Chipstead Youth 4 - Moor Mead Athletic 3
Moor Mead fell to an away defeat by a single goal for the second time this season; when victory had seemed assured with 10 minutes to go.
The omens were not good from the start - Shaifulah forgot his boots, Daniel wore last years kit, Miles shut his finger in the car door on arrival and Mani & Ben arrived late after the game had kicked off. Jake became ill as the game went on, and worse was to come as Rory & Elliot and Jake got stuck on the M25 after a crash on the return journey, taking 5 hours to get home. Perhaps it was just not our day...
After a slow start where Chipstead probed our defence for 10 minutes without causing too much trouble, the Parakeets gradually got going and started to become competitive. But like two lightweight boxers, neither side could find any passing rhythm to threaten the other with a knockout punch and the game descended into a scrappy tussle.
On 20 minutes Mani came on and immediately had a positive effect, bringing more creativity into midfield. Zac started to look lively and hit a bullet of a shot just over the bar. Suddenly we looked much improved and Miles chipped a pass over their defence - ZAC was onto it in a flash, rounding the keeper and finishing with his left foot clinically (1-0 to us).
We were now looking in control, with the occasional need to deal with the odd break from their speedy wingers - but the game suddenly changed in direction and tone as Chipstead got a lifeline out of nowhere. Chipstead broke down the left wing and crossed, only for the ball to hit Ben from point blank range - penalty! Ben was nonplussed as to what he could have done to avoid the cross from 1 yard - but it did hit his forearm, albeit completely accidentally.
After a request for clarification, the ref said it had hit Ben’s hand in an unnatural position. Harsh, but, of course, we accept the ref's decision - if that is how he was going to see things for both teams. Alec had no chance as Chipstead’s main man belted the ball into the corner (1-1). Half time.
Despite that setback, the second half saw Shaifulah move up front, and immediately he started to worry their defence with his pace and power, combining especially well with Zac on the left. Moor Mead now looked dangerous and dominated the game for the next 20 minutes, playing a more direct passing game effectively.
The Parakeets were forcing numerous corners and last ditched tackles from Chipstead’s determined defenders. Chipstead would not lie down to their credit and battled like terriers; but eventually SHAIFULAH barrelled over a couple of tackles, and found himself in a position to finish a right foot shot accurately into the corner of the net (2-1).
The referee then was at the centre of some 'confusion' as as a Chipstead defender accidentally punched the ball in his own penalty area - but no whistle! As Arsene Wenger used to say "Where is the consistency?!"
However, despite a growing feeling of frustration, we were still looking largely composed and creating chances. Daniel sprinted 50 yards to stretch and meet a deep cross by Shaifulah on the volley, narrowly missing with the goalkeeper nowhere,
On 55th minute, more good play by Zac and Shaifulah, and the ball was eventually pinged out to the right wing by Louis to Elliot by the touchline. ELLIOT controlled back inside brilliantly with one thing on his mind, and hammered a left foot strike into the net from 20 yards. A fantastic goal (3-1).
At this point, with 10-15 minutes to go there was only one winner. However, Chipstead switched their 6 foot midfielder up front, and the game completely changed as he caused havoc. Alec bravely saved as the big guy got clean through, but we were clearly rattled for the first time in the match and it was now all hands to the pumps.
Our previously resolute defence now looked stretched and disorganised, and Alec had no chance from an exocet of a shot into the top corner as we seemed to have backed off and stopped closing down space in midfield (3-2). Then shockingly, just a minute later, their forward caused havoc again inside our box drawing in defenders, and their skilful winger picked up the pieces to finish into the far corner (3-3).
We were panicking a bit now, praying for the final whistle. But then the big guy beat the offside trap yet again to go through one on one. Alec came out and stood still to block a shot. The big guy lost control of the ball and careered into Alec, flattening him in a huge collision like Jonah Lomu. Somehow the Referee gave a penalty rather than a foul to us - which the big guy miraculously got up to take and smashed in (3-4)…
With 10 minutes to go, Miles hit the bar from a free kick and Moor Mead belatedly rallied - but time dripped away.
It felt like we had been mugged, and I think the neutral would say we had been on the unlucky side of two very harsh penalty decisions (plus one not given), but Moor Mead have to learn from this feeling and learn to stay 100% focussed for the full 70 minutes to see out a win.