Match Report: Dara FC v Moor Mead Cosmos
Cosmos arrived at the Dara ground on a bright September morning, although there was slight confusion at the outset, with alternative parking arrangements necessary - the team and fans weren't to be unsettled, but was this a sign of things to come? Surely not dirty tricks already?
Once pitchside, it was clear that Cosmos would be playing in front of a highly partisan crowd, the Dara support intent on being a tenth man.
With the refs whistle blown, Cosmos got off to what has to be described as a wobbly start. The Dara players rose to the encouragement of their vocal support, forcing their way down the pitch, Cosmos saved by the positioning of an alert and resolute Kyle as the ball bounced out of the crossbar only a few minutes in.
The game was developing into a scrappy affair, with the battle for midfield undecided, but Cosmos spending far too much time for their liking penned in to their own half.
Flashes of hope could be seen, with the rapier fast breaks seeing Vinnie gallop down the left to relieve the pressure, helping both players and fans regain composure. But in fairness, the opening 10 minutes or so were tough going with Dara winning corners and pinging in crosses. Cosmos had lost their shape, getting pulled out of position by the continual Dara raiding parties, but the defence stood strong and with Max N and Ryan both making some key tackles and interceptions, Kiran stepped up, controlling the ball and all three becoming more comfortable as they were clearing the ball on a regular basis.
With the defensive quality starting to show, Cosmos settled into a rythym, allowing them to play their game, with Kiran and Freddie linking to provide a strong backbone to build from.
Soaking up the pressure, Cosmos looked to break quickly, with the wingers darting runs throwing the Dara midfield and defence into panic.
Cosmos were giving as good as they got now, with Leo and Harry linking up well to really bring Vinnie and Olly into the game, giving Dara something to think about. Yet another counter-attack had Harry break down the right, only to be closed out. Corner Cosmos. Olly had stepped up admirably, moving into attack following a reshuffle caused by a late fitness test. But it was rough and tumble up there and the gaffers made a first swap after he picked up a knock.
It was scrappy all round, with the ref being put through his paces, awarding a Cosmos free kick, despite the unrest of the home fans. Jamie on the pitch now, Cosmos were in the ascendancy, with the fresh legs of the new striker getting away shot after shot, the pressure building on Dara.
Cosmos were calm and settled now, the battle for midfield ebbing and flowing, but the boys were looking comfortable. Another straight swap, Max D for Max N, ensuring that the pace and concentration remained high in what was becoming a high intensity, end-to-end game.
The ref wasn't missing a thing, pulling up both teams for a string of foul throws, but Cosmos kept their stride, breaking down the left with Vinnie and Leo overlapping brilliantly, releasing Jamie again, but the finishing touch was proving elusive.
Against the run of play, Dara launch an attack, win a corner, a cracking header sails over...
But normal service was fast resumed, with Cosmos midfield bossing it, leading to corner after corner after corner, but Cosmos just couldn't find the back of the net.
With the clock ticking down, Dara put together an attack out of nowhere, but Leo had tracked back and prevented a disaster. Cosmos had time for one last break, but it ended with the whistle for half time. 0-0.
With the fumes wafting in off the A3, Dara restart quickly. Mirroring the first half, there is immediate pressure and a searching Dara shot bounces off the Cosmos post, with Kyle earning his keep yet again having just got a toe to it. The Dara coach must have said something during the break as it's consistent pressure from them in the opening minutes.
Kiran does a fantastic job sweeping up and redistributing, it's end to end again, and the fans are all on edge, completely unsure as to how things might end. Another Dara break sees another fine save from Kyle - Dara fans in full voice, Cosmos support content to let the players do the talking.
A slow Cosmos advance differs from the break-neck pace, but it's a well constructed play and confident in his ability, Vinnie finds the net. 1-0 Cosmos!!!
Dara fans make themselves heard again, and the Cosmos defence have their work cut out, Kiran is again a rock in defence. A goal seemed to be coming, but at which end is uncertain. Again Harry barrels down the right and the ref awards Cosmos a free kick in a dangerous area, but a Dara counterattack leads to a corner and the second goal of the game is a clinical finish. 1-1.
A period of Dara pressure follows and their fans egg them on as they seek to take the lead for the first time, but Ollie and Freddie step up, easing the pressure by winning the midfield.
It's still end to end, with a Dara corner resulting from continual midfield pressing from both sides. Two more Dara corners and it could easily have been 2-1 to the home side as the miss a sitter followed by another cross flying across goal.
Despite it's reputation as the gentleman's league, this game was hard fought, with plenty of friction between both sides, with the ref finally pushed to assert his authority, yellow card Dara.
Cosmos break but a Dara player shepherds the ball towards his own end. Jamie and Vinnie are all over him though, relentless pressurising, but the defender holds on well and wins the foul. BOOM, out of nowhere the red mist descends and the Dara player does the unthinkable. Red card Dara.
The final minutes count down without the numerical difference seeming to show, with Cosmos now playing four at the back and Max D called on to win the aerial battle more than once.
Dara finish strong though, with Kyle called into action yet again to make a fantastic save for Max N to then finally clear the lines.
The dying we seconds see one last Dara push, with an honourable draw saved by a superb goal line clearance by Leo before the final whistle is blown.