Cosmos returned from the Christmas break in top form to see off a talented Reigate Leopards side with a 4-1 victory in a game full of creative play. Before the match, Coach Chris announced some surprise tactical changes, opting to invert his signature “double arrow” formation — the familiar 2-1-2-1 setup becoming 1-2-1-2. It was the most attacking arrangement Cosmos had adopted all season, but it also meant the side would now have to depend more than ever on smart decision-making at the back. Thankfully, an experienced back line — Jeremias (later Max) playing just behind Elliot and Harry — concentrated well, so there was little to test stand-in goalie Leo.
The occasional promising move from Reigate was quickly closed down, often by Elliot, who was a commanding presence drifting between defence and midfield. Further up the pitch, Cosmos were encountering their own frustrations, unable to break down the Reigate defence.
A breakthrough came however, when Louis G snatched the ball deep in opposition territory; in confident form, he made light work of converting the chance. One-nil ahead, the team began to push forward. From nowhere, Harry let off a long-range shot that fizzed past the keeper only to rattle the the far post. Just before half time, against the run of play, the besieged Leopards saw an opportunity to strike back. Cosmos had lost possession after a corner, and for the first time the home team’s new formation looked exposed. With both Moormead wing-backs stranded high up the pitch, three Reigate players broke at speed, using their numerical advantage to punish the home team and draw the score level.
There was a further blow for Cosmos before the half-time whistle, when Elliot came off with a knock to his knee. Thankfully, the injury was assessed as non-serious and he was able to take over as keeper for the second half. When play restarted, Coach Chris stuck with the same formation, regularly rotating the subs to make sure there was always a fresh pair of legs in the attack. The result was some dazzling, high-energy passing between the Cosmos forwards. Great running off the ball meant the team were now cutting through the Leopards's defence with ease. Louis had been a menace all match, but now he was linking up with others around him — Joe, Tom, Freddie, Tye and Leo all spying opportunities to join in. A second Cosmos goal seemed inevitable. When it came it was the result of some clever passing setting up a goal-bound shot from Joe, ultimately tapped in at the far post by Leo. It was one of several Cosmos opportunities that owed much to Joe's direct charges down the centre of the park. By the end of the game, it was hard to believe he hadn’t got on the score sheet. There are surely more goals to come from him this season.
The game was now flowing freely, with Cosmos dominating possession. Reigate only managed one clear chance in the send half, a decent shot that was well stopped by Elliot. The only controversial decision came when the referee awarded Cosmos a free kick just inside Leopards’s half. His reason seemed unclear to supporters. Louis had wanted to take it, but was persuaded to hand the ball to Harry. That decision was vindicated seconds later when the ball was whipped in and Louis was there to clip it with the outside of his boot, sending it spinning into the back of the net. Cosmos were now rampant, and no one was more hungry for another goal than Louis G, Minutes from the final whistle he completed his hat trick with yet another clinical finish.
After the match, however, Coach Chris was quick to point out that while the forward-minded players had shone in the second half, it had been a strong performance throughout the team. In particular, he noted, Jeremias and Max had done an invaluable job covering at the back. As a result, the Man of the Match Award was this week shared among all the players.