ESPA 5 - Moor Mead Athletic 1
Moor Mead put up a battling display against the league leaders, but were ultimately well beaten by a very accomplished side.
On a dreary day in Hersham, the Parakeets matched ESPA for three-quarters of the game, despite never really coming to grips with the lightning quick artificial surface which produced a wicked bounce. But they were blown away in a disappointing final 20 minutes by some high class football, led by the home side’s highly talented marksman.
A quirk of the satnav meant cars were directed to a nearby housing estate before the game, and playing in those streets might have made for a fairer match up than on the astroturf round the corner. But Moor Mead started off brightly. Zac and Will S posed a threat down either flank, and Miles was close to his combative best in midfield.
Zac and Miles combined, and Miles shot narrowly wide; then Zac mugged a defender, only to be foiled by the keeper. But ESPA responded well. Their big Number 16 torched down the right flank to set up a golden opportunity, which Alec saved well. Moments later the home side took the lead out of nowhere when a cross-shot from the right flicked Jeremias’s head, leaving Alec flat-footed (0-1).
Stacked with talented players urged on by a bunch of demanding dads on the touch line, the home side threatened to extend their lead. They clipped the outside of the post, and went close again with a looped shot from a hesitant clearance. Camped out in the Moor Mead half, they dominated possession. The ever-dangerous 16 burst down the left, only to brought down, and then combined well with the equally impressive number 12 to force a smart save from Alec.
Only on the stroke of half-time whistle did Moor Mead break the shackles. Zac and Ollie combined well, with Ollie narrowly failing to make contact at full stretch a la Paul Gascoigne in the Euro 96 semi-final as the ball fizzed across the goal area.
The Parakeets kept that momentum going at the start of the second half, and were soon level. DILLY showed great technique to swivel and fire a low shot past the keeper from the edge of the box. (1-1).
The game seemed to be in the balance. Zac began to master the difficult surface, and looked likely to break through every time he got the ball, but he was expertly marshalled by the best defender Moor Mead have come up against all season, and was too often a little isolated in attack.
At the other end, Alec was again well placed to deal with a shot from 16, and then pulled off a tremendous save, rushing off his line to deny the same player as he bundled in on goal. Miles threaded a clever ball through to Ollie, but the ESPA keeper came out to narrow the angle well, and Louis glanced a header wide from a corner.
Appropriately, in the home town of Sham 69, the Parakeets were proving what could be achieved If The Kids Are United.
But then it all fell apart. A shot from the edge of the box spun under Alec’s hand to restore the home side’s lead (2-1). To his credit, Alec got down well moments later to prevent a repeat at his near post, but ESPA had blood in their nostrils.
First a precise cross shot from the right evaded Alec’s full-length dive (3-1), the super striker lashed in a fierce drive from distance (4-1), and then completed the rout emphatically from close range with Moor Mead’s defence torn apart. (5-1).
It was incredibly harsh on the Parakeets, who showed tremendous application and desire in tough circumstances. But sometimes you have to tip your hat to the quality of the opposition.
Probably best for the travelling fans to follow Sham 69‘s example when they once sang “We’re going down the pub.”