Albury Youth Eagles 2 - Moor Mead Athletic 1
Moor Mead fell just short in a competitive match which pitted the cup finalists against the champions elect. The Parakeets knocked Albury out of the cup on penalties in a closely fought match, and again there was little to choose between the sides.
On a chilly early Spring day in Guildford, Moor Mead lined up with the five-at-the-back formation that has served them so well in recent games. It gave them a resilience that was sorely needed in the first half, as Albury began to dominate territorially, pinging the ball around sweetly and stretching Moor Mead every which way, aided by a player with a long throw that brought to mind Stoke City’s Rory Delap.
Jeremias was caught at the back, but Alec came out to parry a shot, and Jeremias immediately atoned with a superb last ditch block. The defence continued to stand firm, with Daniel particularly tenacious on the left flank, but while parking the bus frustrated Albury, the Parakeets struggled to get out of first gear further up the field.
Dilly was forced off injured, and Mani and Zac were starved of service as Moor Mead failed to keep the ball in their opponents’ half for any length of time. The high bouncing ball added to Moor Mead’s problems as it seemed to defy the physics of a soggy pitch, and made defending the long ball much more hazardous than usual.
Finally, Ollie and Zac strung together an attack, and Jake just failed to connect with the cross. Moments later the Moor Mead defence was undone by the high bouncing flubber ball, and an Albury striker capitalised on the indecision to slot a low drive home clinically (0-1).
Alec got down sharply to prevent a second, and William Warry made a last ditch block after the Albury had skinned two players from an acute angle on the left. Another shot flashed wide from the edge of the box, and Alec made a save with his ankle as Albury turned the screw.
Moor Mead at last started to string together a couple of attacks as half-time approached. Twice Ollie and Zac combined on the left, and Will Sutton and Jake forced a corner on the right. But in truth, the Parakeets were fortune to reach the break just one goal down (H-T).
Albury threatened again at the start of the second half, but coach Matthews moved Miles into midfield, and that seemed to restore some horsepower to the Moor Mead engine. Ollie produced a clever little flick to release Mani, and when the ball found SHAIFULAH he made space for himself and unleashed a pearler from the edge of the box that flew past the keeper. (1-1).
Albury continued to pose a threat, but the defence, with Rory enjoying an excellent second half, kept them at bay, and for a while it looked as though the Parakeets might force a winner. Zac, so often forced lateral by the well-organised Albury midfield, powered from his own half to the byline, but Miles was blocked as he was about to pull the trigger.
The high bounce had one last cruel trick to play, though. A speculative punt from distance allowed an Albury forward to mug Alec to the high bounce and head home the winner (1-2). Thereafter the Parakeets huffed and puffed, but when Zac was knocked off the ball at the final whistle it seemed emblematic of the whole match.
Albury deserved their win, but they were top of the league and at home, and Moor Mead made them fight every inch of the way. The glory bus is still on course for triumph (hopefully!) in late March in the Cup Final.