in goal for the second half at short notice. (He even had to wear a rather wet and smelly red top – apologies for that, I’ve washed them now!). Despite not playing in goal since last season, he was excellent – great hands, some superb saves and plenty of brave dives. Thanks Rory!
Upfront, the Sharks were pressing for the winner, mostly camped in the Waddon half. Waddon were dangerous on the break but they were fairly restricted. They had two good chances; one a free kick that Rory did well to palm over from the top corner of his goal; and another curling low shot which Rory did brilliantly to save low to his right.
Meanwhile the Sharks could point to two goal line clearances. First Sebas sent Ben clear, and he rounded the keeper and shot, only to see his effort cleared by a covering defender. And right at the end, Jason ran clear and looked certain to score – but again his shot was cleared off the line by a defender.
Ben also went close with a free kick just outside the area. He aimed it perfectly for the top corner but the keeper got across well and tipped it around the post.
The Sharks continued to attack right to the end with a series of throw-ins around the Waddon box. But time finally ran out, and they had to settle for the draw.
1-1 was probably a fair result overall, although we felt the Sharks had done enough in the second half to deserve the win. Once again this season they’d not quite clicked into top gear and some of their passing was unusually sloppy.
But they’re still unbeaten in the league and still sit top of the table after 4 games, which is fantastic.
It’s a tough, tough game next against Kingswood away on Sunday. We know they can play better than they did against them in the Cup match, and the 7-3 score line was a little flattering to Kingswood.
If we’re at our best, we can beat them. So let’s go for it Sharks and keep our place at the top of the table!
Thanks to Andrzej for running this line this week.